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Dec 17

Mesa Verde National Park

Square TowerMesa Verde National Park is a fascinating window into pre-Columbian civilization.  A World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park protects over 5,000 archeological areas.   This also includes 600 cliff dwellings the main reason that we visited the park.  The cliff dwellings were amazing to see.  For the life of me, no mechanized tools and still able to create a homes in the side mountains, incredible.  It is a must visit if you are in the Southwest. You will not find a better more preserved and famous archeological site in the United States.  Spruce Tree HouseOur visit to Mesa Verde was a short one.  We were driving up from Albuquerque and staying in the town of Cortez, Colorado.  So a short afternoon trip to Mesa Verde National Park was a logical stop.  Even though we were only there for a little bit of time, we ended up seeing quite a bit of the park. Unfortunately, there was lot that we did not get to experience.   Our visit consisted of getting some information at the visitor center, the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, the self-guided tour of Spruce Tree House, and Mesa Top Loop Road.  A good busy half day of exploring.

Pithouse LifeThe visitor center and the Chapin Mesa Museum provided a nice overview of the park.  They both gave us a greater understanding not only what the park had to offer, but how the ancient inhabitants of the area lived.  My wife and I are so blessed with the children that we have.  One, they are both healthy and for the most part pretty easy to travel with.  Second our oldest, McKenna, has a thirst for knowledge.  She wants us to read every sign.  Do all the touch tables.  See all the pictures. We just try to do our best and provide those types of learning activities to cultivate that thirst and hope she passes that to our youngest.  Stopping at a visitor center or a museum gives us information about how best to use our time there as well as provide an exciting stop for her. Learning in ProgressOur first stop after the visitor center was checking out Spruce Tree House.  The best preserved cliff dwelling in the park.  Also the only one we could visit without a ranger leading the way.  I thought it was going to be bigger than it was.  In my mind and seeing pictures of it before, I had built up this large village.  However, like most things, Mount Rushmore for instance, in my imagination was much bigger than reality.  So is it worth the short hike?  Heck yeah it is.  Able to get up close to ancient dwellings that are more than just rubble?  Count me in.  So, take the short trek down, you will not be disappointed.  At the base of the dwellings there was a park ranger on site to answer our questions.  Also because we had our two little ones with us, she pointed out where there are little baby foot print in the mortar between two stones.  All-in-all a pretty cool experience. 

Cliff PalaceOur favorite part of our visit was the Mesa Top Loop Road.  It is a 6-mile self-guided tour with 12 accessible sites.  This road gave us spectacular views of the Square Tower House and views of Cliff Palace.  We were excited to see Cliff Palace because we were not going to be able to take the tour with our little ones in tow.  As an amateur photographer I wish I would have been there in the twilight times of dawn or dusk for better lighting.  Even though it was not optimal conditions it was still fun to see and snap some pictures.  Comedic TimingThis was our first ever visit to Mesa Verde National Park and it was a good one.  A lot more to see then we thought there was going to be and we left a lot to see on any sequential visit.  Highly recommend seeing Spruce Tree House and the Mesa Top Loop Road.  Those two things alone are worth a visit to Mesa Verde.  I think a tour of the Cliff Palace or the Balcony House would be well worth it.  It will pull us back for another visit. 

To see our reviews of other National Parks click here

Mesa Verde National Park
Located along Highway 160 between the towns of Mancos and Cortez in Southwestern Colorado
Hours of Operation: Open daily, Year-round but what is available to see varies with the seasons
Cost as of this Posting $15.00 per private vehicle during the summer months $10.00 rest of the year
For more information visit their website at
www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm

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