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Mesa Verde National Park was named by National Geographic Traveler as one of the fifty "must see" places of a lifetime. It was America's first World Heritage Site and is an archaeological wonder. The Park tells the story of civilization's dynamic growth over 700 years. Hundreds of homes and villages have existed here for more than eight centuries, preserved and protected by overhanging cliff ledges. Until recently, the ancients of this region were called Anasazi. Today they are referred to as Ancestral Puebloans (try saying that three times!) Pueblan VillageInitially, the people inhabited primitive underground pithouses. These evolved to multi-storied stone villages. It was only in the last 100 years of Puebloan history that the famous cliff dwellings were built.

There are two mesas open to the public: Chapin and Wetherill. The most developed area is Chapin Mesa which has a wonderful museum and several looping roads that take you to different mesa top sites and overlooks of the cliff dwellings. Cliff Palace OverlookWe spent one day in the park and visited the three cliff dwellings on Chapin Mesa: Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Spruce Tree House. The first two require reservations for a ranger led tour (cost was $2.75/person per tour). Spruce Tree House is self guided and free.



Cliff PalaceCliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling. Fred on ladder to Cliff PalaceTo get there requires some climbing down rough stone steps and exiting on 5 10 ft. ladders. Not too difficult and well worth the effort.







Ladder to Balcony HouseThe tour of Balcony House is far more adventurous. Fred in tunnel to Balcony HouseIt involves climbing a 32 ft ladder, crawling through a 12 ft long very narrow and short tunnel on your hands and knees and climbing up a 60 ft open rock face with 2 10 ft. ladders to exit. Barbara decided to visit the museum while Fred did this tour.



Spruce Tree HouseWe both enjoyed the walk down to Spruce Tree House and exploring it on our own. No ladders to climb or tunnels to crawl through. It is also the best preserved of the cliff dwellings.Barb studying Spruce Tree House





In addition to tours of the cliff dwellings, we drove the 6 mile Mesa Top Loop Road. Pit HouseThe road has stops where you can visit some of the excavation sites of the early pit houses and stone villages as well as overlooks of the cliff dwellings.Kiva







To view more photos from this area click here: Mesa Verde Photo Gallery








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