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!) Initially,
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. We
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.
Palace is the largest cliff dwelling. To
get there requires some climbing down rough stone steps and exiting
on 5 10 ft. ladders. Not too difficult and well worth the effort.
tour of Balcony House is far more adventurous. It
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.
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.
In addition to tours of the cliff dwellings, we drove the 6 mile
Mesa Top Loop Road. The
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.
To view more photos from this area click here: Mesa
Verde Photo Gallery
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