We drove from south-east Colorado, where we enjoyed Great Sand Dunes National Park and the nearby hot springs, head south-west to visit Mesa Verde National Park. In this article you can read about the history of Mesa Verde and we also give you tips for a visit to the park.
Before you read on, watch the short video at the top of this page. With our drone we made a considerable flight of several kilometers. From the air it is easy to see how gigantic this beautiful park is!
Table of contents
The ultimate tour of North America
This article is part of a large one-year tour the United States en Canada in 2022, with a Dutch 4×4 camper that we shipped ourselves… It is a bucket list worthy and an once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.
We wrote almost 100 articles about this ultimate tour. Below is a handy overview in 5 expandable categories.
2. Highlights & Itineraries
3. Cities & places of interest (AZ)
- Tour America | Amelia City
- Tour America | Amelia Island
- Tour America | Annapolis
- Tour America | Ice Lake Trail
- Tour America | Kennedy Space Centre
- Tour America | KeyWest
- Tour America | Miami
- Tour America | New York City
- Tour America | Ouray
- Tour America | Salt Lake City
- Tour America | Savannah
- Tour America | Seattle
- Tour America | Silverton
- Tour America | St Augustine
- Tour America | Starbase SpaceX complex in Texas
- Tour America | Washington DC
- Tour America | Wynwood
4. National Parks & Monuments (AZ)
- Tour America | All National Parks (list)
- Tour America | Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Tour America | Death Valley
- Tour America | Dinosaur
- Tour America | Everglades
- Tour America | Glacier
- Tour America | Grand Canyon (helicopter tour)
- Tour America | Grand Teton
- Tour America | Great Sand Dunes
- Tour America | Mesa Verde
- Tour America | Rock Mountain
- Tour America | Yellowstone
- Tour America | Yosemite
5. Plan your vacation to America here
- Itineraries compare | TUI, Americaplus, sawadee en Djoser.
- Motorhome rental companies compare | WorldWideCampers.com
- Fly & drives compare | Americaplus.
- Cruises and city trips compare | Travel deal.
- Flight tickets compare | Skyscanner, TUI, KLM. as KAYAK.
- Rental cars compare | Sunnycars, Alamo en rental cars.
- Tours and Activities compare | GetYourGuide.
- Campsites reservation| RECREATION.gov
- Hotels & Resorts reservation | Booking.com.
- SIM cards order | USAsim en International sim.
- Parking at airport | Parkos, Central parking of park care.
- travel items (suitcases, world plugs, etc.) | Bol.com.
What is there to see in Mesa Verde?
In Mesa Verde you will find well-preserved cliff dwellings of the Pueblo Indianswho lived there from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. They built the houses in the walls of the ravines. The buildings are mainly made of wooden beams, mortar (a type of cement) and sandstone from the cliffs themselves.
In the thirteenth century, the Indians suddenly left this place. To this day it remains a mystery why. There are suspicions that drought, and the associated food shortages, were the reason. The national park protects the cultural heritage and you can visit it to learn about Native Americans who once lived there.
Mesa Verde means green tops. As you can see from the pictures, the area consists of valleys, rock faces, cliffs and large green plateaus on top. At a glance you will hardly see anything of the ancient civilization that lived here. But if you pay close attention and look at the many rock walls in the area with binoculars or a camera, you will see traces of old buildings, such as the cliff houses below.
What is there to do in Mesa Verde?
Hiking – Petroglyph Point Trail
The park has mapped out several walks for you. From easy routes and short distances to difficult routes (climbing!) and long distances. Ask at the visitor center or the park entrance to get a map for walks and pick one.
It is also important to ask yourself what you would like to see. Most cool things can be seen within a short walking distance (Americans, huh?), but for some you will really have to stretch your legs.
We chose to Petroglyph Point Trail (starting point here ), to walk. It will take you to rock paintings, which cannot be reached by car. The rock paintings show the written language of the Indians at that time and that is special. More than 30 human and animal figures, spirals and handprints are on display.
In total it was about four kilometers and quite strenuous, as it could often be rough, steep and narrow on and between the boulders. The area looked beautiful and especially from the green peaks, the view was amazing!
Hiking – Point Lookout Trail
In the evening, just before sunset, we opted for a small walk. From the campsite we walked the Point Lookout Trail (starting point here † The name says it all; it was an astonishing view. We enjoyed this and of course took countless photos and videos of the place.
We took it very easy on this walk as we took pictures of flowers, views and yes, even bunnies in the meantime! It took us about 40 minutes, but if you keep going a bit you will reach the end point of the Point Lookout Trail in about 25 to 30 minutes.
You can choose to shoot a nice picture and walk right back, but Chris sat down for a while to enjoy the view. He often does that in places like this one. In total we spent about an hour in this place watching the sun slowly sink to the mountains.
About 20 minutes before the sun would disappear behind the mountains, we walked back. The way back suddenly looked very different with that low sun. Beautiful contrast on the mountains. And those colors! Everything is more beautiful it seems, in the last hour before the sun sets.
The campsite where we stayed (Morefield Campground - Location here ), is located on the right behind the high cliff that you see in the distance. The Trail is really easy, it's flat and doable for almost everyone.
Mesa-top Loop (driving by car)
To learn more about the Native Americans who lived there, they've mapped out a route for you that takes you past the clifftop dwellings and other Native American remains.
The route is called the Mesa-top Loop (location here † You can also drive this route with a camper, provided it is no longer than 24ft (8 meters). The idea is to go around by car or camper and always stop at the sights, where you walk around for a while.
Free audio tour
through a free audio tour (here can be found on Spotify if you want to save it for later), they tell you about it. You can also use the Spotify player below to listen to the audio tour of the Mesa-top Loop right now.
The Mesa Summit Loop combined with the free audio tour is the best way to see and learn about the many remnants of the ancient civilization. For example, you first start with some old remains of houses where the Pueblo Indians lived. These houses were dug half into the ground to protect themselves against the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer.
On the information board below, which I took a picture of, you can see what life in such a house was like at the time.
After viewing some of these ruins, drive slowly but surely to the 'center' of the ancient civilization. There were real squares and places where people gathered. They even built a kind of 'flats' where people lived on top of each other, as seen below at Square Tower House.
The largest, and in our opinion most beautiful cliff dwellings can be seen at Cliff Palace. These are easily visible from Sun Temple, also one of the places where you can stop on the Mesa-top Loop route.
Remark: In the past it was possible to get a closer look at the cliff dwellings and even to go into the cliffs. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible due to the risk of collapse. They do everything they can to prevent this so that the cliff dwellings can be preserved.
Cliff Palace Loop Road (drive by car)
In addition to the Mesa-top Loop, there is another route that you can drive yourself: the Cliff Palace Loop Road. Unfortunately this other route was closed when we were there due to construction. They are reinforcing the rocks and resurfacing the roads. This part should reopen to visitors at the end of 2022. There would be more cliff dwellings to see on this route, including some very unique ones.
Mesa Verde National Park has a campground called Morefield Campground (location here † Although it is fairly busy at the beginning of June at campsites in other National Parks, there was still sufficient availability when we arrived without a reservation. We stayed there for two nights. A night of camping costs a total of 41 USD, without so-called hook-ups. Restrooms were within walking distance. Showers in reception and these were not within walking distance.
Would you rather go wild camping? Then there are plenty of places just outside the park in the BLM (land management agency) area. Some of these are really a stone's throw from the entrance. In the app iOverlander can you find them!
Tip:: when you visit the park, you will have to make a big climb up by car or camper. We therefore chose to camp within the boundaries of the park at the official campsite.
This was not cheap but did have the advantage of not having to drive up and down the mountain every time and we were on the peaks around sunset to take nice pictures and videos.
To enjoy your experiences in the park even more, I give you the tip to think about how incredibly special it is that these cliff dwellings have been preserved so that you can come in 2022 (or maybe even later) visits.
There is no place in the world where you can see this except here. Mesa Verde was declared a national park in 1906, more than a hundred years ago, to protect it for future generations.
Plan your vacation to America here
- Itineraries : TUI, Americaplus, sawadee en Djoser.
- Camper rentals and travel : Travelhome.
- Fly & drives : Americaplus en Travelworld.
- Cruises and city trips for America you book with Travel deal.
- Flight tickets for America you book with TUI, KLM, KAYAK en Skyscanner.
- Rental cars : Sunnycars, Alamo en rental cars.
- Tours and Activities in America you book via GetYourGuide.
- Campsites in National Parks you book on RECREATION.gov
- Hotels & Resorts in America you book with Booking.com.
- SIM cards : USAsim en International sim.
- Parking at the airport you can arrange via Parkos, park care of iParking.
- travel items (suitcases, bags, world plugs, etc. can be ordered at Bol.com.