The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde must be toured with a guide. Some of the most popular are Cliff Palace, Long House, and Balcony House. The Far View Visitor Center sells tickets to the guided tours. The tours allow guests to walk into the archeological sites. It is necessary to go with a guide in order to ensure that the history of the site is preserved and not destroyed by over eager park guests.
The climate of Mesa Verde National Park is relatively mild. In the winter, the averages fall just above freezing. It rarely gets above ninety in the summer. It does snow in the area, and in the late summer, thunderstorms are common in the afternoon. In the summer, guests are advised to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
When visiting Mesa Verde, the best place to start is at the Far View Visitors Center, which is fifteen miles from the entrance of the park. This will be your spot to get oriented about the different attractions in the park. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is a great place to visit, and houses exhibits that highlight many aspects of the Pueblo people’s lifestyle. Many of the artifacts that were found in the park are on display. The Spruce Tree House ruin is nearby, so purchase a ticket for this tour. Spruce Tree House is one of the sites that offer self-guided tours. It is the best preserved of all the cliff dwellings in the park.
Another popular thing to do in Mesa Verde is the Mesa Top Loop Road. This is a driving tour, and is six miles. All along the way there are paved walking trails. The road offers access to twelve sites with surface and cliff dwellings. There are several overlooks, so be sure to take your camera.
Mesa Verde National Park offers several hiking trails. Make sure if you plan to go hiking that you only go on one of the designated and marked trails. The Prater Ridge Trail is a 7.8-mile trail that provides excellent views of the surrounding areas, as well as a chance to explore the vegetation as it changes with elevation. The Knife Edge Trail is much shorter, at only two miles, and follows Old Knife Edge Road. It provides views of Montezuma Valley. Try to plan this trip around sunset—you will not be sorry! This road was once the main access to the park. Point Lookout Trail is a 2.2-mile hike with views of Montezuma and Mancos valleys.
The Petroglyph Point Trail starts at the Spruce Tree House, and provides views of the Spruce and Navajo Canyons. This trail is 2.4 miles long, and is the only trail in the park that includes petroglyphs. The Spruce Canyon Trail is a 2.4-mile long trail that takes visitors to the bottoms of Mesa Verde’s canyons. The Soda Canyon Overlook Trail is short, at only 1.2 miles, and takes guests to the canyon edge.