If the idea of people living in houses and cities carved into cliffs and located at remarkable heights sounds interesting, then be sure to visit Mesa Verde Colorado, home of Mesa Verde National Park. There, visitors have the opportunity to observe cliff dwellings that were build by some of the first settlers to the Pueblo area between the 6th and 12th centuries. The dwellings in Mesa Verde Colorado are built back in sheltered recesses on the walls of steep canyons. Mesa Verde National Park has recorded approximately 4,400 cliff dwelling sites.
Mesa Verde National Park Colorado's cliff dwellings have significant historical importance. In fact, they are recognized as a World Heritage Site. For visitors to Mesa Verde Colorado to get a real feel for the dwellings, the park offers hikes to two of the ruins. A quick stop in the Mesa Verde National Park Colorado visitor center can get visitors tickets to visit the ruins. It is important that those wishing to visit the ruins be in good physical condition, as Mesa Verde Colorado is located at some 7,000 feet above sea level.
Mesa Verde National Park's most accessible tour is the Cliff Palace. The ruin is located at the foot of a 100 foot trail and 120 stone steps. Once visitors reach the foot of the descent, a climb up five 8 foot ladders awaits them. The end, however, is worth it as visitors will experience a close up view of how these ancient cliff dwellers lived.
A more difficult tour in Mesa Verde Colorado is the Balcony House. This tour takes Mesa Verde National Park visitors down a staircase that stretches about 100 feet down. At the foot, there is a 32 foot ladder climb up to a tunnel through which visitors must crawl. At the other end, it is one more set of ladders and stone steps before reaching the ruins. The drop-off at the ruins is so steep that the ancient residents built a wall to keep their belongings and each other from dropping off the edge.
There are other ruins in Mesa Verde Colorado that are accessible by car, but are not as involved and awe-inspiring as those at the ends of the hikes. There are yet others just a short hike from the road, and a few that can be seen from overlooks along the park's many roads.
In order to get to Mesa Verde Colorado, there are airports in Cortez as well as Durango, Colorado. Also, Farmington, New Mexico has an airport from which the park is a reasonable drive. The entrance to the park is located along Highway 160.
Mesa Verde National Park requires at minimum a ½ day to fully enjoy the park. There are, however, activities to keep you busy over an entire weekend. The park is open daily and year round, but the best time to visit are fall and spring. In the summer, temperatures frequently find their way to the upper 90's. In the winter, the park can get as much as 3 feet of snow, typically.
Mesa Verde Colorado offers an opportunity to hike, drive, and observe one of the countrie's most treasured historical sites. The cliff dwellings are truly a site that must be seen in person in order to be fully appreciated, so a weekend or even just a day trip are well worth it to learn a little bit about the history of civilization in southern Colorado.