Mesa Verde National Park provides a glimpse into the Ancients Puebloans history. The park was established in 1906 and is special because it was created for its cultural value rather than its geographical features. Mesa Verde was home to the Ancient Puebloans (formally known by their Navajo name, Anasazi) from 600 to 1,300. They farmed the mesa tops and built and lived in structures in defensible cliff alcoves.
For years archeologists believed that the Ancient Puebloans mysteriously disappeared. Not true. They migrated to Arizona and New Mexico and their descendants are thriving in Hopi, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso and numerous other modern day pueblos.
There are numerous ways to see Mesa Verde. Drive the six-mile Mesa Top Loop Road on Chapin Mesa and see the canyon views and some of the dwellings. Take one of the ranger led tours of the most famous dwellings such a Long House, Cliff Palace and Balcony house (purchase tickets at the Visitor Center). Hike designated trails such as the Petroglyph Point Trail which leads to a large panel of petroglyphs (end of May to mid-September), and walk among the Far View Sites. These are among the most popular but there are other choices.
In the summer traffic can be horrendous so enter the park early or spend the night. Road conditions permitting, it’s fun to visit the park in the winter. There are no crowds and the views along the Mesa Top Road have a very different “feel” to them, especially when clad with snow.
Mesa Verde is crowded in the mid-summer but in recent years you could join a ranger on tours into the back-country. We don’t know if the hikes will be offered in future years, but it’s worth checking. The tours are limited to groups of 10 or fewer . During the hikes you will walk in the footsteps of the Ancients and see sights only a relative few have seen. Book these tours as far in advance as possible. Space is very limited. When booking check on the difficulty of the tour and make sure you can handle it. One of the best and most memorable hikes we have ever taken was an eight-mile trek to Spring House.