Explore the Culture and History: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
The cliff Palace dwelling of the native Americans at Mesa Verde, Colorado 600 years ago. Recent studies reveal that Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people and nearly 600 cliff dwellings.
The primary construction materials for the cliff dwellings were sandstone, mortar, and wooden beams. The Ancestral Pueblo people shaped each sandstone block using harder stones collected from nearby river beds. The mortar between the blocks is a mixture of local soil, water, and ash.
The Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace is the largest of the cliff dwellings in the park and certainly very impressive. The amount of time and energy that went into making it is amazing! Reaching the dwellings involves walking down a pathed trail. The trail is not very steep, and if you’re able to walk a block, it shouldn’t be a problem. When we got 3/4 of the way down, the ranger had us all sit under a stone overhang to (1) cool off and catch our breath for those who needed it and (2) explain the history of the ancient Pueblo Indians who constructed them, etc. From there, we walked the remainder of the way to the actual dwellings in which the ranger explained what some of the buildings were used for. We climbed a couple very short ladders (five rungs or so), walked around within some of the dwellings and then headed out. On the way out, the trail isn’t super steep, but there is a fairly long ladder you have to climb to reach the top of the canyon and the walkway that takes you to the parking lot. The ladder is surrounded by a rock enclosure so you shouldn’t get the feeling of possibly falling or even the feeling of being high up (for those who may be afraid of heights).
This is a good tour to take if you are fearful of small places and semi-fearful of heights. Everything is basically on a low level and out in the open.
Stunning stone-age ruins framed surrounded by an incredible view of the valley below. Balcony House is just a lot of fun. The views of the valley below it are pretty spectacular and seeing these stone dwellings built 700-800 years ago using only stone tools in such a forbidding location is impressive. I’m usually not one who enjoys having to follow a guide on any trip, but the ranger who conducted our tour was amazing. The story he told about the rise and fall of the Puebloans and how their history tied into their architecture really added a lot of value to the trip. I only expected our ranger to be a babysitter since these ruins are so fragile, but his narration was an integral part of the trip
Balcony Houses hits you with Adrenaline. Looking back I don’t know how I did it, but I did climb a 30 ft long ladder. If you are scared of the height like me, my tips do not look down/below just focus on climbing. What I did is that I follow a kid climbing up the ladder. If that kid can do it, I should be able to do it.
Spruce Tree House
After seeing the Cliff Palace and the Balcony Houses, you might get disappointed a little bit how small the Spruce Tree House is. It is a self-guided tour down into the dwelling, but there are very knowledgeable Park Rangers there to answer questions. This is a special place because you can climb down a short ladder into the only covered Kiva in the Park which makes this a unique experience.
Kivas are square-walled and underground, and are used for spiritual ceremonies and political meetings.
The Long Houses
This is my third favorite of the cliff dwellings (Cliff Palace being the first, and Balcony House the second). Very beautiful, and easy to get around. There is a short ladder (10 feet if I remember right), a very easy climb. We really enjoyed our tour guide. He obviously knew his subject and had a good sense of humor.
Where to Stay At Mesa Verde
FAR VIEW LODGE
If you are going to visit Mesa Verde National Park, and don’t want to camp, this is a great option. We stayed in the less expensive standard room. We went over peak season. The rates were reasonable considering the lodge is the only lodging in the area and is in the heart of the Park. Our view was unobstructed and spectacular.
The room was small, simple, old, but clean. The bed was uncomfortably firm, and the linens and pillows were not overly comfortable. The shower was clean, but it looked well used. The room was clean but showed a lot of wear and tear. As the website advertises there is no TV, no airconditioning, and no cell service or internet. Its the location makes it a place I’d like to revisit.
Where to Eat
Spruce Tree Terrace Restaurant
Far View Terrace Restaurant
Located close to Far View Lodge and Far View Visitor Center.
Far View is a cafeteria-style restaurant. The food and drinks are good here, but its biggest attraction has to be the views. I could sit here all evening looking out and admiring the view.
The casual food-court setting features breakfast burritos and omelet station, a yogurt bar, and standard breakfast fare. For lunch, daily specials including their signature Navajo tacos, sandwiches, and salad station.
The Metate Room is the finest dining experience available in Mesa Verde National Park. While it’s not up to the standards of Yosemite’s Ahwahnee dining room, the food is quite good.
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