Mesa Verde National Park is one of Colorado’s best-known treasures. Situated in southwest Colorado in Cortez, Mesa Verde boasts some of the most well-preserved cave dwellings created by the Pueblo Indians in the country.
The ancestral Pueblo people lived in Mesa Verde, Spanish for “Green Table,” from AD 600 to AD 1300. The Pueblo people eventually migrated away to New Mexico and Arizona. Today, there are 4,000 known archaeological sites, 600 cliff dwellings, mesa top pueblos, farming terraces, towers, reservoirs, kivas and check dams in the area. President Teddy Roosevelt established Colorado’s Mesa Verde as a national park on June 29, 1906 in order to “preserve the works of man.”
Less than an eight-hour drive from Denver, the Mesa Verde Museum Association provides an educational experience with interpretive material. Visitors can take self-guided tours or ranger guided tours. The ranger-guided tours are with the Cliff Palace tour, a daylong hike across Wetherill Mesa and a 2-hour long hike to Mug House. Kids can enjoy the adventure in Mesa Verde through the Junior Ranger program for ages 4-12. Each child receives an activity booklet from one of the visitor centers and fills it out as they explore the park. Upon completion, they are awarded with a Mesa Verde Junior Ranger badge.
The most famous dwellings to visit in Colorado’s Mesa Verde are Cliff Palace, Long House, Spruce Tree House and Balcony House. These have 40-150 rooms each whereas 90% of the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde have 10 rooms or less.
Beyond the cliff dwellings are a beautiful and lush forest where archeologists have found artifacts such as petroglyphs, wall paintings, mugs, spears, knives, necklaces and sandals.
These Colorado Pueblo artifacts can also be viewed in one of the Visitor and Research Centers around Mesa Verde. There are currently a couple of visitor centers and they are in the process of building a new one.