Our nation has many great national parks.
For us, Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado deserves to be on the list. It’s not one of the most popular, or the most scenic, but there’s something about the gorgeous “green table” mesa that tops out above 8,000 feet that makes it special.
The Pueblo Indians who settled there for 600 years from 600 to 1200 AD certainly thought so too. They built some amazingly sophisticated structures among the cliffs and canyons of Mesa Verde, and the national park preserves the brilliance of what they did very effectively.
How do you see make the most out of a visit to Mesa Verde? Here are four essential tips:
Camp at Morefield: After stopping at the excellent Mesa Verde Visitor Center just outside of Cortez, Colo., plan to spend a night camping at Morefield. It’s a great campground with a laundry, showers and even wifi Internet service. It’s scenic and remote, with several nice hikes right in the area.
Tour one of the sites: We took an unforgettable tour of Balcony House, one of the most scenic of all the Mesa Verde ruins. It requires a shaky climb up a 30-foot ladder to get into the site, along with a crawl through a tunnel and two additional climbs up scary ladders on the canyon walls. But oh, what you’ll see: unbelievable craftsmanship of the Pueblo Indians and stunning views of the surrounding canyon country. All for just a $5 ticket.
Take a bike or a hike: Mesa Verde is set up for automobiles like most national parks. Take a short hike or a bike ride, and you’ll see another side of the park. We took a 2.3-mile hike through Spruce Canyon and never saw another soul. We followed with a bike ride at 8,000 feet on the mesa top past wild horses and miles of open country that was unforgettable.
Stay at Far View: The Far View Lodge could be one of the best national park lodges in the country. We booked a room and ate an excellent dinner in the dining room as the sun was setting over the mesa. It was a nice alternative to camping and well worth the price.