Take a glimpse into ancient culture; destination: Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings
Mesa Verde National Park is an incredible adventure into the past and a vast area of beautiful wilderness where you can hike, bike, and camp. You can step into the world of the Ancestral Pueblo people at this amazing archeological site. Discover and experience their world of 550 AD, where the pueblo people lived for over 700 years throughout this area. Mesa Verde (Spanish for the Green Table) is a spectacular site to visit. Named rightly because its appears to be a large green table flat on the top typical of a Mesa. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The park was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. It is the largest archeological preserve in the U.S. The park itself occupies 52,485 acres near the Four Corners and features some 600 cliff dwellings a numerous ruins of homes and villages.
Just the drive up to the ruins and you are gifted with incredible views of the whole county. The winding road to the top will present you with vast skyline views of the Four Corners, wild flowers, and various wildlife along the way. We were lucky enough to catch the local herd of wild horses in the park. These animals are actually up for debate as to whether or not they are actually wild or feral from local reservation.
Mesa Verde is better seen in various trips or a longer period of time. We have decided to make several day trips to enable us to enjoy the expansive park properly.
Today we opted for a trip with a short hike to one of the quieter parts of the park. The Wetherill Mesa is open from May through September. We only made one stop to one of the self guided ruins known as the Step House. It features an alcove, pit houses, and cliff dwelling. There are rangers on site for questions. The hike was fairly easy and about a 1 mile round trip. The rangers will tell you to plan for about an hour. There are two ways in, one features several levels of stairs and the other is flat with no stairs. We opted for the longer way around using the stairs and are happy we did. We were able to get some great views of the whole alcove as we hiked it.
Once in the dwelling site you are very close and are able to walk around the whole area. They don’t allow standing on the walls but you are basically right inside the alcove in the historical site. It’s pretty incredible to imagine the pueblo ancestral people living here. You get to experience a little of what it might feel like as you walk in and around the Step House. The Step House is named for the steps that are located next to the courtyard and dwellings.
Between 1190 and 1270 most of the cliff dwellings were built. There are community centers which have about 150 rooms to one room houses, kivas and courtyards. The structures are often built just fitting them in where they could with no real building plan. The walls are single courses of stone. To protect the walls and roof from weather erosion they are a limited height. The Ancestral Pueblo only lived in the cliff dwellings for about 100 years. Archeology study suggest that about the 1300’s Mesa Verde was abandoned. Why they left is still being debated. Where did they go? They joined thousands of other ancestral people moving from what is today’s New Mexico and Arizona
Mesa Verde is definitely a site to see, live, and experience. You find incredible outdoor hikes, fantastic scenery, and a glimpse into the past of this great people and their history here in the southwestern United States. National Parks are our treasure and should be trips on everyone’s bucket list. You can’t beat them for incredible beauty, history and learning opportunities. So for your next discovery destination try Mesa Verde National Park.