Mesa Verde National Park Scenic Drive is a 15 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Mesa Verde National Park, CO that offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for walking, nature trips, and scenic driving and is accessible year-round.
This place is full of incredible "stop offs". There are many, many short hikes and guided tours that are full of Native American history. It's a great place to learn about how people lived many years ago. A must-see place to visit.
Great place for short hikes, nice scenery
Learn about the ancestral Pueblo people and their home from 600 to 1300 AD, with many interesting archeological sites and cliff dwellings. We entered early to get a tour of the ruins, eight miles east of Cortez on Hwy 160, with another 21 miles to park headquarters and the sites on Chapin Mesa. Chapin and Wetherill Mesas split the park into two routes and we took the better known Chapin route, spending the entire morning. We saw a huge mule deer, a coyote, and a pheasant on the way in. The foggy morning cleared quickly and the landscape showed telltale signs of previous forest fires; the slopes were covered with lifeless short scrub oaks whitened by the sun and surrounded by a rejuvenation of wildflowers and small trees. We passed by the Park Point Fire Lookout (at 8572 ft elev.) and arrived just before the Far View visitor center opened (15 miles into the park) to get our tour tickets ($2.75 each in 2004) to tour the largest and famous Cliff Palace. Tours last about an hour and there is also the 2nd largest cliff dwelling Long House ruin on Wetherill Mesa – which provides sites and views of the Montezuma Valley, Sleeping Ute Mountain and parts of eastern Utah; all dwellings can be via viewing platforms if you don’t want to take the tours. While waiting we tested the model demonstrating how narrow the tunnel would be to Balcony House Ruin and found out that it is great for those wanting to test their climbing prowess [fun!]. After our Cliff Palace tour we explored the museum at park HQ viewing how the people, buildings and tools evolved, and then hiked to the 3rd largest and most accessible and preserved Spruce House Ruin, a great self-guided steep half-mile one-way tour where you can actually climb down into a covered kiva (rangers are available to answer questions). After Spruce Tree House we visited the gift store and just missed an authentic Ute dance on the patio. We next stopped at a few overlooks and visited the Sun Temple, which looks like a maze with many rooms and passageways and built like a fort. Finally we visited the Park Point fire tower we passed by on the way in with a great view in all directions. The walk up was buggy and windy. The ranger on fire duty showed us maps and areas that were burned previously. Awesome park to explore!
Great lesson in ancestral history!
This place was awesome. A great deal of history here!
It was great
Very scenic drive. Great ruins!!
very scenic, definately a destination
Mesa Verde is a great National Park. The cliff dwellings are amazing!
I have visited the park about 8 times and it is one of my favorite parks. The history of the native Americans who lived here and built the cliff houses and other dwellings fascinates me. I just wish we had a way to better understand them. Balcony house is one of my favorites and I have visited the park with my grandchildren several times.
I've already reviewed the Cliff Palace hike, but didn't see a place for Balcony house and Spruce Tree House.
Balcony House is a guided hike and you have to book this through the visitor's center. This is a moderately difficult hike, though the group of 70 5th graders I was with made it through just fine. There is a 30+ foot ladder you must hike up, a small "tunnel" you have to crawl through, and a stone staircase you must crawl up. Not for those with intense fear of heights or small places. We had a couple people who didn't think they could make it through the tunnel and most of us were a bit freaked out by the ladder and stone staircase. It isn't a long hike, but it will test the entry level hiker. TOTALLY worth it, amazing experience and the rangers are top notch!
Spruce Tree house is a steep, but easy hike. It will test your knees on the way down and your lungs on the way up. Very cool cliff dwelling with a kiva that you can crawl down in to. Paved hiking trail makes it easy, but steep-ness adds to the challenge.
Nice drive to many awesome ruins
Visited Mesa Verde last in 2001. Much of the park had just been hit by a range fire. To really see the POI's, you will need to visit the cave dwellings.
Lots of cool ruins
Its nice driving around the park but there isn't a whole lot to see from the car, what really makes the park worth while are the guided and self-guided tours!