Our southwest Colorado travels included a Mesa Verde RV stop. The cliff dwellings were a sight we didn’t want to miss. We were coming from Gunnison through Montrose. We took Route 62 to State Highway 145 and enjoyed the scenic journey on this part of the San Juan Skyway. (We had been advised that this would be less of a downhill than taking Route 550 south of Silverton to Durango).
We stayed at the Mesa Verde RV Resort. It is only a half mile from the entrance to the National Park. It is also a good base for exploring the nearby towns of Durango and Cortez, the Anasazi Heritage Center, the Durango-Silverton Railroad and more sites in the Four Corners area. There is a pool and two spas, and we really appreciated the free WiFi from our site.
Some of the distinctive features of Mesa Verde RV Resort are the cozy touches of the lodge-like sitting room and the warm welcome of this owner-operated park.
The lodge has interesting furniture and knick-knacks, a TV, games and puzzles, a book exchange, free coffee and popcorn. It makes a nice place to relax and socialize.
The National Park was our primary sightseeing spot on this Mesa Verde RV adventure. On our first visit to Mesa Verde National Park, we stopped at the Visitor Center to view the exhibits and to get a ticket for one of the cliff dwelling tours.
There are three cliffside sites that you visit on a ranger-led tour: Balcony House and Cliff Palace on the Chapin Mesa, and Long House on the Wetherill Mesa (open seasonally). It is worth the $3/person fee to learn about the construction of the dwellings and the people who lived here.
In addition to the fee-based tours, there is a lot to see on your own. We spent two full days in the park and could have easily spent more. Reflecting back on what we saw, it is well worth it to see all of these sights for a good appreciation of the history and culture of the Ancestral Puebloan people.
The Balcony House tour is an interesting tour because you get to climb up a few ladders and crawl through a few tight tunnels.
Cliff Palace is the largest site and is a must-see for park visitors.
In addition to thses tours, we also stopped at some of the overlook points along the Cliff Palace/Balcony House loop.
The Museum is very interesting, In addition to the 25-minute orientation film, plan to devote some time to the many exhibits.
Right near the museum is Spruce Tree House, one of the self-guided cliff dwelling sites. At Spruce Tree House, you can see a reconstructed kiva roof (a kiva is a ceremonial room) and can climb down a ladder down into a kiva.
While we were there, we hiked the 2.4 mile round trip Petroglyph Point trail – be sure to take one of the trail guides at the trailhead to make the hike more interesting.
Be sure to make the Mesa Top Loop Road. The overlook points here depict various phases of construction-types from the early pit houses to the masonry used in the cliff dwellings.
Along the main entrance road, Far View Sites Complex is a big site with several villages. You can get a close-up view of the interior rooms, kivas and towers.
It is worth mentioning that the Visitor Center is about 15 miles in from the Park Entrance, and it is a scenic ride itself. We saw a coyote as we were driving in! (We hear that there will eventually be a new Visitor Center right off Route 160.)
In summary, we found that our Mesa Verde RV stop was fascinating. Next time we will plan to be here during the summer season, so we can also go on the Long House tour and see Wetherill Mesa.