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My trip to Mesa Verde National Park

Updated on August 24, 2012

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

My family recently spent a morning at Mesa Verde National Park, in Colorado. The ancient cliff dwellings are not far from our home, but visiting the site feels like going back in history. Here are some of the photos I took, and some of the things I learned while I was there. Enjoy!

All photos on this page © Heather Weaver.

World Heritage Site

Mesa Verde is not just a National Park. It's also one of a few sites designated as a World Heritage Site. Its natural and cultural resources are important to all mankind.

Mesa Verde Museum Building

There is an interesting museum inside this building. My kids enjoyed the incredibly detailed dioramas, which depict life in the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. The miniatures are very well done, and the history of how they lived is fascinating. There is also a small gift shop here.

Narrow Stone Stairways

We toured the Cliff Palace part of the Mesa Verde site. If you go on this walking tour, wear good shoes, carry a big bottle of water, and watch your step. This is not a paved sidewalk. You'll be going up and down ladders and very narrow stairs. If you look closely, you can see some of the ancient fingerholds the inhabitants used for climbing.

View of Cliff Palace

Here is a photo I took of the Cliff Palace, from the lookout where we started our tour. You can see the many rooms of the dwelling, which is thought to have been like a City Hall of the ancient settlement. The main shapes used in the architecture are circles and squares. Our guide explained that the circles represent woman and the squares represent man, and the balance of those elements was important to the people who lived here.

Closer View of Mesa Verde Walls

The Cliff Palace was built with stone, dirt, and water. Each sandstone brick is roughly the size of a loaf of bread. During times of extreme drought, some rocks were dry-stacked, rather than mortared together. This was to conserve water. Wood was not used as a primary building material, although some original timbers remain.

Smoke and Soot on Stone

Here is a photo of some old smoke and soot staining on the wall above one of the rooms at the Cliff Palace. The rooms did have ventilation shafts and storage areas.

View of the Valley from inside Cliff Palace

I tried to imagine what it would be like to live at Mesa Verde, and this is the view from the walkway near the rooms.

Walking through the Cliff Palace

The people at Mesa Verde did a lot of climbing. The "windows" in the walls are actually doors. The roofs would have been made with animal skins, and doors could also be covered with hides to protect from weather.

Peek Inside a Mesa Verde Kiva

The round rooms called kivas were used for religious rituals. There are more than 20 kivas at the Cliff Palace site.

Another View of Cliff Palace

If you look at the long horizontal cavities at the top of the Cliff Palace rooms, you can see where the people likely stored their food. Water was obtained from seeping springs, where naturally filtered water seeped out of the sandstone. Those springs are still seeping, although they're in the back of the dwelling, where visitors are no longer allowed to go.

Tree Grows Among Rocks

This tree doesn't seem to have much soil, but it still grows in this high, dry locale. It draws its resources from the environment, much like the Ancestral Pueblo people did when they lived at Mesa Verde.

World Heritage Site Plaque

Mesa Verde is one of a handful of protected World Heritage Sites.

National Historic Landmark

Mesa Verde was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Get to know Mesa Verde from home

If you can't make it to Mesa Verde in person, you might enjoy some of these resources.

Things to know before visiting Mesa Verde...

  • Mesa Verde is located in a high, dry part of southwestern Colorado, near the town of Mancos. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen!
  • Pets are not allowed in the archaeological sites.
  • The walking tours are not easy. Wear good shoes, and be prepared to climb ladders and squeeze through narrow spaces.
  • You can tour some of the sites on your own, but the Rangers are excellent, well-educated guides.
  • The Visit Mesa Verde site has great information for planning your visit.

Have you been to Mesa Verde? Are you planning to visit sometime?

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    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 

      4 years ago

      Some really nice photos you have there. The Anasazi or Pueblo People were an amazing culture. Thanks for sharing your photos and your experiences.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      I really enjoyed my visit to Mesa Verde. Amazing place. I could really sense the spirit of these cliff dwellings and all who once called them home. Would love to make a repeat visit. There is so much more than one can absorb in one short trip. Thanks for sharing your experience. Lovely photos.

    • profile image

      Gail47 

      6 years ago

      What a great way to spend time in the outdoors - following the trails must have been a fantastic experience.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 

      6 years ago

      Great lens ! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 

      6 years ago

      Great lens ! Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      vinc18 

      6 years ago

      No, I am Italian but beautiful !

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      No, but I'd love to; it looks beautiful.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful place to visit! I visited as a child and loved it. Course the crowds weren't at thick as in your photos. I would love to go back!

    • profile image

      cleaningangels 

      6 years ago

      beautiful places.. and looks amazing..

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      6 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Neat trip. Never been out that way, seems very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 

      6 years ago

      I very much would like to visit sometime, your photos and descriptions were amazing, I felt like I had really been there. Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Very beautiful pictures.

    • profile image

      doug66 

      6 years ago

      Really cool pictures! Great lens

    • nicks44 profile image

      nicks44 

      6 years ago

      I haven't visited the place just yet, however I am planning a trip there as soon as my budget will allow it!

    • nicks44 profile image

      nicks44 

      6 years ago

      I haven't visited the place just yet, however I am planning a trip there as soon as my budget will allow it!

    • profile image

      athrunzala 

      6 years ago

      awesome place!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Yes I have been twice. Very haunting and intriguing place, I will never forget it.

    • geeky247 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Weaver 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      @Gayle Mclaughlin: We only had half a day to spend there, but we'll have to go back to see more.

    • geeky247 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Weaver 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      @poldepc lm: Yes, it is!

    • geeky247 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Weaver 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      @SteveKaye: Thanks for your comment! I felt the greatest connection to the Ancestral Pueblo people when I put my fingers into some of the same grooves that they used for climbing handholds. Amazing!

    • geeky247 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Weaver 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      @aka-rms: Thank you!!!

    • geeky247 profile imageAUTHOR

      Heather Weaver 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      @DrBillSmithWriter: We've just been there once, but it was really amazing! We'll have to do it again!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      6 years ago from Hollister, MO

      One of our favorite places to visit. Thanks for sharing. Great heritage tourism site! ;-)

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      6 years ago from USA

      Congratulations, this lens is being featured at SquidooHQ today! http://hq.squidoo.com/lensmaster-spotlight/what-ar...

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 

      6 years ago

      Yes, we have visited Mesa Verde many times. We also like other sites with Indian ruins. There is a special connection that occurs when being in a place where people lived hundreds of years ago. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 

      6 years ago

      beautiful place to visit

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 

      6 years ago from McLaughlin

      Yes--I have been twice and each time I have found new things to enjoy. Lovely spot to spend a weekend.

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