Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado is best known for the cliff dwellings and mesa top dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people.
Mesa Verde is located in southwest Colorado close to the Four Corners area. Cortez, Colorado is the closest town and a great place to stay. The turn off to Mesa Verde is on US-160. The drive up into the park is beautiful.
The best way to see Mesa Verde is to take an official tour. These can be booked two weeks prior, beginning at 8:00 am MST on Recreation.gov. The tours are available May-October. They are extremely popular, so be sure to book as close to 8:00 am 14-days ahead.
Cliff Palace is the largest of all of the Mesa Verde Cliff dwellings. It contains more than 150 rooms! It can be seen from the overlook without a tour.
The tour gives right information and allows you get closer to the ruins.
Balcony House is the most adventurous of the Ranger-Led Tours. It allows you walk the paths that the Ancestral Pueblo people did, exploring the actual rooms and passageways of the cliff dwelling. This tour requires you to climb a 32 foot ladder and crawl through an tunnel that is 18-inches wide and 12 feet long!
Spruce Tree House
Spruce Tree House is a great stop to see behind the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. It is only a very short walk.
Spruce Tree House contains 13o rooms! It was open to the public until 2015 when parts of the cliff face fell off. The park service is working on stabilizing the arch, but in the meantime it can only be seen from the overlook. Here are a few details.
Be sure to scan the surrounding cliffs since there are also several smaller dwellings nearby.
Long before the elaborate cliff dwellings, the Ancestral Pueblo people created pit house. This is a quick stop.
Square Tower House Overlook
Square Tower House is a cliff dwelling that has a tall structure. It is visible with a short 0.2 roundtrip mile walk along a paved path.
This is a remarkable feat of engineering!
Sun Temple View
Sun Temple View is an impressive overlook that gives you a view of a dozen different cliff dwelling sites.
There is a large area to stand with a railing, informational panels, and telescopes for a better view.
Cliff Palace is visible from this viewpoint.
The Sun Temple is also visible.
Here are some of the other cliff dwellings visible from this spot.
The Sun Temple was probably used for ceremonial purposes. It can be seen from a wheelchair accessible path.
There are some windows to peek through.
To get a better view you can stand on a boulder. The concrete on the surface is modern to protect the ruins from moisture.
Next to the Sun Temple there is a viewpoint that looks across towards Cliff Palace.