In the south-west corner of Colorado is Mesa Verda National Park, home of the amazing cliff dwellings of the Anasazi people. These cave and cliff-side buildings are carved out of rock and built with sandstone blocks and adobe. There are more than 600 of these structures around the park.
Most of the open dwellings can only be explored when on a ranger-directed tour. Reservations are required for these tours, and as you can imagine they’re very popular! Make sure you sign up early at the Visitor’s Center and avoid disappointment. The must-see spots on the ranger-led tour include the spectacular Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House.
There are two other areas where you can wander on your own: the Spruce Tree House and the Step House, but only during the summer vacation season. Guided tours are the better option as you get to hear more about the history of the dwellings and really get a feel for the ancient people who once lived here.
If you don’t mind just seeing the buildings from a distance, then you can take your pick from a number of walking or driving trails through the park. These offer great overviews of the buildings, and include many excellent photo ops.
The cave dwellings are just one attraction at the Mesa Verde National Park. The various trails within the park offer a chance to see some local wildlife and views of the mesas, taking you through a variety of landscapes from wooded to scrublands.
- The cliff dwellings are approximately 800 years old
- Even today, no one really knows why the tribes who lived here abandoned their settlement