Free Traveling Guides » States » Colorado » Colorado National Parks
» National Parks
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde is the only American National Park that is devoted exclusively to archeological remains. It is set high up in the plateaus of Southwest Colorado, halfway between Cortez and Mancos. It's an astonishing place, so far off the beaten track that its extensive Ancestral Puebloan ruins were not explored until 1888.
Mesa Verde is a densely wooded plateau, cut at its southern edge by sheer canyons that divide the land into narrow fingers. The Ancestral Puebloans are thought to have been the only inhabitants the region has ever had. No one has lived here since the thirteenth century, and no traces of human presence have been found before 500 AD. The people who built the first pit-houses here in the sixth century were already skilled potters leading a stable agricultural life.
Mesa Verde National Park offers a unique opportunity to experience an ancient cultural and physical landscape. Exhibits inside the Far View visitor center cover Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo crafts and jewelry. Immediately beyond, the road forks south to the two main clusters of remains: Chapin Mesa to the south, and Wetherill Mesa to the west. To tour any of the major ruins you must buy tickets at the visitor center.
Six miles towards Chapin Mesa from the visitor center, the Archaeological Museum holds the park's best displays on the Ancestral Puebloans, and also sells tour tickets for the remainder of the season after the visitor center closes in late fall.