A National Park unlike the others
If you’ve traveled a bit, you might be accustomed to the spectacular natural beauty that comes with any national park visit. And while Mesa Verde has that, the park exists because of the preserved homes of the ancient ancestral Puebloans. With the cultural significance of this particular area, it doesn’t feel like any other national park that we’ve been to. There is a connection to the human history made here that creates a unique, nearly sacred, aspect to the canyon homes. It is truly special.
Sign up for your tour first
Ranger guided tours are the only way to walk through most all of the ruins in the park and only cost $5. They leave every 30 minutes but sell out quickly from the Visitor’s center (near the park entrance and far from the actual ruins). While you can see most of the sites without a ranger from a distance, most will want to book a tour. Based on the time you choose, you can then decide the best way to use your time before meeting your ranger at the site. And yes, they do check tickets.
Enjoy a unique visitor center
You’ll see the park’s visitor center immediately upon entering the park, but the sites are still another 45-60 minutes away. Because of the unique Anastazi culture continuing to be uncovered here, much of this visitor center is used to preserve and display one of a kind artifacts. Take time to enjoy the archives, learn about the history, and be sure to use the rest rooms before heading further into the park.
Pack a meal (or two)
There are numerous sites to see at the Cliff Palace Loop and Mesa Top Loop, both deep into the park. Even without taking a guided tour, you’d be hard pressed to adequately see this park in less than four hours. If you’re hoping to keep your expenses down, that means packing food to enjoy during your time. Mesa Verde entrance fee is $15 per vehicle with limited food options in the park.
Sites light up in the afternoon
Touring the sites midday is recommended because you’ll want to photograph these amazing ruins from the lookouts in the late afternoon. Shade protects you from the dessert heat, but can make photographing these landscapes difficult. With the most popular sites (balcony house, cliff palace, long house, etc) facing west, dusk sunlight brings out amazing colors that will not disappoint.