Ancient Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

Childhood Dreams

Ever since I was  kid in high school, I have been mesmerized by the Anasazi Indian Ruins. I remember having posters of the cliff dwellings on my wall. I always dreamed of visiting this place that to me was so far away it might have well have been on Mars. I finally got to visit these amazing dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde National Park

The location of the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings is in a very unassuming place (probably for good reason) in southwestern Colorado. Mesa Verde National Park is in the high country at an elevation of over 7,000 feet. The high flat mesas are dissected into a maze of canyons by tributaries of the Mancos River. It’s in the cliff walls of these canyons that the cliff dwellings were created over 1,000 years ago.

What’s amazing is that there are so many cliff dwellings all over the park (over 600!), as well as on top of some of the mesas. They were inhabited for nearly 700 years, and were then inexplicably abandoned by the year 1,300. The cliff dwellings appear as if they were occupied yesterday, but this is largely due to reconstruction and preservation efforts. Having been made of the local stone and earth, the dwellings are susceptible to erosion, weathering, and even rock falls from within the alcoves in which they’re built.

With building names like Cliff Palace, Spruce Tree House, Square Tower House, Sun Temple, Spring House, Oak Tree House, and Balcony House you really get a sense of the community that was developed here. The Ancestral Pueblo people who create these homes, or kivas, had to constantly maintain them. They created ladders and cut footholds into the cliff faces to reach the nearly inaccessible cliff dwellings.

How to Get There

It was a pretty long drive to get to the cliff dwellings, 22 miles from the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor Center to the Cliff Palace. The views were pretty nice going up from the lower elevations and the road as in great condition to enjoy the twists and turns on the Goldwing. Once up in the area of the cliff dwellings, you can easily spend a few days exploring on your own by hiking the many trails, or take an organized tour of the dwellings themselves.

This visit to a childhood dream destination was all I had expected and more. Such a wonderful place to take time to appreciate in silence and just marvel at the people who built and sustained this community for centuries.