Destination Spotlight: Mesa Verde National Park

Everything You Need to Know: Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is ripe with beauty, history, and nature.

History buffs unite! Mesa Verde National Park is full of historical significance. In 1978, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional archaeological sites. Located in the Southwest of Colorado, this is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway full of rich history and storytelling.

Mesa Verde National Park was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to preserve the historical sites. The park’s cliff dwellings were built by Ancestral Puebloans from 550 A.D to 1300 A.D. With over 4000 archaeological sites, there is plenty to learn and explore.

Mesa Verde Fun Facts:

  • Mesa Verde is home to over 600 cliff dwellings.
  • Mesa Verde is Spanish for “green table”.
  • The most notable cliff dwelling in the park is Cliff Palace.
  • The Ancestral Puebloans harvested squash, corn, and beans.

What To Do in Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is full of fun learning experiences for visitors of all ages. You can take tours of the historical sites, visit on your own, or spend time learning about the area through a scavenger hunt.

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings

In the year 1300 the Ancestral Puebloans migrated from Mesa Verde.

The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings are some of the best-preserved archeological sites in North America. The dwellings range from one-room storage units to collective dwellings and villages of more than 150 rooms. The Ancestral Puebloans lived in the cliff dwellings while farming the nearby mesa.

The most famous sites include Balcony House, Cliff Palace, Long House, Spruce Tree House, and step house. Each dwelling shows different aspects of the lives of those who resided in them.

Guided Tour of Cliff Dwellings

Get up close and personal with history.

Visitors to Mesa Verde can take a self-guided tour of the cliff dwellings or sign up for a ranger-led tour. There are two tours available to visitors: Introduction to Mesa Verde and 700 Years Tour. Tours begin on May 1 and continue until September 30.

The Introduction to Mesa Verde Tour is a three-hour tour led by a certified tour guide. This tour gives visitors an overview of the park and its history.

The 700 Years tour focuses on the Ancestral Puebloans, where they lived, and how they lived. Visitors will learn about their architecture, horticulture, and religion on this four-hour tour.

Sunset Over Montezuma Valley

A beautiful Colorado sunset and double rainbow!

There are numerous beautiful hikes throughout Mesa Verde National Park, but one of the best is Knife Edge Trail. Time it just right, and you’ll get to watch the sunset over Montezuma Valley at the end of your hike. During your hike, take a moment to think about the workers who built nearby Knife Edge Road in 1914.


Starlight, star bright!

Mesa Verde National Park is certified as an International Dark Sky Park. The park’s exceptional quality and viewability of the stars at night was listed as the 100th International Dark Sky Park. Pack a blanket, telescope, and long-exposure camera with a tripod for an out-of-this-world experience.

Morefield Explorer Scavenger Hunt

Get your thinking caps on and go on a scavenger hunt.

Need a fun and educational activity to keep the kiddos engaged? Add the Morefield Explorer Scavenger Hunt to the vacation agenda. This scavenger hunt is free and available to ages 4 – 17 years old. Located at the Morefield Campground, thirty different education stations are scattered throughout the property and can be reached by foot, bike, or car. The stations provided clues on topics from flora and fauna to archaeology. Prizes are awarded to the winners at the end.


Take a piece of Mesa Verde home with you.

Whether you are looking for a memorable keepsake to remember your trip or a unique gift for a family member, friend, or colleague, Mesa Verde National Park provides a unique shopping experience. Gift shops around the area offer regional Native American handcrafts such as pottery, jewelry, Navajo rugs, etc.

Gift shops are located at:

Visitor & Research Center

Need a break from the outdoors? Visit the Mesa Verde Visitor & Research Center.

Touring the cliff dwellings and archaeological sites of Mesa Verde National Park is a great way to learn about the Ancestral Puebloans and the history of the park, but there are more ways to learn. The Mesa Verde Visitor & Research Center, located near the park entrance off US 160, has exhibits and archives for guests to explore.
Get a taste of the culture and day to day of the Ancestral Puebloans through museums exhibits, showcasing (as listed by

  • the modern descendants of the Ancestral Pueblo people
  • the park’s museum and research collection
  • the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building’s energy-saving and sustainability features
  • several original sculptures and other pieces of art that reflect modern artists’ perspectives on Mesa Verde, its people and landscape

Where to Eat and Drink in Mesa Verde National Park

A day of exploring archaeological sites and connecting with history and nature can work up an appetite in anyone. Mesa Verde National Park has a great section of food and drinks to help you refuel or kickback.

Far View Terrace Cafe

Breakfast or lunch to go, or stay and enjoy the view.

If you’re looking for an easy breakfast or lunch, look no further than the Far View Terrace Cafe located close to the Far View Lodge. With a food-court setting, the cafe offers breakfast and lunch favorites like breakfast sandwiches, omelets, and pastries, as well as sandwiches, salads, and pizza! Stop by for a quick bite before heading out for a day in the park.

Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe

Grab a lunch outside in between visiting historical sites.

Another great lunch spot if you need a break from exploring the park is the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe. The cafe offers cafeteria-style dining with both indoor and patio seating. Enjoy both American and Southwest classics. A crowd favorite is the Navajo tacos!.

Metate Room

There is no better way to spend an evening than at the Metate Room overlooking this view.

Ancient grain bowls, braised short rib, and pan-seared trout are just a few of the delicious menu items you can enjoy at Metate Room. Recipients of the “Award of Culinary Excellence” guests are in for a treat. Metate Room highlights colorful Native American art that compliments the regional heritage of the food and flavors. If kids are in tow, Metate Room also has a kid’s menu and a tasty dessert list.

Far View Lounge

Grab a sunset nightcap at Far View Lounge.

After walking through the beautiful Mesa Verde National Park for miles, kick back with a snack and cocktail and enjoy a view that goes for miles at the Far View Lounge. The lounge has a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for hanging with your friends or family, watching a big game, or kicking back with a book.

Where to Stay in Mesa Verde

Far View Lodge

The lodge was designed to reflect the true essence of Mesa Verde.

On your visit to Mesa Verde, you want to be sure to stay where you can be near all the sites and things to do. One of the most convenient locations to visit is the Far View Lodge. This is the only lodging inside Mesa Verde National Park. The lodge is adorned with traditional Western decor and includes an on-site dining room with fantastic views. Guests can choose from a Kiva room or Kiva Deluxe with a view.

Morefield Campground

Which do you prefer, tent, camper, or RV?

Camping in Mesa Verde is a treat with beautiful scenery, from wooded canyons to Native Gambel Oaks and wildflowers. Morefield Campground has 267 campsites also including RV sites, showers and laundry facilities, and dumping stations.

If you’re looking for a relaxing nature escape and also have an interest in American history, Mesa Verde National Park is the place to visit. With over 4700 archaeological sites and multiple expert-guided tours, you’re sure to learn something new about the people who first inhabited this land. During your visit, you can also check out the nearby Four Corners Monument or take a hike through a secluded forest to see the only geyser in Colorado.

Other Things To Do