In southwest Colorado, you’ll find Mesa Verde, which is home to some of the most important archeological sites in the United States. Ancient peoples in this area lived in cliff dwellings, remnants of which have been preserved and studied. Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can see how these people lived, worked, and worshiped.
Because there’s so much to do and see in the area, it’s a good idea to have a plan of what you want to do during your visit to Mesa Verde. Below, you’ll find a sample itinerary filled with some of our favorite things to do and see while in Mesa Verde.
Day 1 — Settle In
While there’s tons to do in Mesa Verde, it’s ok to slow down a little — remember, you’re on vacation. No matter what time of day you arrive, take a little time on your first day to settle in, relax, and explore the area. Your first day is the perfect time to figure out exactly what you want to do during your stay and make some plans.
Get Settled In to Far View Lodge
As the only lodging inside Mesa Verde National Park, the Far View Lodge affords visitors the perfect headquarters for their stay. At Far View Lodge, you’ll find cozy rooms, warm hospitality, on-site dining, and unforgettable views.
Each room comes with 1 king or 2 double beds, a private balcony, and air conditioning. After arriving at Far View Lodge, make sure to unpack, relax, and get a feel for the resort.
Get a Park Overview
Once you’re all settled in, hop back in your car and head to the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, which is open daily until 5 p.m. during low season and 7 p.m. during peak season. At the visitor center you can shop for locally made crafts, learn about the historical sites, and make a plan for what you want to do for the rest of your trip.
Have a Relaxing, Cozy Dinner
After your visit to the visitor center, head back to the Far View Lodge and stop in the Metate Room for dinner. Voted one of Colorado’s top 10 restaurants, you’re sure to find something on the menu to tickle your tastebuds and start your vacation off just right.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
After dinner, it’s time to snuggle in and get a good night’s rest in preparation for your first full day in Mesa Verde. Enjoy the spectacular views from your private balcony and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Then, hit the hay and enjoy the peace and quiet of your TV-free room.
Day 2 — Adventure Through History
One your first full day in Mesa Verde National Park, it’s time to dive into history and learn about how the Ancient Puebloan people lived.
Get an Early Start and a Filling Breakfast
Get up and at ‘em bright and early for a full day of adventures and learning. Breakfast starts at the Far View Terrace Cafe at 7 a.m., giving you plenty of time to get ready for your first tour. If you’re in a hurry, you can get a grab-and-go breakfast and coffee at the Mesa Mocha Cafe.
Get Ready to Relive History
Join the 700 Years Tour to learn about the people who lived in the ancient cliff dwellings that are found throughout Mesa Verde National Park. On this 4-hour tour, you’ll visit sites that were occupied from 600 to 1300 AD and will learn from historical experts about the ways of life and culture in the area.
Get a Hearty Lunch from the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe
After your tour, you’re likely to be hungry for lunch. Head over to the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe, which is conveniently located near park headquarters. Here you’ll find indoor seating and patio dining for this cafeteria service restaurant. Be sure not to miss the famous Navajo Tacos and other Southwestern specialties.
Take a Short Pre-Dinner Hike
While there’s still plenty of light in the sky after lunch, you can head back into the heart of Mesa Verde National Park to enjoy some sightseeing and a hike. Throughout the park you’ll find a variety of hikes for everyone from novice to experienced.
One of the most popular trails is the Petroglyph Point Trail, which is a 2.4 miles round trip loop trail. This trail is rated as a moderate hike because of a few places where you’ll need to scramble up the trail, but most people hike it in approximately 2 hours. Be sure to keep your eyes open for wildflowers and rock carvings along the way.
Day 3 — Take a Drive and See the Stars
On your second full day in Mesa Verde National Park, you’ll get to continue exploring the historic sites, take a scenic drive, and leave some time for a late- night star gazing experience.
Take a Drive to Weatherill Mesa and Park Point
Some of the most scenic parts of Mesa Verde are accessible by car. A favorite among visitors is Wetherill Mesa, which is one of the most remote parts of the park. From the mesa, you’ll be able to see spectacular views of nearby mountain ranges and desert plateaus. From there, head to Park Point, which is the highest point in the park at 8500 feet.
Take a Tour or Embark on the Morefield Scavenger Hunt
After your drive through the park, you get to choose your next adventure. You can either sign-up for another tour of the historical sites or embark on the Morefield Scavenger Hunt. You can hike, bike, or drive along the route to see 30 information stations that will teach you about the flora, fauna, and archeology of the area. After you finish, be sure to stop by the camp store to claim your prize.
Kick Back in the Far View Lounge
After a day of exploring the park, it’s time to relax and enjoy some vacation vibes. Head over to the Far View Lounge where you can order light bites and a cocktail while enjoying the views of Soda Canyon.
Take in the Stars
As a certified Dark Sky Place, you’ll want to be sure to take some time for stargazing during your time in Mesa Verde National Park. For the best views, get away from as much light as possible and then enjoy the awe-inspiring expanse above.
Day 4 — Departure
After so many wonderful experiences and adventures, it will soon be time to return home. But, before you head out, there are still a few fun, short activities you can squeeze in on your day of departure.
Fill Up On Breakfast
No matter if you’re driving or flying home, travel days can be stressful. Be sure to start your day off with a hearty breakfast.
Get Souvenirs for Taking Home
Before you head out, be sure to stop by any of our four gift shops for a keepsake which you can take home to remind you of all the fun experiences you had at Mesa Verde National Park. At the gift shops you’ll find handcrafted jewelry, Navajo rugs, pottery, and apparel.
Get Packed and Ready for Departure
After a hearty breakfast and purchasing your gifts and souvenirs, it’s time to pack up and load up. Mesa Verde National Park is full of rich history and the stories of those who lived on this land before us. We hope that you take those stories home with you to share and pass along to friends and family.