One of my favorite stops on our journey west was Mesa Verde National Park. This park, located in Cortez, Colorado, is an amazing place to see one of America’s most famous ancient ruins. The Pueblo people, previously known as the Anasazi, built homes and whole communities into the sides of cliff faces, the first inhabitants in the area were well established by 600CE but the cliff dwellings that make the site so famous were built between 1100 and 1300CE It is an amazing step back in time to visit these ancient sites.
Cliff Palace, the largest site with over 200 rooms is an absolute must see and is only accessible by a ranger lead hike. Tickets are available at the visitor center and they leave every half hour so there are plenty of opportunities to get there. However, it is important to remember that the site is about a half hour drive from the visitor center. I loved the hike and the rangers were very knowledgeable about the site and answered any questions.
Another must see site is Balcony House, this is a smaller dwelling that you can actually climb inside of and see where the ancient Pueblo lived and worked. This is another ranger lead hike that you need to buy tickets for. The hike is more strenuous and if you are afraid of heights or climbing up ladders on the sides of cliffs you might want to stay away. Also, at the end you need to crawl through a tunnel that is about 18 inches wide, so that might stop a couple people from exploring this site.
There are many sites to visit and there is a camp ground located within the park so you could easily spend a couple of days taking your time and exploring the area. We took one day and visited the Cliff Palace and Balcony house and I wish we had more time to visit some of the smaller sites. This is a beautiful and important part of American history, so you should take the time to give it the attention it deserves.