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.
Cliff Palace – Mesa Verde National Park
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.
Cliff Dwelling at Balcony House – Mesa Verde National Park
Cliff dwellings – Mesa Verde National Park
Stone wall of a cliff dwelling – Mesa Verde National Park
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.
We arrived in Arches National Park late in the afternoon following a relatively short and amazingly beautiful ride from Boulder Colorado. We pulled into the park entrance with plenty of time to do several hikes and stop at a few vantage points accessible by car. What we didn’t know was that the park is so big it takes about an hour to get from the visitor center to the majority of the trailheads. So now in a fight against the oncoming sunset we decided to hike to one of the most popular arches, Delicate arch. It was a beautiful and somewhat strenuous hike (in 102 degree weather) to the arch, but it was worth every drop of sweat. We rounded the top of the final rock climb and there was the gorgeous red sand stone arch, ablaze in the sunset, of course upon seeing the fantastic and awe inspiring colors, we realized Adam had only brought his black and white film.
Delicate Arch – Arches National Park
I could go on about its beauty, but nothing I could say and no picture could ever capture the feeling of being at that place, the wind, the warmth, the comfort and respect that this raw nature evoked.
Last week Adam and I took some time to explore our own great country and visited three National Parks in the South West. We visited Arches National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park.
Visiting National Parks is a great way to travel the U.S. and witness the raw beauty that draws thousands of visitors each year. Personally I love hiking and backpacking so the parks are the perfect place to visit, at each park we visited there were a plethora of hiking option from easy to strenuous not to mention many view points that are accessible by car. If you are taking a trip across the continental United States, plan on spending some quality time with nature in the National Parks.