It's not hard to see why the ancient Puebloans decided to settle around Mesa Verde thousands of years ago... the place is downright gorgeous. There are sweeping views from atop the mesa; shady, twisting canyons filled with mysterious petroglyphs; cliff dwellings that blend seamlessly into the natural beauty of the rocks; and tons more to see. Grab your camera, and get ready to experience some of the country's most striking landscapes.
For a really good view of the natural beauty in Mesa Verde Country, plan a hike along the San Juan National Forest's Boggy Draw Trail. Shady pinyon pine woodlands give way to grassy meadows and sweeping vistas of the surrounding region. If you're an avid cyclist, rent a bike or bring your own, since this trail is excellent for mountain biking.
At 8,500 feet above sea level, and as the highest point on the main road through Mesa Verde National Park, Park Point is bound to be impressive... but it really is one of those places that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Panoramic views of the landscape stretch on endlessly, and on a clear day you can see all the way into Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Look for Shiprock and various mountain ranges far off in the distance!
For a nice hike through the beauty of the park, head to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum to the trailhead for the Petroglyph Point Trail. The hike is 2.4 miles round trip, and offers incredible scenery both above and below the plateau. There are some narrow spots as you wander through Navajo Canyon, and you'll be doing a bit of boulder scrambling to get back up to the rim of the plateau, but overall, it's a pretty moderate hike. The main feature along the way is the petroglyphs, which are incredibly fascinating to inspect in person!
Make sure to stop into the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center and get tickets to visit Balcony House. To reach the dwelling, you'll need to scale a 32-foot entrance ladder, but the climb is worth it for the views from the house alone. Plus, it's an incredible example of Puebloan architecture, and you can get a good idea of how their style of building changed and evolved over time. It's definitely worth the time to get a ticket... and remember to bring your camera!
If you can't get enough of the outdoor beauty in Mesa Verde Country, then you might find yourself eating on the patio at the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe more than once during your visit. It's a simple little eatery that serves up classic staples like salads, sandwiches, and burgers served cafeteria-style, but the outdoor dining, big portions, and fresh ingredients make this a great option for a quick lunch. They cook up barbecue on the patio sometimes, or if you want to try something a little different, opt for the fry bread taco, inspired by Navajo cuisine.
If you want a more relaxing way to enjoy the natural beauty, then you'll love Guy Drew Winery. The setting, in a pueblo-style building on the vineyard, is picture-perfect, especially at sunset. The friendly service and delicious, well-crafted wines make the experience that much more special. Sweet whites, light reds, even port are offered here, and the $5 tasting (waived if you buy a bottle) lets you sample it all.
For a hotel that really highlights the natural beauty of Mesa Verde National Park, check out Far View Lodge. Its location inside the park means that you're right in the middle of some gorgeous scenery, and the native-inspired decor and vintage architecture enhance the experience of staying here. Plus, since there are no phones or TVs here, it really makes you appreciate the views even more!
For something a little different, experience the San Juan Mountains from the back of a horse! Rimrock Outfitters offers trail rides that will fulfill that secret yearning to ride off into the sunset like a cowboy. There are breakfast and dinner excursions, carriage rides, and guided excursions, all of which are incredibly memorable. The guides are filled with knowledge about the area, and will entertain you with stories and information the whole way!
Camp out or rent a cabin at the Circle K Ranch for a real rough-and-tumble outdoor experience. From fly-fishing to elk hunting to simple trail rides, the ranch offers tons of excursions, and provides some delicious home-cooked meals for guests. Don't expect TVs, WiFi, or even cell reception here... just outdoor beauty, and plenty of it.
Whether you're a hardcore hiker or you just have an appreciation for natural beauty, Mesa Verde Country offers tons of ways to experience its landscapes. It's a region unlike any other, and as you explore its canyons and plateaus, you'll understand what makes Mesa Verde Country so special.
Welcome to Southwest Colorado! Amazing views and Southwestern charm are waiting for you. Cortez, Dolores, and Mancos make up this ancient land, and the National Park, Monuments, tribal heritage and western cultures offer you so much more to explore. One Day isn’t Enough in Mesa Verde Country.