ake the scenic drive 50 miles West of Durango to discover the mystery of the Ancestral Pueblo of Mesa Verde. This historic site is the largest archeological site of Native American civilizations in the country, and boasts more than 4,700 points of interest, including more than 600 cliff dwellings. Mesa, “table” and Verde, “green” is aptly named for its location high atop the canyon, where Ancestral Puebloans lived almost 1,400 years ago. After flourishing in the elaborate stone communities they built embedded into the canyon walls, this ancient culture disappeared –and their disappearance remains a mystery to this day. The sites at Mesa Verde National Park are incredibly well preserved, and a visit to the park offers a glance back in time and a pristine reminder of the ancient culture that once dwelled there.

Mesa VerdeThere are a number of ways to go about seeing the park, and the Far View Visitor Center is a great place to pick up information and talk to a guide to determine a route. Self-guided tours allow access to many dwellings nearby the museum on top of the mesa. To access the dwellings in the cliff sides and further from the museum, guided tours are required. And, quite frankly, recommended as there is so much to learn! A number of the tours include hikes that range from mellow jaunts on paved trails to steep ascents scurrying up rocky slopes to some of the least accessible and most intimate ruins.

For a proper visit to the park, a half-day minimum is necessary, and as many as 2-3 full days could be occupied with different sites, museums and activities.