After leaving The Needles in Canyonlands NP (Utah), we drove almost three hours to Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado), which is also part of the Grand Circle. Marcel had found a free campground close to the entrance of the park, but due to the rain it was very muddy. So we thought we check the Morefield Campground in the park – but it was still closed due to snow. The woman at the entrance gave us the tip that Walmart in Cortez allows RVs to stay for one night on their parking lot.
Exploring Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is a bit different than the other parks as it was created to preserve the archeological heritage of Ancestral Pueblo people. It was named a World Heritage Site in 1978, by the United Nations and includes over 4.500 archeological sites, 600 of which are cliff dwellings. There are three highlights in the park: Balcony House, Cliff Palace and Long House, which are only accessible when booking a ranger-guided tour. When checking the tours online, we of course expected that they are probably booked out again. But no – this time they hadn’t even started yet. The only tour that started in April was only two days after we arrived – the others would not start before May.
After a quite noisy night on the Walmart parking lot (it is open 24 hours, so there was some traffic during the night), we started early in the morning and went to the visitor centre. Even though there were no guided tours yet, we got great recommendations how to explore the park on our own and see the cliff dwellings at least from a distance. When you join a ranger-guided tour you can actually go through the villages and houses as far as I understood.
We did the Scenic Drive and watched the educational film at the archeological museum. There are several overlooks and dwellings to see on the scenic drive. The first dwelling was the Square Tower House, which has eight kivas (round chambers usually underground, build in or near a village or homesite) and at least 60 rooms.
Sun Point Pueblo is what is left of a medium-sized pueblo village.
The Sun Temple was built in the 1200s and was part of the cliff dwellings surrounding it. It is still “ a mystery” what kind of functions it had.
We could see Cliff Palace from the distance – and it was fascinating to think about the people who actually lived here 800 years ago.
After leaving Mesa Verde, we drove towards Monument Valley and stayed for free at the Mexican Hat Campground, so we where back in Utah.