Mesa Verde National Park provides a look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Children from age 4 to 12 can become a Junior Ranger at Mesa Verde. Just pick up an activity booklet at the Far View Visitor Center or Chapin Mesa Museum, explore the park, complete the activities, and take the booklet to any park information center for review.
We loved our recent visit to Mesa Verde and want to offer the following advice to others who may be considering visiting. A certain level of agility is needed to take a guided tour of Cliff Palace. I would not recommend this for small children or anyone with even a slight mobility impairment because the tour requires you to descend several flights of steps and climb a wooden ladder to exit. Several older people on our tour were having difficulty climbing the ladder after about an hour in the heat.
The school year just resumed for us and my daughter eagerly looked in her social studies textbook for the chapter related to Mesa Verde. She's disappointed that her dated textbook does not match with the most current information we learned from the National Park ranger.
Mesa Verde is a collection of cliff dwellings built into the sides of mountains outside Cortez, Colorado. These incredibly well-preserved dwellings offer us a great opportunity to learn about early Native Americans- how they lived in these seemingly inaccessible domains, how they protected themselves against the elements, other tribes, and how they collected water, grew food, and survived times of drought.
Mesa Verde offers several options for tours of the dwellings, both ranger-led tours as well as self-guided tours. Tickets for all of these tours can be obtained from the Visitor Center right off of State Road 160 when you enter the National Park.
My family and I chose to take one of the more adventurous tours- to Balcony House, which calls for several ladder climbs- including one that is 32 feet tall against a granite rock face leading to the balcony house entrance, as well as two smaller ladders in order to exit the site. And while I wasn't too sure that this was what I wanted to do- my kids' enthusiasm got the best of me and I agreed to it. So with shaky arms and legs, I climbed those ladders and I really did enjoy the tour.
Our ranger was a great storyteller and he really brought to life the story of how Balcony House was built and how the native Pueblo Indians lived during this time. He talked about how they would have collected their water, what the inside of the kiva would have looked like, and what life must have been like living on the side of a cliff.
The kids enjoyed exploring, and listening to the ranger speak, but I think that most of all- they loved climbing those ladders!
I wish we had been able to stay longer! We spend an afternoon/evening visiting the sites and the museum -- the hike to Spruce House was fun, and the "ruins" amazing. I wish we ad been able to take one of the longer guided tours to some of the other cliff dwellings. We camped in the park; the camp store was well-stocked, and the campground was a nice place to stay.
Probably one of the most incredible historical parks to visit.
The ruins are just unbelievable. You can see how much detail went into every hut and every little thing. I have not taken my kids to visit yet but I went when I was about 10 with my siblings who are all younger than me and we had a blast. Some of the ladders up to the dwellings are quite steep though!
Wow! This park was better than we expected. The drive into the park stretches for miles up. Plenty of wildlife available for viewing. We stayed in the park lodge which was rustic and basic. No a/c and small. Limited cell service. Several dining options available in walking distance. Head to the visitor center early to sign up for the tours of the pueblo ruins. Don't be scared away by the safety speeches. We saw all ages and physical abilities on the tours. Some are guided and others are independent. There is also a driving tour that is great.
We visited this park when my kids were teens. They loved it. The ruins are unbelievable. It is hard to believe that people actually lived in the cliffs like that. My kids went on one of the tours that took them into the ruins. They had to climb ladders and crawl trough a tunnel. They loved it. (Unfortunately my husband had a back injury at the time and was unable to go on the tour. )This is one of those must see national parks! Wait till the kids are older and they will enjoy it much more.
This NPS site is a very fascinating piece of history! No Native American lover should miss this! Plan on a lot of driving around and hiking. Most trails are easy and well-paved, but they can get steep. We visited when I was pregnant and it wasn't too fun! ;-) I also couldn't climb and crawl around the ruins, which is a major part of it. Try to visit in the spring or fall when the weather is cooler, as it gets pretty hot and there's not much shade around! Bring plenty of water!!!