Friday, June 4, 2021

One of my top 10, Mesa Verde

The Long House at Mesa Verde National Park

Thursday we had 10:30 tour tickets for the "Long House," the second largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde.  It was built by Ancestral Puebloans in the 1200's.  Anyone know what "Mesa Verde" is Spanish for?

Supposedly we had to allow time to watch a 15 minute safety film (didn't happen) and then a 20 minute walk to get to the beginning of our tour (we did have to do this).  We left at 8 to allow for construction we knew was there, and for long lines to get into the park.  No long lines so we arrived about an hour early, chatted with the park ranger, and headed down the path to where our tour would begin.  We took Park road again today but took a turn onto Wetherill Mesa Road, a 12 mile VERY winding road, to get to our destination.

The ranger informed our group of about 25, including Nathan Miller (a 3 year old who repeatedly told any and everyone his name😀), of the do's and don'ts and then our "tour" began.  Basically we all walked as a group, no ranger, down to the ruin site.  There were a couple of rangers down there to answer questions.  I assume the reason for tickets and the "tour" was to limit the number of people at the site.  People wandering around could do a lot of damage.  These were the only tickets we were able to get, although time permitting, there are other self-guided tours we can take.

Long House was excavated between 1959 and 1961.  It contains about 150 rooms, 21 kivas and a row of upper storage rooms all in a 3 story structure.   They guess that there were no more than 100 people living here.  There was a larger rectangular gathering area where they thought others may have come to trade or hold community events.

Almost there

To get to the upper floors you take the ladders.

I'm not fond of heights or ladders!

Looking out into the valley.

Each family/clan had a circular Kiva used for tribal events and used just like we would use a living room

Pat is standing by a door to one of the small rooms.  I'm guessing the ancient Puebloans were quite small!

In front you can kind of see the large rectangular gathering area.

This short-horned lizard was very photogenic.

Royal Penstemon

This fire ravaged area was near Long House.  I think it was called the Pony fire and occurred in 2000.  In various burned areas around the park they had signs indicating the various fires and when they took place.  It was interesting to see what had grown back and what hadn't.

Pat owes me his life!  Leaving the Long House this guy crawled across the path in front of us.  It looks like it was just a bull snake although we had been warned about rattlesnakes.

Our campground was only a 15 minute drive to the entrance of the park.  On Weds. we followed Park Road to it's end, about an hour and a half from the entrance.  There were a lot of look-outs and interesting views, but not much in the way of trails today.  

Large Mesa (flat topped hill with steep sides) seen from the entrance to Mesa Verde.

The Ancient Ones Sculpture at Mesa Verde NP Visitor Center.

One of the pit house excavations. They usually had 2 chambers, one for living and a smaller one for storage.  

Square House Tower Overlook.  Below are various other sites on Park Road.  You are not able to go to these, only look from afar.

Park Point is the highest point in Mesa Verde NP at 8,752.  This is an active fire look-out tower.  Beautiful panoramic views.


Balcony House Tour, Mesa Verde NP, 1996
This is the tallest ladder at any of the sights and I climbed it in 1996, but only because it was the only way out and I knew they would just leave me.

Mesa Verde NP, 1996

Josh, Chris, and Eric look so happy, lol!

Tuesday we stopped for lunch at Chimney Rock National Monument.  It was about an hour and a half away from Cortez, CO, our spot for the next week.  It was really pretty.  Not sure who runs it now but the U.S. Forest Service is going to be taking over the operation.   You could drive up and take a 1/3 mile lower path or go up further and take a steeper 1/3 mile trail.  We stayed down below and ate our lunch since we still had more traveling to do.  The view from there was beautiful.

Snow on the ground on our way to Chimney Rock.

Located at Chimney Rock National Monument is an excavated 1,000 year-old Puebloan village with over 200 homes. The distinctive Chimney on top was a landmark used by pioneers heading west.


  1. Mesa verde means green table. I knew that verde is green but had to lookup mesa.
    I think we were there in the late 1990s, but I don't remember exactly when. I don't remember if we took a tour or just hiked some. Our route that year had some similarities to your journey now. We stopped at the Great Sand Dunes NP and Mesa Verde, but then headed north to Ouray CO.

  2. We thought about heading up to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, but didn't want to take the RV on The Million Dollar highway.

  3. Good choice. You can get to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the north at a later time. You can also get to Ouray from the north, and I highly recommend it if you get the chance. Although it is probably changed from when we visited. I think Greg is running a Jeep touring company now, or was the last I heard.

    1. We'll head down that way from the north in a couple of years.