day 08: New Mexico - Colorado - Mesa Verde NP


.                Our route on day 08 (lenght: 148 miles / 240 km)

.                                           Durango, CO

.            Highway between Bloomfield and Aztec, NM

.                                     Aztec, NM

      Highway near Mancos, CO, with view to Mesa Verde NP

On the eigth day of our vacation we got up very early. Although we had only a short distance to drive to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, we wanted to got the most possible time for our one day stay at the park. We left Bloomfield, New Mexico to the north on Highway US-550. After a short break in Aztec, New Mexico, we had not far to drive to cross the state border to Colorado. Heading further north to Durango, Colorado the landscape suddenly changed from desert to more alpin-like mountains. In Durango we yield to Highway US-160, leading us westward to Mancos, Colorado. A few miles after Mancos we reached the park entrance of Mesa Verde National Park.

    .       Entrance Road to Mesa Verde NP, CO                         Mesa Verde Entrance Sign                        Petra & Nick at North Rim View Point

The National Park: Mesa Verde, Spanish for "green table", is the only American National Park that protects man-made structures, as opposed to natural features. And although it contains some of the most spectacular natural and scenic vistas in the Southwest. Mesa Verde National Park is one of the best known archaeological sites in the world. The park was established in 1906, primarily to preserve the spectacular cliff dwelling ruins of the long-departed Anasazi civilization. Anasazi is a Navajo word meaning "the ancient ones". Mesa Verde's importance to the international community was firmly established when the park was selected in 1978 by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

The Park Road: The entrance to the park is 9 miles east of Cortez and 35 miles west of Durango in Southwestern Colorado near Mancos on Highway US-160. The park road leads steeply up into the hilly area towards the North Rim ridge to the hightest point of the park (8571 ft./2621 m). The panoramic views from the entrance road range from 14,000-foot snow-capped mountains, to distant views of the Colorado Plateau and high desert to the south and west. On a clear day it is possible to see Shiprock Peak in New Mexico, 50 miles away.

The Anasazi People: At about the year 600 AD the nomadic Anasazi people chose to settle down and build permanent homes near their planted crops. As the tribe prospered, members migrated outward to build "cliff dwellings" in a variety of locations. From this network of cities, Anasazi culture flourished for hundreds of years. Then, approximately 1300 AD, within the span of one or two generations, they left their homes and moved away.

The Cliff Dwellings: The largest cluster of buildings, with 200 rooms in total, is Cliff Palace. It has many towers, houses and circular kivas (ceremonial gathering places). Cliff Palace is reached by a short trail (including a ladder) and is easily explored. The best view to Cliff Palace is from a different road at the opposite side of the canyon.

Spruce Tree House, one of the best-preserved cliff house complexes, is visible from the road near the park museum. The structure originally had 114 separate rooms and is built in a large overhanging cave-like recess in the canyon wall. A short but quite steep foot trail descends into Spruce Tree Canyon to view the ruins. A longer path (the 2.8 mile Petroglyph Point Trail) continues past, and along the canyon, giving a very good appreciation of the landscape - the path passes interesting rock formations and a small ruin as well as some petroglyphs. The trail returns along the rim above the canyon with good views of distant lands to the west.

The third large ruin in the Chapin Mesa area is Balcony House, visible further along the Cliff Palace loop road.

    .       View to Mancos, from Mesa Verde NP                Petra, taking a break, Mesa Verde NP                   Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde NP

For the rest of this beautiful day in Colorado, we stayed at the A&A Mesa Verde RV Park and made a short trip to Cortez, CO.

.                      Cortez, CO

.                      Cortez, CO

A&A Mesa Verde RV Park is located directly at the opposite of the entrance of Mesa Verde NP. We liked the wonderful view to Mesa Verde and especially Nick liked all the animals living at the RV Park.

.             A&A Mesa Verde RV Park

.             A&A Mesa Verde RV Park

.         Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde NP                  Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde NP                          Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde NP

    day 08 travel dates:

    Route: Bloomfield, NM - Aztec, NM - Durango, CO - Mancos, CO - Mesa Verde NP, CO
    Miles: today = 148 / total = 1031
    Visiting: Aztec, NM & Mesa Verde National Park & Cortez, CO & Mancos, CO
    Night at A&A Mesa Verde RV Park, Mancos, CO



USA Southwest 2002 ----- Travel ----- Klaus Tueshaus ----- Established: 08-APR-2002 ----- Last Update: 03-MAR-2018