Mesa Verde National Park is 52,000 acres and protects nearly 5,000 archaeological sites. There are several cliff dwellings to tour, some are self-guided while others including Balcony House and Cliff Palace require joining a ranger guided tour.
We started off by driving into the park and hiking to the Step House dwelling. The drive itself is a 27 mile winding road roughly 27 miles out. On the way there we passed multiple lookouts and we, well, looked out. At the end we hiked to Step House. Step House was originally built about 620 AD and probably housed 30 to 40 people. Once we hiked down into the dwelling we saw several pit houses which are dug down into the ground and about 12 to 16 ft in diameter. They had horizontal beams upon which they built roofs of layers of juniper bark, limbs, twigs, and mud. The site also had a large circular kiva, likely used for both social and religious functions. We’ve seen several of these in our SW Utah and Colorado tours.
Next we drove over to the Mesa Top Loop and checked out the Square Tower House , several pit houses and the Sun Temple. It seemed like everywhere you looked their were ruins of some sort. I wonder what it was like to discover these years later?
In all it’s a beautiful park with a lot to see and do. It left us thirsty so we headed to Wild Edge Brewing Collective in Cortez for some beers. We started with a tasting tray and then graduated to full beers. The brewery has only been open about 2 years but it was awesome. I really liked the Monkey Wrench Pale Ale and the Porter. For some reason the porter doesn’t have a clever name, just Porter. If you’re ever in Cortez, stop in, it’s a cute little friendly place.