Outbound Collective logo

Why You Should Explore These Incredible Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park

Adventure meets history in Mesa Verde National Park

By: Christin Healey + Save to a List

On my trip to Mesa Verde National Park earlier this year, I only had the chance to visit two of the parks' many cliff dwellings, the Step House, and Long House, but there are so many options in this park rich with diversity and history! With a few days you could visit all of them to see the full spectrum of diverse dwellings. Whether you want to camp or treat yourself to comfortable lodging, Mesa Verde has idyllic places to rest your head (and grab a bite!). 

Some of the dwellings require that you are accompanied by a guide, and some are self-guided, just make sure to check the schedule before you go as you need to purchase some tickets in advance. This park is really all about the cliff dwellings, so be sure to take advantage of not only the gorgeous desert landscape, but the rich history and culture of the people who lived in this area long before we discovered it. You will learn how the inhabitants collected water, food, different traditions, and how they dealt with the daily struggles of life before modern day conveniences. Bonus: the views from the dwellings are incredible, and you can really get a sense for the vastness of the area. 

The guided tours are my personal recommendation as the guides can point out a lot of details that you may not notice otherwise, and also answer any questions that you may have. These dwellings started in the 1190s after all, so how incredible is it that they are still available for us to see today! Although there are many theories for why it ended, this cliff dwelling only lasted about a century before the populations migrated the present day New Mexico and Arizona. 

For even more info on all of the awesome cliff dwellings that this unique national park has to offer, check out Visit Mesa Verde or you can look up the complete list here. Don't forget plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen - you are in the high desert after all! 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Visiting Old Friends

Sarah Ortegon

10 Photos of Mesa Verde National Park's Stunning Landscape

The Outbound Collective

6 Amazing Adventures in Mesa Verde National Park

Haley Baker

Why Shiprock Should Be on Your Southwest Adventure Bucket List

Joseph Gulizia

The Quietest Ski Town: Silverton, Colorado

Holly Mandarich