Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mesa Verde National Park - Cliff Palace

We're getting excited to go to Mesa Verde National Park.  Scott booked a tour of Cliff Palace for the 3:30 pm excursion so we decided to hang out a little bit in Cortez.  Scott was craving Dairy Queen for lunch, so that's what we did.
Kids eating a blizzard
It was a perfect day for hiking.  The weather was between 78-84 degrees, however due to the rain we've experienced, it has been a bit humid.  Utah doesn't get humidity like Cortez, so it was strange to feel a sticky air again.
We took the kids over to the Visitor's Center.  It was really starting to rain at 1:30 pm so I was getting worried the tour would be a bust.  To pass the time and stay dry, the kids started working on their Junior Ranger booklets.  I liked this book.  It was short and simple but supplied a vast array of information on the park.  Someone really took great care to do this booklet right!

The drive up to the top of Mesa Verde was gorgeous.  I guess they must get a bit of rain here because the foliage was beautiful and very green for nearly August.  The rain clouds were dark and heavy so I hoped we wouldn't be rained out.

View Halfway up the Mountain
Hunter and Cierra at a view point
We continued the drive to the end of the park.  It takes about an hour to get where you want to go in Mesa Verde to see the ruins from the Visitor's Center so plan accordingly when booking a tour of Cliff Palace, Balcony House or any other tour in the park.

We arrived at Cliff Palace with an hour to spare so the kids finished up their Junior Ranger booklet except for the section for the Museum and the drive around Mesa Top to view the other ruin.  We were at the designated time to start the tour and Hunter saw a lizard in the sun and Cierra was more concerned about hike down and back out of the ruins.  I can tell she is not very adventuresome and Hunter is total adventure!  Hmmm.  This could be interesting today.  Also, to note, when taking any of the tours in Mesa Verde or hiking in the park, ALWAYS take plenty of water.  The park is 8,400 feet high in elevation and you can get easily dehydrated.

Entrance to Cliff Palace
Hunter is at the overlook into Cliff Palace where he spotted a little lizard.
Looking down into Cliff Palace.  Just behind this is another ruin of just 2-3 room across the gorge.
Our cute tour guide was Ranger Jackie.
Ranger Jackie
She was a cute, spunky gal that was a fun guide.  She was very patient with our tour group of about 30 people and would often stop to ask if there were questions. Hunter, our inquisitive child must have asked 90% of the questions on the tour, but Scott and I were very impressed with the type of intriguing questions that he asked.  Ranger Jackie said that Hunter should lead her next tour that day!  Proud grandparents, here!

So, here are some photos of our tour.

Hiking down into Cliff Palace...
...and hiking up into cliff palace.
Waiting for Ranger Jackie under a ledge
Cierra is re-hydrating before the rest of the tour.
Scott resting
Cliff Palace is the largest of the Mesa Verde ruins.  It has many, many rooms and a few stories high. Grain was kept in the upper tier of the ruin and sealed up tight so that rodents and other vermin wouldn't get to their corn. The Anasazi, or now called, Ancient Pueblo People, were farmers and they would climb up hand and feet holds in the rock to the top of the mesa where they would plant corn and other crops to sustain themselves.  There are over 600 ruins in Mesa Verde where there were groups of Anasazi living on the mesa.
Cliff Palace View
Close Up View of Cliff Palace as we enter the ruin
Looking at the ruins
Cierra and Grandpa Scott learning about the Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) culture
Inside a Kiva.  Looks like Lego's, doesn't it?
Inside a hole
Another Kiva
Another view of Cliff Palace
Keyhole door at a Kiva
Gathering around Kiva "C". This is where a family would live.
Ranger Jackie with Hunter & Cierra
Hunter scaled those ladders in just a few second!
Cierra starting her climb out of Cliff Palace
After our hike was concluded we jumped back into the truck and toured Mesa Top Road Loop where there were older ruins from BC565 to BC1200.  The early ruins were on the mesa top and no built into the cliffs.  As we were driving out of the mesa top, we saw two deer feeding right on the road.  The park rangers we talked to said that was a rare find.

After Mesa Top Loop, we drove over to the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum at Spruce House.  Spuce House itself was closed due to repairs, but the museum was open.  Inside, their was an absolutely fabulous and simple museum of the culture, history and artifacts of Mesa Verde.

The kids and grandpa are finding answers for their Junior Ranger booklets.
Reading and learning about the Ancestral Pueblo
Exhibit on the types of houses
Hunter LOVES the birds!
After the kids finished finding their answers they talked to a ranger at the museum to finished up their booklets.  She took them for a little discovering in the museum and then spoke to Hunter and Cierra separately to quiz them on what they learned. 
Hunter had a lot of things to tell the ranger.
And, he's still answering and commenting!  This guys LOVES to talk!
Cierra answering questions for the ranger
Finally, they took their oaths and earned their badges.
Repeat after me...
Many times the rangers will say something in the oath to make the kids laugh.
And laugh...
Cierra is getting a kick out Hunter's oath.  Even the ranger is laughing!
Congrads to Hunter...
...and Cierra!
Now for more information on the park.

Summer Hours from May 26 - Sept 4
Visitor's Center 7:30 am - 7 pm
Chapin Mesa Museum 8 am - 6:30 pm
Chief Ranger's Office for First Aid 8 am - 5 pm
Morefield Campground Ranger Station 5 pm - 8:30 pm
Wetherrill Mesa Info Kiosk 9 am - 6:30 pm
Picnic Areas 8 am - Sunset
Colorado Welcome Center (across from our RV Park in Cortez) 8 am - 6 pm
US Post Office (Chapin Mesa) 8:30 am - 3 pm M-T; 10 am - 2 pm Sat

There is also camping in Morefield Campground and Village is open for camping from April 27 - Oct 18.  Please click on the link for more information.  Please note, if you are RVing, you can't bring your RV into the park past the tunnel - the tunnel is too small to occomocated for rig, but you can park and unhitch either at the Visitor's Center or at the parking area right by the tunnel. There's plenty of space at the tunnel, but I'd unhitch at the Visitors Center so you're not lugging your RV up the mountain.  If you're camping at Morefield, then bring your right up the mountain until you get to the 


  1. That sounds like an amazing day. Very impressive with the amount of factual information that you were including. I bet your grandchildren are loving this!

  2. It's one of my favorite southern places for history and the town is charming.