Cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park are available sometimes by guided-tour only, and sometimes by self-guided tour only. Check here to see when and how you can visit these sites.

Half Day/Auto Tour Itinerary

If you can spend half a day at Mesa Verde, plan on auto-touring for about half of it, and visiting a few of the closely accessible sites. Start with:

  • Mesa Verde Visitor Center: located near the park entrance. This is the place for any information, current conditions, and history/orientations.

  • Drive south on the main road to Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, where you can see exhibits and learn the history of the area and park.

  • If you are able, hike the .5 mile (round-trip), 100-foot descent, to Spruce Tree House, the best preserved cliff dwelling.

  • If time allows, continue the drive to Cliff Palace Loop, and stop at either Balcony House or Cliff Palace overlooks, before driving back out of the park.

Full Day Itinerary

Visitors will be able to enjoy seeing attractions in the half day itinerary as well as some other key sites.

  • Mesa Verde Visitor Center: located near the park entrance. This is the place for any information, current conditions, and history/orientations. Obtain tickets ($4/person) for Balcony House (1-hr tour, steep, climbing) and/or Cliff Palace (1-hr tour, ¼-mile, steep, climbing) guided tours.

  • Drive south on the main road to Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, where you can see exhibits and learn the history of the area and park.

  • Consider hiking the .5 mile (round-trip), 100-foot descent, to Spruce Tree House, the best preserved cliff dwelling.

  • Continue the drive to Mesa Top Loop, stopping at any of the canyon views or overlooks.

  • Return back towards Spruce Tree, but take the east turn toward the Cliff Palace Loop.

  • Drive the Cliff Palace Loop, stopping at Balcony House and/or Cliff Palace, before driving back out of the park.

Two Day Itinerary

Visitors in Mesa Verde for two two days should complete the full day itinerary on one of the days, which covers the east side of the park, and on the other day visit the west side of the park, located down Wetherill Mesa Road.

On the second day:

  • Obtain tickets through the visitor center for Long House.

  • Drive down Wetherill Mesa Road to the trail for Step House (.8-mile loop, 45-minute hike,100-foot descent). This is a unique dwelling, showcasing two different peoples’ history, one dating back A.D. 626, and one to A.D. 1226.

  • Next, drive south to Long House, and begin the tour (90-minute, ¾-mile, steep).

  • Next, hike Nordenskiold Site #16, a two-mile, leisurely walk along a quiet, secluded trail.

  • On the return drive down Wetherill Mesa Road, stop by any overlook locations, as time allows.

  • If there is room in your itinerary, consider hiking either Knife Edge Trail or Point Lookout Trail, both about 2 miles round-trip, and both located near Morefield Campground. Each provide excellent views of Montezuma Valley and the surrounding land.

Backcountry Itinerary

There is no typical backcountry hiking or camping permitted inside Mesa Verde National Park.