Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde


Description of Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Montezuma County, CO   Map

Area: 52,485 acres (21,240 ha)


Mesa Verde National Park is located in Montezuma County, Colorado state in United States. It is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site for the ruined settlement of the Anasazi tribe. This historic reserve covers a total area of 52,485 acres (21,240 ha).


Mesa Verde National Park protects a large area of various Anasazi ruin  that were build on various levels of the canyon at an elevation between 1,900 and 2,600 meters above sea level. With over 700,000 visitors each year, it is one of the most visited parks in a state of Colorado.


Mesa Verde settlement started as several small shacks of ancient farmers who first settled here in the 6th century AD. They supported their livelihood by growing maize on terraces on top of a canyon. They constructed their shelters at the side of the canyon to hide from sun rays. Around 13th century the settlement grew in size as population exponentially increased. Several multi story apartment buildings were erected to house the whole population. It was constructed from yellow sandstone, mortar and wooden beams that are supported the whole structure. Some walls have collapsed, but stains on canyon ceiling give an idea where the buildings once stood.


Anasazi Native tribes mysteriously disappeared before the arrival of Europeans so we have no written records of what happened to them. Pueblo natives that were related to the Anasazi, claimed residents of Mesa Verde gathered for celebration. The canyon was struck by an earthquake and all unfortunate victims fell through the cracks. However these are just oral tradition. Archeologists never discovered the real reason for their disappearance.



The name of Mesa Verde is derived from a eponymous plateau that rises 600 meters above the surrounding terrain, those slopes are covered with pine forest. In Spanish "Mesa Verde" can be translated as "green table" due to its appearance. First European settlers came to the area in the 19th century.  Mesa Verde ruins were first explored by Richard Uezeril, an amateur historian, and later by Swedish geologist Gustaf Nordenskiold. Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to protect ancient ruins against possible vandalism. It was further added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage site.




Fees and permits

A 7-day entry pass to the Mesa Verde National Park costs $10 per private vehicle fall-spring, and $15 per vehicle during the summer months. Motorcyclists and individuals on non-commercial buses pay $5 per person fall-spring and $8 per person during the summer. An annual pass, just for Mesa Verde, is available for $30.

There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes provide free entry at national parks and national wildlife refuges, and also cover standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. These passes are valid at all national parks including Mesa Verde National Park:

The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free annual pass in person at a federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can obtain a Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site for $80, or through the mail for $90; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can obtain an Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site at no charge, or through the mail for $10; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
Individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program can receive a free Volunteer Pass.
4th graders can receive an Annual 4th Grade Pass that allows free entry for the duration of the 4th grade school year (September-August) to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid in a Park website is required.
In 2018 the National Park Service will offer four days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 15 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 21 (1st Day of NPS Week), September 22 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day weekend).

Ranger-led tours of the Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House areas cost $5 per person per tour.

In addition, the concession-management company Aramark, which also operates the restaurants and inn in the Mesa Verde National Park, offers considerably pricier -- in the $40 per person range -- guided bus tours of the park that take visitors around to all the major sites while offering history and commentary.