Colorado – Summer 2022

Monday, July 25

Woke up in the Fairfield Inn, just outside Durango, where we had a nice breakfast and got ourselves organized before heading into Mesa Verde National Park. This is my 26th National Park overall and with Andrea, our 15th together!

We made it to a new one!

I must admit, I did not have high expectations for this park. But I was wrong. It’s beautiful and there’s a reason it’s been around since 1906! We stopped at the visitor center when we arrived, and it was our first visitor center in a number of years. Last summer we didn’t get to make it to the one in North Cascades, nor did we visit the ones in Rainier or Olympic.

Mesa Verde NP Visitor Center
Visitor Center

The only disappointment of the day was that the park is fresh out of maps. And I love me a map. We drove up from the visitor center into the park, ascending away from the valley up onto the Mesa, or I guess as it’s more accurately described, a Cuesta.

The park itself is not unlike Bryce Canyon NP, in that there’s really only one road in and out, with the exception of a few dirt roads and trails. The main road itself runs north and south, with points of interest along the way. We decided our hike for the day would be the Spruce Canyon Trail, but we also knew we wanted to explore the park a little bit, which is exactly what we did. We drove around the Mesa Top loop, which gave us great views of the valleys below, and worked our way over to the cliff palace loop.

Driving around the Chaplin Mesa

We could see Cliff Palace and also stopped to see the Sun Temple .

The Sun Temple
Sun Temple
Cliff Palace
Standing above Cliff Palace

Unfortunately, we hadn’t made reservations to get the guided tour of the cliff palace, but we still got great views above it.

The length of Cliff Palace
View of the valley beyond Cliff Palace

Leaving that section, we drove back to another part of the Mesa, where we wanted to do our hike. There is a museum there, as well as Park headquarters, and two main trails: petroglyph trail and spruce Canyon Trail.

The trailhead below the museum
The section of the park we hiked

The Spruce Canyon trail wasn’t too terribly long or strenuous, but it wasn’t exactly easy, either. A good swift descent took us to where the two trails split and then there were several switchbacks down into the valley. For the most part, it was just us and two other guys on the trail and it felt good to be so removed from crowds (although the park itself was relatively quiet; a benefit of visiting on a Monday!)

Hiking down into the canyon
Hiking along the canyon floor
A recent Rock slide blocking the path

The trek back up out of the canyon was beautiful and since it was our first real hike of the trip, we took our time and went slowly. Out of shape, high altitude, fresh legs, etc. But the trek up and out felt great and provided beautiful views along the way!

Looking back into the canyons near the top
The wash, the canyon and a little dance
She love me, even when I’m sweaty and gross
Rock hunting along the wash above the canyon
Made it back up to the top!

As we worked our way back to the car, we could see and hear the storms starting to roll in, and though we wanted to explore some more, decided to start working our way back north to the main road.

We stopped a few more places along the way out, including Park Point, the highest point in Mesa Verde NP.

Park Point
Storms to the east
Views from Park point; looking south and west you can see New Mexico, Arizona and Utah
The Fire Lookout Tower at Park Point

It was a great first day in Mesa Verde National Park and we plan to head back tomorrow (Tuesday). We drove back into Durango and had a great Mexican meal (and each had a margarita too).

A good way to end the day!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s