This site uses affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Are you ready to check Mesa Verde National Park off your bucket list and looking for some tips for first visit to Mesa Verde? Read on! In this post, I share simple but practical tips for first visit to Mesa Verde National Park. Not only will these tips help you have a more enjoyable trip, but they will help you make the most of your time.

Make sure to check out my post: 2 Days in Mesa Verde: Perfect Mesa Verde Itinerary for First Vist

23 Practical Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde National Park

NUMBER 1

Mesa Verde National Park Needs to Be on Your Bucket List of Places to See

Mesa Verde National Park is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. It is home to over 4,700 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people consisting of pit houses, a farming community, towers, and temples.

Pueblo people inhabited Mesa Verde for more than 700 years (from 550 to 1300 AD). They built elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. During the height of the Puebloan civilization, it is estimated that 22,000 people lived here. Then, in the late 1200s, due to overpopulation, drought, and cold temperatures, they left their homes and moved away to New Mexico and Arizona.

Cliff Palace Dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is home to over 4,700 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people consisting of pit houses, a farming community, towers, and temples.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

On June 29, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park to “preserve the works of man,” the first national park of its kind.

Not only this is a national park, but also UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Pueblo structures and history make the park an important part of the United State’s history, however, Mesa Verde is also home to some breathtaking views and some of the most rewarding hikes. In fact, the park gets its name Mesa Verde, which means “green table” in Spanish, from the abundance of Juniper trees and other greenery that cover the mesas, canyons, and valleys.

NUMBER 2

Visit Mesa Verde in Late Spring or Early Fall to Enjoy Mild Temperatures and Avoid the Crowds

Weather averages in Mesa Verde National Park:

Mesa Verde Average Temps and Rainfall

Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, CO. Weather averages. Image credit: Google 

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde 

Late Spring or Early Fall in Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is open year-round. However, late spring and early fall are the best times for visiting Mesa Verde. The temperatures are pleasant and the number of visitors is low.

Also, what you need to know is that some of the most popular spots in Mesa Verde are only open from May to October. So if you visit during early spring or late fall, you will miss all of the Ranger Assisted or Guided Tours (and, they are awesome!).

In addition, be prepared for some occasional chilly conditions, especially at night and during early morning hours. Make sure to pack some warm clothes and always dress in layers.

To sum up, my favorite months to visit are either late May or early October. The temperatures are mild, the crowds are low, and all the Ranger-led tours are fully operational.

Summer in Mesa Verde

Summer is the busiest time of the year in Mesa Verde National Park. Be prepared to have plenty of company wherever you go in the park and patiently wait to be able to snap some pictures without any tourists in them.

Summers are not incredibly hot. You can expect average highs of about 85F. However, due to the lack of any tree coverage, it might feel warmer than 85F. Make sure to protect yourself against the heat – wear a hat, apply sunscreen, and drink plenty of water.

Something to keep in mind is that afternoon thunderstorms are very common during the summer months. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly before heading out for a day.

Winter in Mesa Verde

In winter you will have Mesa Verde National Park pretty much to yourself. And, the park looks very picturesque blanketed in snow.

The temperatures range from about 40F to 20F, so make sure you are prepared for the cold weather.

Check out a more in-depth guide to winter at Mesa Verde National Park here.

Don't Have Time To Read it Now?

Why Not Save Tips for Visiting Mesa Verde to Your Pinterest Board!

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde
Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 3

Visit All Three Regions of Mesa Verde National Park

First of all, Mesa Verde National Park has one entrance and it is located on Hwy 160. Once you pass the main entrance, you will travel to the top of a mesa.

Second, Mesa Verde National Park has three regions to explore (there are many different breakdowns, but to keep it simple and manageable, I will cover the major ones here):

  • Mesa Top Ruins Road
  • Chapin Mesa
  • Wetherill Mesa
Mesa Verde Regions

Map of Mesa Verde Regions: Mesa Top Ruins Road, Chapin Mesa, and Wetherill Mesa. Image Credit: Google Maps

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Mesa Top Ruins Road

The first region, Mesa Top Ruins Road, runs from the main entrance to the park to Far View Lodge. The distance is about 15 miles (30 minutes driving).

It is a very picturesque drive. Along the way, you will pass a campground, several scenic overlooks, and a few hiking trails.

Chapin Mesa

The second region, Chapin Mesa, starts at Far View Lodge and runs through two loop roads: Mesa Top Loop Road, and Cliff Palace Loop.

The distance from Far View Lodge to All-Way Stop (junction between the two loops) is about 5 miles.

First, drive Mesa Top Loop and stop along the way at a few viewpoints of the cliff dwellings and the canyons. Next, drive Cliff Palace Loop and visit Cliff Palace (ticket required), Balcony House (ticket required), and hike Soda Canyon Overlook Trail.

From the entrance to the park, it takes about 40-50 minutes to drive to Mesa Top Loop and Cliff Palace Loop.

Wetherill Mesa

Wetherill Mesa region starts at Far View Lodge and goes to Wetherill Mesa part of Mesa Verde National Park. Here, you have Step House Trail (no ticket required), Long House Trail (ticket required), and Long House Loop Trail (no ticket required).

It takes about 1 hour to drive from the entrance of the park to the end of Wetherill Mesa. And, it takes about 40 minutes to drive from the end of Wetherill Mesa to Mesa Top Loop and Cliff Palace Loop.

NUMBER 4

Fly in to the Closest Airport to Mesa Verde to Save Time

Mesa Verde National Park is in Southwestern Colorado. The park entrance is along Highway 160 between the towns of Mancos and Cortez, and about 35 miles west of Durango. The best way to get to the park is to fly into one of the closest airports, then rent a car and drive.

The closest airport to Mesa Verde National Park is Durango La Plata County Airport (DRO) in Durango, CO. The airport is served by three major commercial airlines: Delta, American Airlines, and United. It’s approximately a 50-mile (1-hour) drive from the airport to the Mesa Verde National Park Entrance Station.

The closest international airport to Mesa Verde National Park is Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) in Albuquerque, NM. It’s approximately a 250-mile/4-hour drive from the airport to the Mesa Verde National Park Entrance Station.

If you plan on driving to Mesa Verde National Park, here’s how long you can expect to drive from other popular destinations nearby:

  • Moab, Utah: 2 hours, 124 miles
  • Page, Arizona: 3.5 hours, 225 miles
  • Grand Junction, Colorado: 4 hours, 202 miles
  • Denver, Colorado: 6.5 hours, 371 miles

NUMBER 5

Stay Inside the Park or in Cortez

  • Staying Inside Mesa Verde National Park

My top recommendation is to stay at Far View Lodge. It is located in the middle of the park and nothing beats staying inside the park. You are right within a short driving distance of all viewpoints, hiking trails, and locations of all the ranger-led tours.

Far View Lodge is only open from May 1st till the end of September. If you decide to stay there, make sure to make your reservations as soon as possible since it gets booked well in advance.

There is one campground, Morefield Campground, located pretty much right at the entrance to the park. It has 267 sites, and the campground rarely fills. Each site has a table, bench, and grill. Camping is open to tents, trailers, and RVs, including 15 full hookup RV sites.

  • Staying in Cortez

Cortez is the largest town near Mesa Verde National Park, located no more than a 15-minute drive from the entrance to the park. There are lots of choices for places to stay, plus there is a good selection of restaurants.

My recommendation is to stay at Holiday Inn Express. The rooms are clean and the beds are comfortable, and breakfast is included.

NUMBER 6

Rent a Car or Drive Your Own to Get Around in the Park

There is no shuttle bus service at Mesa Verde National Park. You will need to either rent a car or drive your own to get around or look into joining a tour to take you to the top sites.

The downside? Parking. Finding a parking spot can be challenging especially if you are visiting during the summer months.

My recommendation is to start your days early to avoid circling parking lots waiting for someone to leave. Get to the trailheads by 7:30 am to ensure parking availability.

NUMBER 7

Buy America the Beautiful Pass Instead of a Single Entrance Ticket

It costs between $20 and $30 per vehicle, depending on the time of the year, to enter Mesa Verde National Park. The entrance pass is good for 7 consecutive days.

You can either pay at the entrance gate (credit cards only) or buy a digital pass in advance to show when you get there. If you buy the digital pass, make sure to take a screenshot of it, as there is barely any cell service in the park.

If you are visiting several national parks, then you should buy America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. It costs $80 and covers more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

NUMBER 8

Buy Tickets for Ranger Tours As Soon As They Are Released

Most cliff dwellings can be entered only on a ticketed tour with a ranger. The tour season usually will runs from May 1 through October 22.

Tour tickets can be purchased only on recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777. Tickets are available 14 days in advance, 8:00 am MST, on a rolling daily window.

My recommendation is to purchase your tickets as soon as you finalize the dates for your tips and try to get the tickets on the day they are available. Tickets sell out very fast!

Following are the tours that are offered at Mesa Verde National Park:

  • Ranger-Assisted Tours

Ranger-assisted tours are timed-entry tours that allow visitors to move through a cliff dwelling at their own pace. Rangers stationed along the route will facilitate and provide interpretation.

Long House Tour

Long House Tour is located on Wetherill Mesa. Long House is the second-largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park.

Long House Tour is about 60 minutes long and involves hiking 2.25 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of about 130 feet and climbing two 15-foot ladders within the site. Tours are scheduled every 30 minutes between 9 am to 11:30 am and 1:30 pm to 3 pm. The cost is $8 per person with 25 spots per time slot.

Long House in Mesa Verde National Park

Long House in Mesa Verde National Park. Long House is the second-largest dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park. 

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace Tour

Cliff Palace Tour is located on Chapin Mesa (Cliff Palace Loop).

Cliff Palace is a world-famous masterpiece of architecture and design and the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Built between 1190 and 1280 AD. Cliff Palace was once home to over 100 people.

The tour is about 30 minutes long with a distance of 0.25 miles. You will need to climb four ladders. Tours are scheduled every 30 minutes between 9:00 am to 11:30 am and 1 pm to 3:30 pm.

First Visit to Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace is a world-famous masterpiece of architecture and design and the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Built between 1190 and 1280 AD. Cliff Palace was once home to over 100 people.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

  • Ranger-Guided Tours

Ranger-Guided Tours are more in-depth small group tours into the park’s backcountry to visit several of the park’s lesser-seen cliff dwellings.

Balcony House Tour

Balcony House Tour is located on Chapin Mesa (Cliff Palace Loop). It is one of the most adventurous tours in the park. You will have to climb several ladders, squeeze your way through a narrow tunnel on your hands and knees, and explore some of the same passages used over 800 years ago. Also, you will see some very well-preserved kivas.

There are only four tours offered each day at  9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.

Balcony House Tour at Mesa Verde
Balcony House Tour at Mesa Verde

A Quick Read:

What are kivas? Kivas are spaces used by Puebloans for rites and political meetings, many of them associated with the kachina belief system. Among the modern Hopi and most other Pueblo people, kivas are large rooms that are circular and underground and are used for spiritual ceremonies.

Balcony House Tour in Mesa Verde

On the Balcony House Tour, you will see kivas. Kivas are spaces used by Puebloans for rites and political meetings, many of them associated with the kachina belief system.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Mug House Tour

Mug House Tour is located on Wetherill Mesa.

Mug House was a village of 80 to 100 residents from 1100 to 1200s AD.

Along the rough trail to Mug House, you will be able to experience Adobe Cave, Ancestral Pueblo rock art, and wonderful views of Rock Canyon.

This tour is 2.25 miles long and lasts 90 minutes. It is only offered twice a day (May 1 to May 21 at  9 am and 12 pm and May 22 to October 22 at 9 am and 11 am). The cost is $25 per person. A number of spots per tour: 10 per time slot.

Square Tower House Tour

Square Tower House Tour is located on Chapin Mesa ( Mesa Top Loop).

This tour features the tallest standing structure in the park, a 28 ft tall tower, an intact kiva, original plaster and paint, and plentiful rock art.

Square Tower House is one of Mesa Verde’s most impressive cliff dwellings.

This tour is 1-mile long and lasts 90 minutes. It is offered twice a day from May 1 to May 27 at 8:30 am and 11 am, and only once a day from May 28 to June 15 at 8:30 am. The cost is $25 per person. The number of spots per tour is only 10 per time slot.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Square Tower House Tour features the tallest standing structure in the park, a 28 ft tall tower, an intact kiva, original plaster and paint, and plentiful rock art.

Square Tower House in Mesa Verde

Square Tower House is one of Mesa Verde’s most impressive cliff dwellings.

NUMBER 9

Do Not Rely on Cell Phone Reception Inside the Park

Cell service inside the park is very limited.

Make sure to take screenshots of all your tour entry tickets. Also, download offline Google Maps, and AllTrails maps.

NUMBER 10

Be at the Entrance to the Park No Later Than 7:30 am

The park is always open, however, sites, picnic areas, and most trails are not open until 8 am and close at sunset.

I usually like to start my hikes early in the morning (sunrise) to beat the crowds and be able to find a parking spot at the trailhead. I am not sure why the trails are not open earlier than 8 am. With that being the case, my recommendation is to enter the park no later than 7:30 am and head to where you want to hike first.

NUMBER 11

Don't Run Out of Gas

Give yourself plenty of time to get from place to place in Mesa Verde National Park and don’t run out of gas. Morefield Campground is the only place in the park to fill up!

NUMBER 12

Tour a Cliff Dwelling

Hands down, the highlight of visiting Mesa Verda are the cliff-dwelling tours. Following are the three tours you should not miss:

  • Cliff Palace Tour 

Cliff Palace, located on Chapin Mesa (Cliff Palace Loop) is the largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park. It is by far the most popular cliff dwelling to visit and photograph.

Of course, on a Cliff Palace Tour, you will get the most spectacular views. However, if you can’t get tour tickets, then the best place to photograph Cliff Palace is on the Cliff Palace Overlook. The overlook is located along the walk to the cliff dwellings. You can still go there, even if you are not taking the tour. Another great spot to view and photograph Cliff Palace is from Sun Temple.

  • Balcony House Tour

Balcony House Tour is also located on Chapin Mesa (Cliff Palace Loop). It is one of the most adventurous and yet, one of the most fun tours at Mesa Verde. Not only you will get to explore the famous dwelling, but also, you will have. to climb several ladders, squeeze your way through a narrow tunnel on your hands and knees, and experience some of the passages that were used 800 years ago.

  • Long House Tour 

Long House Tour is located on Wetherill Mesa. Long House is the second-largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde. This is a pretty strenuous tour, however, it is all worth it.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Hands down, the highlight of visiting Mesa Verda are the cliff-dwelling tours. Following are the three tours you should not miss: Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House Tour.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 13

See Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House, located on Chapin Mesa, is the best-preserved cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde.

Currently, it is closed due to rockfall danger. However, you can get a great view of it from the Spruce Tree Overlook, which is near Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.

Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House, located on Chapin Mesa, is the best-preserved cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 14

Take a Self-Guided Tour of Step House

All in all, if you are not able to get any tickets for any of the tours, then your best bet is to take a self-guided tour of the Step House.

Step House Trail is located on Wetherill Mesa.

  • Difficulty – moderate
  • Distance – 1 mile (roundtrip)
  • Elevation change – 165 feet
  • Trailhead – Wetherill Mesa Kiosk

On this self-guided tour, you will walk through the cliff dwellings, see the pithouse, and, also, see a few petroglyphs.

Step House in Mesa Verde

On this self-guided tour, you will walk through the cliff dwellings, see the pithouse, and, also, see a few petroglyphs.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 15

Hike Petroglyph Point Trail

Petroglyph Point Trail, located in Chapin Mesa, is one of my favorite trails in Mesa Verde. It passes by the Spruce tree House Overlook and then continues along the top of the mesa.

You will catch some awesome views of Spruce and Navajo Canyons on the way.

The trail ends at the petroglyph panel and then loops back to where you started.

  • Difficulty – Strenuous
  • Distance – 2.4 miles round trip
  • Elevation change – 227 feet
  • Trailhead – Spruce Tree House Overlook (right by Chapin Mesa Museum)

A Quick Read:

What are petroglyphs? Petroglyphs are rock carvings (rock paintings are called pictographs) made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. When the desert varnish (or patina) on the surface of the rock was chipped off, the lighter rock underneath was exposed, creating the petroglyph. Source: NPS

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Petroglyph Point Trail, located in Chapin Mesa, is one of my favorite trails in Mesa Verde. It passes by the Spruce tree House Overlook and then continues along the top of the mesa. The highlight is the petroglyph panel at the end of the trail.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 16

Hike Soda Canyon Overlook Trail

Soda Canyon Overlook Trail, located on Chapin Mesa, is a great trail that winds through the pinyon-juniper forest to three overlooks. Also, you will get some awesome views of Balcony House.

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 1.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation change – 70 feet
  • Trailhead – on the Cliff Palace Loop; 0.5 miles past Balcony House
Soda Canyon in Mesa Verde National Park

Soda Canyon Overlook Trail, located on Chapin Mesa, is a great trail that winds through the pinyon-juniper forest to three overlooks. 

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 17

See the Sights Along Mesa Top Loop

Mesa Top Loop, located in Chapin Mesa, is 6 miles long and has several great viewpoints worth stopping by and exploring.

What you need to know is that Mesa Top Loop is one-way and you drive it counterclockwise. The loop opens to visitors at 8 am and closes at sunset. It will take you at least 1 hour to drive it and make a few stops along the way.

Following are my favorite viewpoints on Mesa Top Loop:

  • Navajo Canyon View

It is worth making a quick stop at Navajo Canyon View to enjoy some great views of the Navajo Canyon.

  • Square Tower House

This is definitely a stop that you do not want to miss! A short trail will take you to an awesome viewpoint of Square Tower House. It is the tallest cliff dwelling in the park, and it was inhabited between 1200 and 1300 AD.

  • Mesa Top Sites 

Another great stop that needs to be on your list when you are visiting Mesa Verde. At Mesa Top Sites, you will be able to see kivas, as well as, foundations of towers that either served as defensive structures or as a place of refuge or both.

  • Sun Point View

From Sun View Point you will get to see Fewkes and Cliff Cayons and if you look further along the way, you will see the Sun Temple, Mummy House, Oak Tree House, Fire Temple, and Cliff Palace. The best time of the day to visit is in the afternoon when the sun will be behind you and illuminate the dwellings.

  • Oak Tree House and Fire Temple Viewpoints

From these two viewpoints, you will be able to get a better look at Oak Tree House and Fire Temple.

  • Sun Temple

From Sun Temple you will get to enjoy great views of Cliff Palace. What you need to know is that Sun Temple was used as a place of worship.

NUMBER 18

Explore Far View Sites Complex

The Far View Sites is a complex of dwellings and farms that were used between 900 and 1300 AD. The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here before the cliff dwellings were built and at one point it was the most densely populated area of the mesa.

There are a few different areas to explore here, including a reservoir, multiple villages, the pipe shrine house, and the far view tower, all of which are connected by pathways.

All in all, the hike is about 0.75 miles long and it should take you an hour to complete it.

Far View Sites in Mesa Verde

The Far View Sites is a complex of dwellings and farms that were used between 900 and 1300 AD.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Far View Sites in Mesa Verde

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here before the cliff dwellings were built and at one point it was the most densely populated area of the mesa.

Far View Sites in Mesa Verde

There are a few different areas to explore here, including a reservoir, multiple villages, the pipe shrine house, and the far view tower, all of which are connected by pathways.

NUMBER 19

Go to Park Point Fire Lookout and Hike Point Lookout Trail

Park Point Fire Lookout is located on Mesa Top Ruins Road. It is the highest point in Mesa Verde National Park standing at 8,572 feet. If the weather is good, you will be able to see as far as New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona!

Point Lookout Trail is also located on Mesa Top Ruins Road. This trail starts with steep switchbacks that climb from Morefield Canyon to the top of Point Lookout, the iconic Geological formation towering above the park entrance.

You will be rewarded with views of the San Juan and La Plata Mountains, and the Mancos and Montezuma Valleys.

  • Difficulty – moderate
  • Distance – 2.2 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation change – 400 feet
  • Trailhead – Morefield Campground
Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

You will be rewarded with views of the San Juan and La Plata Mountains, and the Mancos and Montezuma Valleys.

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

NUMBER 20

Hike Nordenskiold Site No. 16 Trail

Nordenskiold Site No. 16 Trail, located on Wetherill Mesa, will take you to an overlook of the cliff dwelling in Rock Canyon. This village of about 50 rooms is named after the Swedish scholar Gustaf Nordenshiold, who excavated the site in 1891.

  • Difficulty – moderate
  • Distance – 1-mile roundtrip
  • Elevation change – 165 feet
  • Trailhead – Wetherill Mesa Kiosk

NUMBER 21

Hike Badger House Community Trail

Badger House Community Trail is a great trail that will take you to four excavated mesa-top villages representing 600 years of Pueblo history.

  • Difficulty – moderate
  • Distance – 2.25 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation change – 111 feet
  • Trailhead – Wetherill Mesa Kiosk

NUMBER 22

Spend At Least One Day in Mesa Verde National Park

You need at least one day for Mesa Verde National Park. My recommendation is to spend 2 full days stopping at scenic viewpoints, hiking a few trails, and taking a couple of Ranger-led tours.

  • If you only have half a day, then take Ranger-led Cliff Palace or Balcony House Tour (located at Chapin Mesa). Next, make a few stops at scenic viewpoints along Mesa Top Ruins Road. And, make sure to include a stop at Park Point Overlook and Fire Lookout!
  • If you have one day to spend at Mesa Verde National Park, then my recommendation is to take the Ranger-led Long House Tour (located at Wetherill Mesa), then take either Cliff Palace or Balcony Tour (Chapin Mesa). Next, hike Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (1.2 miles, easy). Finish off your day with a stop at Far View Sites and another stop at Park Point Overlook and Fire Lookout.
  • If you have two days, then make sure to check out my post 2 Days in Mesa Verde: Perfect Mesa Verde Itinerary for First Visit

NUMBER 23

Come Prepared for Your Visit to Mesa Verde: Things You Will Need

I have seen many people hiking in their flip-flops, without any sun protection, and above all with no water. So, here is a reminder to make sure you are prepared for a visit to Mesa Verde National Park:

  • Appropriate footwear

Trail shoes are great; hiking boots are even better since they offer more support. You’ll want sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with solid traction. Don’t forget to break in your shoes before bringing them to Mesa Verde National Park. Also, do not forget merino wool socks. They will keep your feet dry, and protect you from blisters.

  • Plenty of water

Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply cannot perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness. I have been using Yeti Rumbler 26 oz insulated, stainless steel bottle, and I am highly recommending it!

  • Food

Food will help keep up energy and morale. I like RXBAR. It is a high-protein bar, gluten-free, and it is super yummy! Make sure to get a variety pack to keep it interesting.

  • Rain gear and extra clothing

The weatherman is not always right. Be prepared for unannounced rain or a cold spell. Dress in layers. It will allow you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat. I have had my North Face Women’s Osito Triclimate Jacket for years, and I love it. Also, I am highly recommending these Patagonia moisture-wicking hiking shirts and Patagonia warm fleece pullovers.

  • First aid kit

Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter.

  • Knife

A knife or even better, a multi-purpose tool is always good to have. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, etc.

  • Protect Yourself from the Sun

If you are hiking in the summer, keep in mind that many trails are unshaded, so it’s important to protect yourself from the sun. Sunscreen is essential, however, a lightweight long sleeve shirt is a must! My favorite are sun shirts by Columbia. Also, it is a good idea to wear lightweight long pants to protect yourself from the sun and bugs!

Wear sunglasses with UV protection. Sunglasses are an important part of your sun-protective wardrobe. When purchasing sunglasses, always look for lenses that offer UV protection.

wide-brimmed hat is a simple and effective way to cover up your face and neck. When selecting a hat, choose one that has a wide brim, which will protect your ears, as well as your head and neck. Avoid baseball hats or straw hats with holes, as these are not as effective in protecting you outdoors.

  • Apply an effective insect repellent

Insect repellent is an important step against mosquitoes and ticks that can spread diseases like West Nile and Lyme.  When selecting an effective insect repellent, do not look at the brand names, but rather, look at the concentration of the active ingredients. Concentrations of DEET at 25 to 30% are the best to keep you protected.

  • Daypack/backpack

You need something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in. I have Osprey Daylite Daypack and it is perfect for day hiking.

  • Camera!!!

Mesa Verde National Park is a photographer’s dream! If you are like me, you will be taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. The scenery is just breathtaking and constantly changing. I have a Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Super Telephoto Camera that I bought a couple of years ago and I really like it.

  • A spare battery for the camera

Make sure to have a spare battery for your camera. I think there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that you still have half a day ahead of you, yet your camera’s battery is gone.

  • Tripod

If you are taking photos during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) when the light is softer, a tripod is essential for long exposure shots. Also, I like a tripod since it gives me more stability when taking close-ups of wildlife. I have Manfrotto Befree Live Carbon Fiber Tripod with Fluid Head. It is only 3.0 pounds and it fits nicely in my backpack.

  • Binoculars!

If your camera does not have a good zoom, then binoculars are a must.

  • Trash Bag

This will make sure that the trail will stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip-lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.

Intrepid Scout's Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde National Park

  • Cliff Dwelling Tours is the highlight of visiting Mesa Verde National Park. However, getting the tickets can be very challenging and frustrating. My recommendation is to button up the dates of your visit and then be right at your computer when the tickets get released. If you do not get the tickets for your visit, then do not despair and continue checking for any cancellations up to the day before your visit.
  • Arrive with a full tank of gas. You can fuel up before you leave Durango or Cortez. There’s also a gas station at the exit off of Highway 160 and at the Morefield Campground near the entrance.
  • Parts of the park’s roads have restrictions on vehicle size. Weatherill Mesa Road vehicle limits are 25 feet and 8000 pounds.
  • Bring a camera with a good zoom or binoculars to view the dwellings from afar in greater detail.

Now, It Is Your Turn, I Would Like to Hear Back from You!

Are you planning your trip to Mesa Verde National Park?

Please let me know! Drop me a quick comment right below!

Click on any of the images below to get inspired and to help you with the planning process for your trip to  Mesa Verde National Park!

Did You Find This Useful?

Why Not Save Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde to Your Pinterest Board!

Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde
Tips for First Visit to Mesa Verde

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The company processes your data to facilitate the publication and management of comments. You can exercise your rights of access, rectification, deletion and objection, among others, according to our Privacy policy.