Walking in the footpaths of the ancients and viewing the remains of their humble (and sometimes impressive) homes is one of the great joys of wandering this country as I do. Mesa Verde National Park proved to be the perfect follow-up to Wupatki National Monument several days prior.

Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwestern Colorado. It is probably not on your way to anywhere (unless you are relocating from Flagstaff, Arizona to Leadville, Colorado), but it is well worth the detour if you happen to be in the region. Visiting Mesa Verde has been on my list of essential places to visit since my sister-in-law, who spent her career with the National Park Service, showed me photos of the park last fall. It immediately became a stop-over destination when we started trip planning to Colorado in late June.

Mesa Verde is Spanish for “green table,” a reference to the many mesas that are interspersed with the stunning canyons in this area of Colorado. Mesa Verde National Park is home to nearly 5,000 archaeological sites, including about 600 ancient cliff dwellings. The pit houses and cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde were built and inhabited by Ancestral Pueblo peoples between about 600 and 1,300 A.D. Around 1,300 A.D. the inhabitants disappeared without a known trace.

Having the opportunity to visit ancient ruins like this is an absolute thrill. Being able to visualize how people lived for many centuries is fascinating. It did, however, prompt a discussion about how vandwelling is positively luxurious by comparison. It is all in one’s perspective.

Visiting Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is a bargain at only $15 during the summer season and $10 during the winter season. You would spend that much watching a movie at a theater or buying a DVD – and the return on investment is immeasurably better with a national park. An annual pass for this park is available for $30.

There is one large campground within the park. Most of the sites are tent or dry RV sites, but a few sites are available with full hookups. Dump stations and potable water are located in the campground as well. A cafe, store, laundromat, showers, and bathrooms are all available in the campground. Bathrooms with running cold water are also available throughout the campground. Verizon phone service ranges from barely usable to nonexistent, but free wifi is available in the campground. Camp near one of the bathrooms for the best wifi signal.

Nomadic Reflections

Mesa Verde National Park, like many of these wonderful sites, is worth visiting. Plan at least one day, but it is worth staying for a few days and camping in the park. There is so much to see and experience that you will want the time. Visiting the sites early in the morning will allow you to have the park mostly to yourself.

History is fascinating

History really is fascinating. If your only exposure to history is boring textbooks in school or college, you owe it to yourself to get out and experience history firsthand. There is no replacement for experiencing history for yourself, and it will prove to be both informative and enlightening.

America the Beautiful Pass

The annual National Park pass is a bargain if you plan to visit a lot of national parks. Visiting these treasures has actually become one of my travel hobbies, and I have made back the $80 I spent on my annual pass at least twice over – and it is still valid for two more months.

I recently met someone from Texas who is traveling around visiting every national park in the lower 48 states. That would be an amazing journey of discovery for anyone in a position to spend a full year traveling.