An archeologist’s dream park. At the Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde National Park.

This post is about the first of the four national parks we visited on our southwest vacation. We tried to jam this visit in during our drive to the Grand Canyon, and it was admittedly a really tight fit.

We spent about 3 hours in the park, but it could easily be turned into a 1-2 day visit. There was a lot we elected not to see.

Mesa Verde National Park is only about 35 miles west of Durango on U.S. Route 160. We got a nice early start from our hotel in Durango and reached the park before 8am. Once you exit west from Durango, the Rocky Mountains begin to disappear in the rearview mirror and you are left with the buttes and mesas that are characteristic of the American Southwest.

After a few minutes at the visitor’s center, it was a slow climb up into the mesas to get to the Spruce Tree House¬†cliff dwellings. This area of the park is only about halfway through; there is quite a bit more to see, but in the interest of time we told ourselves “We’ll come back here one day.” More »