Colorado’s Mesa Verde Institute Opens Four Backcountry Hikes for Summer, Fall -- Mesa Verde Country® Hikes Open Archaeological Sites to Public

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Home to Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, the Mesa Verde Country® area of southwest Colorado is well-established as one of America’s greatest archaeological treasures – with plenty of adventure in hikes, walks and exploration of sites up to 1,000 years old. This summer, for visitors seeking even greater adventure, the Mesa Verde Institute will open five new hikes to backcountry archaeological sites in Mesa Verde National Park that are not normally open to the public. All require advance registration and careful review of the conditions and terrain to ensure ability to complete the trips. Trails are at 7,000 feet, uneven and unpaved, and most include steps and ladders. Many traverse narrow paths along cliff edges and move through tight passages.

Square Tower House in Mesa Verde Country(R)

Home to Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, the Mesa Verde Country® area of southwest Colorado is well-established as one of America’s greatest archaeological treasures – with plenty of adventure in hikes, walks and exploration of sites up to 1,000 years old.

This summer, for visitors seeking even greater adventure, the Mesa Verde Institute will open five new hikes to backcountry archaeological sites in Mesa Verde National Park that are not normally open to the public. All require advance registration and careful review of the conditions and terrain to ensure ability to complete the trips. Trails are at 7,000 feet, uneven and unpaved, and most include steps and ladders. Many traverse narrow paths along cliff edges and move through tight passages.

1. Square Tower House – The strenuous two-hour, one-mile round-trip hike visits a spectacular cliff dwelling, with hiking along exposed cliff edges, scrambling down rocky slopes, and climbing one 20-foot ladder and two shorter ladders. Highlights include views of the “crow’s nest,” a unique feature visitors can see only from inside the site, and an original kiva roof, one of only two partially intact roofs in Mesa Verde National Park.

Limited to 10 people in each outing, the hike will be offered Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Sept. 1-Oct. 15. Cost is $20/person.

2. Spring House – This very strenuous, eight-hour, eight-mile hike occurs along an unpaved, uneven trail, with steep drop-offs, switchbacks and an elevation change of 1,500 feet. Hikers will gain stunning views of the national park’s Buzzard House, Teakettle House and Daniel’s House, as well as other archeological sites perched in the sandstone recesses of Navajo and Wickiup Canyons.

Limited to 14 people in each outing, the hike will be offered Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 2-Oct. 14. Cost is $40/person.

3. Yucca House National Monument – The one-hour, half-mile, easy-to-moderate hike takes visitors to a sprawling, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan site that has remained largely untouched for the past 800 years. Limited to 15 people in each outing, this free hike will be offered April 20, May 18, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21.

4. Oak Tree House and Fire Temple – The moderately strenuous two-hour, one-mile round-trip hike includes walking along cliff edges, climbing a 15-foot ladder, and hiking a narrow dirt path to visit two cliff dwellings. Hikers will also see a unique plaster panel undergoing preservation treatment. Limited to 10 people per outing, hikes will be offered Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays May 31-Sept. 3. Cost is $20/person.

In addition to the backcountry hikes, the Mesa Verde Institute, through a special arrangement with the National Park Service, will also offer extended tours of Cliff Palace, North America’s largest cliff dwelling, daily from May 29 to Sept. 5. During the 90-minute tour, Twilight in Cliff Palace, a park ranger will portray a historical character from Mesa Verde’s past, providing an opportunity to learn about the dwelling through the eyes of the people who found, stabilized and preserved it in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Limited to 20 participants per tour, cost is $10/person. These tickets are sold only in person at Mesa Verde National Park’s Far View Visitor Center.

Mesa Verde Country, the area of southwestern Colorado surrounding Mesa Verde National Park, contains some of the country’s best hiking. Along with Mesa Verde National Park, the area boasts trails in one wilderness area, two national forests, two national monuments, one tribal park and the largest archaeological reserve in the United States. Mesa Verde Country offers maps and detailed descriptions of 20 popular hiking trails in the area on its website.

Mesa Verde Country®
Mesa Verde Country is the southwest Colorado travel destination surrounding Mesa Verde National Park. The towns of Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and Towaoc, and the entire Mesa Verde Country area, comprise the archaeological center of America.

The Mesa Verde Institute is presented by the Mesa Verde Museum Association, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization established in 1930 and devoted to supporting education, interpretation, and research at Mesa Verde.

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