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Four Ranger-Guided Backcountry Hikes Reveal More Of The Wonders At Mesa Verde National Park


Ranger-led hikes will be offered this summer and fall to Oak Tree House and Square House, as well as two other backcountry ruins, a Mesa Verde National Park. Top photo of Oak Tree House via Mesa Verde Institute, bottom photo of Square House by Kurt Repanshek.

For years visitors to Mesa Verde National Park were largely limited to touring cliff dwellings atop Chapin Mesa. Now, however, four ranger-guided hikes have been added to the possibilities of exploring Mesa Verde.

Park officials, working with the non-profit Mesa Verde Institute, will be offering the hikes this summer and fall. They range from a two-hour hike to Square Tower House to a day-long hike to Spring House.

Tickets for all of these special hikes are limited and must be purchased online at this page or by using the links below.

"We are very excited to present these new visitor experiences in the park. We hope this opportunity is well received by our neighbors and park visitors," said Mesa Verde Superintendent Cliff Spencer. "This is a great opportunity to learn more about Mesa Verde National Park."

Here's the breakdown on the new hikes:

Oak Tree House and Fire Temple

This is a moderately strenuous 2-hour, 1-mile round-trip hike, along an unpaved, uneven, narrow trail with exposed cliff edges and a 15-foot ladder. Tours of these two cliff dwellings begin at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, May 29 through September 5. Meet the ranger at Sun Temple on the Mesa Top Loop Road at 7:45 a.m. Tour is limited to 10 hikers. Ticket price is $20.00. Purchase tickets online at this page.

Square Tower House

This is a strenuous 2-hour, 1-mile round-trip hike, along an unpaved, uneven, narrow trail with exposed cliff edges, and includes scrambling down rocky slopes and climbing three ladders (one that is 20 feet) to enter a remarkable cliff dwelling. Tour begins at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, September 1 through October 15. Meet the ranger at the Square Tower House Overlook on the Mesa Top Loop Road at 7:45 a.m. Tour is limited to 10 hikers. Ticket price is $20.00. Purchase tickets online at this page.

Spring House

Another very strenuous hike, this 8-hour, 8-mile round-trip trek along an unpaved, uneven trail with an elevation change of 1,500 ft. and includes steep drop-offs and switchbacks. In addition to a fabulous view of Spring House cliff dwelling, hikers will have striking views of Buzzard House, Teakettle House, Daniel's House and other archeological sites perched in the sandstone recesses of Navajo and Wickiup Canyons. Binoculars are highly recommended for cross-canyon views of multiple cliff dwellings. Bring lunch and water. Tour begins at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday,September 1 through October 15. Meet the ranger at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum at 7:45 a.m. Tour is limited to 14 people. Ticket price is $40.00. Purchase tickets online at this page.

Yucca House

This is an easy to moderate 1/2-mile, 1-hour hike. Experience a sense of discovery by visiting this sprawling, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan site that has remained largely untouched for the past 800 years! Meet a park archeologist at 4:30 p.m. at the Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez on April 20, May 18, August 17 and September 21, to carpool to the site. There is no charge for this special tour, but advance registration is required. Tour is limited to 15 people. You can preregister at this page.

Mesa Verde National Park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects almost 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. The park contains over 52,000 acres with 8,500 designated as wilderness. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1978 by UNESCO.

Mesa Verde Institute was established during the park's centennial anniversary in 2006. The nonprofit institute offers visitors of all ages expanded and in-depth experiences in Mesa Verde National Park. Visitors of all ages may take part in seminars, workshops, hikes, lectures and special programs designed to enhance understanding of Mesa Verde and the Four Corners region.


What a great opportunity for people to see some of the more restricted cliff dwellings up close if they are able and willing to make the hike. This seems like a great opportunity to take in the views of the landscape and experience parts of the canyon that most people only get to observe from the mesas. In addition, being able to talk with a ranger and get insight from a person that spends a lot of time in this park could greatly enhance this adventure.

Mesa Verde National Park seems to be doing a great job in opening up more cliff dwellings to visitors over the past couple of years. A nice incentive for people to re-visit this national park! 

I certainly have some mixed feelings about charging visitors to participate in interpretive programs, but guess it's something that we'll see more and more of as funding is cut.

However, these are all extra-curricular in a way and require additional outlays of money to pay for interpreters who will provide them.  Despite the extra costs, I'll bet tickets will be hot commodities.  I know I'll be ready to buy some.

THANK YOU for posting!!! We're in Mesa Verde June 16th, talking to the wifey now about it

Just booked my tour to Yucca House in Sept. Cant wait!

This sounds amazing. When I was there last year, I found the crowds distracting. The idea of being in a group of ten people with a Ranger to guide us sounds like an incredible opportunity. I just ordered my tickets for June 21, with my wife and 15 year old daughter. I'll let you know how it is!

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