On a snowy winter day in 1888, ranchers Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason were searching the mesa canyons of Southwest Colorado for their stray cattle. Unexpectedly they discovered an ancient rock dwelling built into the mesa cliff walls. This cliff dwelling is now famously known as the Cliff Palace.

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

To truly make the most of your time in Mesa Verde National Park, we invite you to embark on a small group, comprehensive guided tour where you’ll learn about the history, culture and architecture of the Pueblo people who once lived in the region over 750 years ago. So why take a small group tour of Mesa Verde National Park?

1. A day trip to Mesa Verde requires a lot of driving. Any visit to Mesa Verde begins with a 45 minute drive from Durango, Colorado to the entrance of of the park. Once in the park, drives are average another 40 minutes (one-way) in opposing directions on mesa tops or through parallel canyons to visit various dwelling locations. On a small group tour you’re picked up in the morning at your hotel and are able to relax on your drive to the park and along the steep mesa roads. Doesn’t that sound nice?

2. Reserve a Cliff Palace ticket weeks in advance. A trip to Mesa Verde isn’t complete without visiting the renowned Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde and in North America. With over 150 rooms, 21 of which are kivas, Cliff Palace is said to have housed over 100 residents at a time. In order to visit this ancient wonder you must reserve a ticket in advance. This is all taken care of for you when you book your small group tour. Done and done.

3. Cliff Palace tickets are reserved for the morning, before the day gets too hot. Southwest Colorado is on the Colorado Plateau, a high desert region with scattered forests. The weather here is dry and hot for the majority of the year and especially from May through September. Hiking through the steep cliff dwellings throughout the park is best in the mornings, when the sun is still low. We reserve your Cliff Palace tickets, we do our best to make it a morning excursion, with a rest at the Visitor Center and Museum by Spruce Tree House for lunch and an escape from the sun. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

4. Contribute to less traffic in the park. With over 600,000 visitors to the park each year, the steep, narrow roads of Mesa Verde National Park can get a bit crowded. When you choose to ride along in a small group tour you’ll bring less vehicles into the park, reducing carbon emissions and helping to keep the park’s night skies clear and saving your dinero on car entrance fees and summer’s high gas prices. Plus our tor vehicles are air conditioned and uber comfortable! Win, win!

5. Make our the trip your own! Enjoy your own itinerary and see more of Mesa Verde off the beaten path when you embark on apremium guided tour. Take time to visit with the park’s rangers or explore the areas trails and overlooks with several hiking paths. Kids may want to visit the Mesa Verde Junior Ranger Station for extra Junior Ranger fun, learning more about the Ancestral Pueblo people with kid-friendly exhibits and hands-on activities and be sworn in as a Mesa Verde Junior Ranger! Several special events demonstrating the regions vibrant culture history are often hosted at the park. If one of these events coincides with your trip date, we’d love to take you. Whether this is your first trip to Mesa Verde or you’re coming back, we’re determined to make it your best visit yet!

For more Mesa Verde National Park small group tour information, please visit Mild2WildRafting.com.