Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, 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 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.
Mesa Verde was "discovered" in the 1800s and was established as a National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 29, 1906. Yet, about 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde for their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late A.D. 1200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture. The continued preservation of both cultural and natural resources is the continued focus of the park's research and resource management staff.
The entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is located about 35 miles west of Durango. Once you enter the park, the first view of a cliff dwelling is 21 miles along a steep, narrow, and winding road. Mesa Verde's main park road is open 24-hours a day, although activities and services within the park are primarily limited to daytime hours. Lodging and camping is available from mid-April to mid-October.