Mesa Verde National Park (7,500′), Chapin Mesa
Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park protects some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the United States. With more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.
The Mesa Verdeans survived using a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They built the mesa’s first pueblos sometime after 650, and by the end of the 12th century, they began to construct the massive cliff dwellings for which the park is best known. By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability driven by a series of severe and prolonged droughts, they abandoned the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico.
- Trailhead: Cliff Palace
- Round trip: .6 miles / 1 km
- Elevation: 6,707′ – 6,830′ / 2,044 m – 2,082 m
- County: Montezuma
- Agency: National Park Service
- Nat’l Park: Mesa Verde
GPX with Elevation
Cliff Palace is a multi-storied ruin. It is the best-known cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde, is located in the largest alcove in the center of the Great Mesa. It was south and southwest-facing, providing greater warmth from the sun in the winter. Dating back more than 700 years, the dwelling is constructed of sandstone, wooden beams, and mortar. Many of the rooms were brightly painted. Cliff Palace was home to approximately 125 people, but was likely an important part of a larger community of sixty nearby pueblos, which housed a combined six hundred or more people. With 23 kivas and 150 rooms, Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park.