Winter Doesn't Mean You Can't Visit Mesa Verde National Park

Visit Mesa Verde National Park in winter and you can tour Spruce Tree House. The bottom photo shows what you encounter at the cliff dwelling during the warmer months. NPS photos.

Just because it's winter doesn't mean there's nothing to see or do at Mesa Verde National Park.

According to park officials, the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum with its prehistoric artifacts, exhibits on Ancestral Puebloans, and history of the park is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and one of the cliff dwellings, the Spruce Tree House, can be visited on a ranger-guided walking tour offered daily at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. These one-hour tours are free and do not require a ticket. Interested visitors should meet the ranger in the lobby of the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum just before tour time.

The Mesa Top Loop Road remains open throughout the winter from 8:00 a.m. to sunset, weather permitting. This six-mile-long loop leads you to short, paved trails that access a dozen "easily-accessible" sites, including surface dwellings and cliff dwelling overlooks, park officials note. Highlights include Sun Point Overlook, Square Tower House, and views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point and Sun Temple stops.

Just keep in mind that heavy snowfall or icy road conditions might close the road temporarily. The main park road will remain open throughout the winter, subject to road closures after heavy snowfall.

The Cliff Palace Loop Road is closed to wheeled traffic, and trails to Petroglyph Point and Spruce Canyon are closed for the season. The park has groomed the snow on the Cliff Palace Loop Road and a portion of Morefield Campground for skiing and snowshoeing. Visitors should contact the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum at (970) 529-4631 or park dispatch at (970) 529-4622 for updates on weather, road and trail conditions.

Food service is available at Spruce Tree Terrace, open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Far View Lodge and Terrace, the Far View Visitor Center and the Morefield Campground are closed for the season. There is no gasoline or other fuel available in the park.

Additional information may be obtained by visiting the park's Winter 2010-2010 Visitor Guide online or by calling the park's main information line at (970) 529-4465.