National Park Road Trip: Mesa Verde and Far View Lodge
Editor's note: David and Kay Scott, on the road this spring and into the summer to update their guidebook, The Complete Guide To The National Park Lodges, recently found themselves in Mesa Verde National Park.
Greetings from Far View Lodge in Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park. It is early in the season and the park’s campground doesn’t open until later in the week. An added bonus of an early visit is a reduced entrance fee; $10 as opposed to $15 during high season.
The closed campground was quite a surprise to a fellow in a very large RV who came through the park entrance in front of us. He was struggling to turn his rig around when we last saw him in the rearview mirror.
Sunday was a beautiful, if windy day, but Monday morning and afternoon were filled with hail, snow, rain, and a howling wind at the lodge, which sits on the mesa at 8,200 feet. The hail was small in size, but lasted on and off for hours. Nearby Durango at a lower elevation had 3 inches of snow last week. Vehicles were covered with a thin coat of ice this morning. We’re not in Georgia anymore, Toto.
Mesa Verde is best known for impressive ruins of Ancestral Puebloans who lived here for nearly 700 years before abandoning the area in the late 1200s. Several ranger-guided half-day tours of the ruins are offered. Tickets are available for ranger-guided tours of individual ruins. The visitor center, 15 miles inside the park entrance station, has outstanding exhibits of prehistoric and historic Indian arts and crafts. This is also where tour tickets are sold.
We spent the last two nights at Far View Lodge, a facility we always enjoy. Operated for many years by ARAMARK, the lodge offers two classes of rooms, nearly all of which provide outstanding views of distant mesas and canyons. Rooms classified as Standard rent for about $120 per night and are typical motel-type rooms with several bedding options.
More expensive Kiva rooms cost about $30 extra per night and have been upgraded with wood or tile floors, tiled showers, handcrafted furniture, and Southwestern décor. The best features are the large picture windows and private balconies from which to enjoy outstanding views of the spectacular landscape.
Balconies and large windows are a common feature of both room classes. A favorite experience is to relax on the balcony with a morning cup of coffee and take in the scenery – except when it is hailing.
The Far View Lodge dining room has always been one of our favorites. Although it doesn’t rival the grandeur of larger dining rooms at the Ahwahnee, Grand Canyon Lodge, or the El Tovar, the Metate Room is quite elegant and offers unrivaled views through a wall of picture windows.
Best of all is the food, which has been excellent during each of our six visits to the lodge. Last night’s appetizers included wild boar sliders, prickly turkey, and red chile shrimp. Kay had poblano relleno, which consists of a large roasted poblano pepper, Mexican cheeses, roasted corn, black beans, cilantro lime cream, red chili polenta, and caramelized onion tomato ragout.
Even though this dish is surely difficult to visualize, we can assure you that it was quite wonderful. Most meals have a Southwestern theme. Only dinner, which ranges from $15 to $28, is served in the lodge dining room. Breakfast and lunch are available at a food court about a half mile from the lodge.
From Mesa Verde we're heading to the Thunderbird Lodge in Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The national monument is less than a 200-mile-drive, during which we will be stopping in Cortez, Colorado for groceries. Then it is on to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, where the forecast is for evening temperatures in the 20s. Poor Toto.