Some fascinating backcountry ranger-led hikes are on tap at Mesa Verde National Park this summer, offering you insights into places such as Oak Tree House and Spring House.
These hikes include a half- day hike into Upper Navajo Canyon, a 2-hour hike to Oak Tree House, an all-day hike to Spring House, and a half-day hike on Wetherill Mesa. Tickets for all of these special hikes are limited and must be purchased online at www.recreation.gov.
Upper Navajo Canyon
Enjoy the autumn weather and fall color as you hike this historic trail, built in the 1930s by the Public Works Administration. You will view Pinkley House and other small alcove sites, and experience two natural communities as you descend from the drier mesa top to the mountain chaparral in the canyon bottom. This moderate 5-hour, 6-mile (9.6-km) round-trip hike is along an unpaved, uneven trail that descends 760 feet (232 m) into upper Navajo Canyon, with steep drop-offs and switchbacks. Group size is limited to 14 people. Tickets are $18 per person, all ages. This hike is offered Thursdays and Saturdays, from September 5 to October 5, 2013.
Oak Tree House
Oak Tree House is a 60-room site built on two ledges, and is one of the largest cliff dwellings in the park. It is a well-preserved but fragile site that features plastered walls and varied architectural styles. This 2-hour, 1-mile (1.6-km) round-trip hike is moderately strenuous on a narrow dirt path, with steps carved into the sandstone, steep drop-offs, and two ladders (4- and 15-foot) (1.2- and 4.6-m). Total elevation change is 200 feet (61 m). Group size is limited to 10 people. Tickets are $25 per person, all ages. This hike is offered Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, May 28 to September 7.
As you hike to Spring House, you will be rewarded with views of alcove sites in Navajo and Wickiup Canyons. Spring House is the largest unexcavated cliff dwelling in the park. It is extremely fragile, so you will not enter the site, but will get excellent views of the cliff dwelling from a platform at the south end of the village.
This 8-hour, 8-mile (12.9-km) round-trip hike is very strenuous along an unpaved, uneven trail with an elevation change of 1,500 feet (457 m) and includes steep drop-offs and switchbacks. Group size is limited to 10 people. Tickets are $40 per person, all ages. The Spring House Hike is offered Sundays and Wednesdays, May 26 to June 5, 2013, and September 1 to October 6.
Wetherill Mesa Experience
Expansive canyon views, spectacular glimpses of cliff dwellings, and Wetherill Mesa in the autumn will reward hikers on this moderate 4-hour, 4-mile (6.4-km) round-trip hike. You will follow an old fire road and an unpaved trail that crosses Wetherill Mesa. Tour is limited to 14 people. Tickets are $18 per person, all ages. The Wetherill Mesa Experience includes driving time, round-trip to Wetherill Mesa. Total experience is about six hours. This hike is offered Tuesdays and Fridays, September 6 to October 4, 2013
Mesa Verde National Park 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 A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects almost 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.
For reservations or more information, visit www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.