This fall you have a chance to see some parts of Mesa Verde National Park that aren't normally accessible to park visitors. But you have to be in shape.
Rangers will be leading backcountry hikes to Upper Navajo Canyon, Wetherill Mesa, and Spring House.
Tickets are limited and must be purchased online at www.recreation.gov or at 1-877-444-6777.
* Spring House is an 8-hour, 8-mile, very strenuous hike along an unpaved, uneven trail with an elevation change of 3,000 feet. 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 and is extremely fragile. You will not enter the site, but will get excellent views of the cliff dwelling from a platform built at the south end of the village. This hike is available from September 1 to October 6 on Sunday and Wednesday mornings. Each hike is limited to 10 participants and costs $40 per person. Get details online when you purchase your tickets.
* Wetherill Mesa Experience is a 4-mile, 4-hour easy-to-moderate hike that rewards hikers with expansive canyon views, spectacular views of cliff dwellings, and the natural beauty of Wetherill Mesa in the autumn. This is a good introduction to the story of the Ancestral Pueblo people, the environment in which they lived, and the ecology of the pinyon-juniper woodlands. Bring binoculars for cross-canyon views of multiple cliff dwellings. This hike is available from September 6 to October 4 on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Each hike is limited to 14 participants and costs $18 per person. Get details online when you purchase your tickets.
* Upper Navajo Canyon is a 4-mile, 4-hour round-trip moderate hike along an unpaved, uneven trail that descends 760 feet. Hikers will enjoy the autumn weather and fall color on this historic trail built in the 1930s by one of the government’s Depression era organizations, the Public Works Administration. Bring binoculars for cross-canyon views of multiple alcove sites, including Pinkley House and an un-named alcove site. You will experience two different natural communities as you descend from the drier mesa top pinyon-juniper woodlands to the mountain chaparral in the canyon bottom. This hike is available from September 5 to October 5 on Thursday and Saturday mornings. Each hike is limited to 14 participants, and costs $18 per person. Get details online when you purchase your tickets.
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.