After exploring the Great Sand Dunes National Park, I made my way west to the town of Durango. After spending the night in a hotel, I got up very early to start the 40 minute drive to Mesa Verde National Park. I wanted to make sure I had a full day to explore what I expected to be a pretty magical place – which it absolutely was.
Mesa Verde National Park isn’t the biggest or most spectacular of the national parks, but it does have a very unique claim to fame that makes it totally worth the visit! The park is home to roughly 600 cliff dwellings from the Pueblo people who lived in them from 600 to 1300 CE. The dwellings are a photographers dream – but a word to the wise, they only photograph well at certain parts of the day (think sunset / golden hour). The harsh light of mid-day makes it really difficult to capture these dwellings, so I recommend using the day time to take a break from photography and just explore. If you are like me however, and don’t have the ability to wait for better light, there’s always B&W photography to save the day.
Unfortunately for me, Mesa Verde is one of the National Parks I visited that had limited activity availability due to COVID and hiking to many of the cliff dwellings wasn’t possible. However, the overlooks scattered throughout the park are pretty incredible and a visit is well worth it, even if it is just to access those. The Mesa Top Loop Road (6 miles) and the Cliff Palace Loop Road (6 miles) are great drives and allow for stops at all the great overlooks. Even outside of COVID, the cliff dwellings are also closed in the winter and early spring, but don’t let that deter you! I ended up spending a full day in the park and wished I had planned to stay another night to have been able to see the park at sunset and night. I look forward to correcting my mistake the next time I’m in town!