Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde, CO



The Cliff Palace is located in Mesa Verde National Park near Durango, CO. The Cliff Palace is open from 8:00 am to sunset daily. There is a Cliff Palace Loop that takes visitors past mesa top sites and guests can stop at overlooks to the cliff dwellings below. There are guided tours and visitors can see one of two cliff dwellings, either the Cliff Palace or Balcony House. No one is allowed to these sites without taking the one hour ranger guided tour. Tickets can be purchased at the Far View Visitor Center before visitors reach the Cliff Palace site.

The people that inhabited the Cliff Palace were thought to be about 5'4'' to 5'5'' inches for a male and the females were about 5' to 5'1'. Europeans of the same time period would have been roughly the same size. The tribe had a high infant mortality rate and they lived to be approximately 32 to 34 years old. At least half of the children died before they reached five years old.

Ancestral Puebloans used sandstone, wood beams and mortar. They used hard stones from the river bed to shape the sandstone blocks. Mortar was made from ash, local soil and water and they also inserted small pieces of stone which they called "chinking'' stones. This added stability and filled gaps in the mortar. They painted the sandstone with plaster which has eroded with time.

Visitors can reach Cliff Palace by taking U.S. 160 between Cortez and Mancos. It is 21 miles to the park headquarters entrance and other archeological sites on Chapin Mesa. Morefield Campground is four miles from the entrance and the Far View Visitor Center is fifteen miles into the park. The roads within the park are scenic, but they have sharp curves, steep grades and slower speed limits. There are designated pull offs to see the sights of the park.

Visitors to Mesa Verde can reach the area by flying into Cortez or Durango and renting a car. The visitor center is open from April to October, and Chapin Mesa Museum opens at 8:00 am to 6:30 pm in the summer and until 5:00 pm the rest of the year. There are ranger led tours and evening campfire programs. Visitors can purchase food, gas and find lodging in the early spring though late fall. Services at the Morefield Campground include groceries, carry out food, gas, firewood, showers and a laundry. There are three hiking trails in the campground area.

Two cliff dwellings are open to the public: Step House and Long House. Visitors will need a ticket to get into Long House and they can be purchased at the Far View Visitor Center. There are two hiking trails that lead into Spruce Canyon: the Petroglyph Point Trail which is 2.8 miles in length and Spruce Canyon Trail that is 2.1 miles long. Hikers need to register at the Museum or trail head before beginning these trails. Bikes are permitted on all park roads with the exception of Wetherill Mesa.

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