Exploring & Camping in Mesa Verde National Park - Native Campervans

Exploring & Camping in Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park is a sight to behold. Known for its stunning and well-preserved cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde is the ancestral home to the Puebloans, or Pueblo peoples. This is a paradise for those interested in the early history of the Americas.

Mesa Verde preserves the history of ancestral Puebloans who lived there for more than 700 years from roughly A.D. 550 to 1300. The art and ruins of stone communities here are some of the best-preserved in all of North America. The ideal way to experience this piece of history is with a guided tour, if possible. If one isn’t available, you can read about the park’s history beforehand.


Getting To Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park is in Southwest Colorado and close to Arches and Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Mesa Verde itself is close to several major cities and airports to help you get to your destination. It isn’t as big of an attraction as many major parks, so most visitors tend to drive.

For reference, here are a few prominent cities you could drive to Mesa Verde from:

If you’re looking to explore Mesa Verde NP in a camper van, check out our Denver location and we’ll get you set up in a fully-stocked van that’s equipped to tour Mesa Verde and the surrounding area.


Once You’re There

Like many parks, you’re best off stopping by the visitors’ center upon arrival. Mesa Verde’s visitor center is filled with information on where to hike and how best to see the cliff dwellings and art in the park.

If you wanted, you could visit Mesa Verde in a day. We recommend, however, you spend at least one overnight in the park if not two.

What To Know

Fees: Like most other national parks, Mesa Verde charges an entrance fee. If visiting on certain federal holidays or national park days of importance, entrance is free.

When to Visit: April through June and late August through early October are the best times to visit. Summer is peak season, and the temperatures get to the upper 90s in July. Mesa Verde can get quite cold at night, so most visitors won’t want to be there from mid-fall to mid-spring. Winter can be beautiful, but cold.

Driving: While not the most popular, Mesa Verde does see around 600,000 visitors a year. The road into the park is winding and narrow, so expect long entrance lines during peak season, especially in July and August.

Mesa Verde

Exploring Mesa Verde

Petroglyph Point Trail

Likely the most popular trail in Mesa Verde, Petroglyph Point is a can’t-miss hike. Not only is it a beautiful, moderate-rated trail, but it’s also the only place to see petroglyphs in the entire park. At just under 2.5 miles, most hikers will be able to complete this loop trail successfully.

Mesa Verde Point Lookout Trail

This is a great first hike once you get into the park. At just 2 miles, this out-and-back can be completed in under 90 minutes without breaking much of a sweat. Alternatively, you can save this for your last hike of the day. The lookout is a popular sunset hike. If you choose to hike this at sunset (and you absolutely should), make sure to bring a headlamp as it gets dark fast.

Mesa Top Loop Road

This 4.5-mile stretch will not disappoint if you fancy a scenic drive. There’s no shortage of beautiful places to pull off and explore, so take all the time here that you like! This is one way to get a good look at some of the cliff dwellings as well.

Balcony House Loop Trail

This is a perfect hike for children or people interested in the park’s history (or children who like history). This is a more than approachable hike at just under half a mile and less than 100 feet of elevation gained. If you want to experience the history of this park, there’s no better place. If the house is closed when you’re at the park, you can get a good look from the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail.

Stargazing

In 2021, Mesa Verde National Park became the 100th International Dark Sky Park, meaning the night sky views here are otherworldly. The night sky here is worth the price of admission, and you don’t want to miss it. Morefield Campground and Far View Lodge are the best places to stay in the park and see the stars. Plan your visit in line with the best night sky views if possible.

Prater Ridge Trail

Prater Ridge trail is one of the longest hikes available and best for those looking for a challenge. This moderate-rated trail is a bit over 7 miles and consists of north and south loops. If you want to get a good view of the park and a workout at once, this is the trail for you.

San Juan Skyway

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in America, the San Juan Skyway is the perfect way to end your time in Mesa Verde. You can even explore more of the San Juan Skyway throughout the state if you have time. Depending on where you’re going, you can also pick up the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.


Camping in Mesa Verde

If you’re looking for traditional lodging, the closest main city is Cortez, Colorado, which is about 10 miles away. You could also consider the town of Mancos to the east of the park. If you’re looking to camp, you have a couple of options. 

Morefield Campground

The only option in the park is Morefield, but with 267 spots, it rarely fills up completely. There are 15 full hookup RV sites available. The season runs from mid-April to mid-October, though amenities are only available from May 1st to September 30th.

Mesa Verde National Park Boundary

If you’re looking for free camping, this BLM spot is your best option. Located just north of the park across US Highway 160, this is a small but well-liked boondocking option.


Enjoy!

Mesa Verde is a gem in a state filled with adventure opportunities. If you’re looking for some extra amenities, consider renting a full-loaded campervan for your journey through Mesa Verde and the rest of Colorado. Our Denver campervan rental office will ensure you are set to embark on the trip. Good luck on your adventures, and we’re excited to hear about them!

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