The only US national park devoted exclusively to archeological remains, MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK is set high on a densely wooded plateau, so remote that its extensive Ancestral Puebloan ruins were not fully explored until 1888, when a local rancher discovered them on his land.
During the thousand or so years up to 1300 AD, Ancestral Puebloan peoples expanded to cover much of the area now known as the “Four Corners”. While their earliest dwellings were simple pits in the ground, they ultimately developed the architectural sophistication needed to build the spectacular multistorey apartments that characterize Mesa Verde, nestled in rocky alcoves high above the sheer canyons that bisect the southern edge of the Mesa Verde plateau. The region’s inhabitants eventually migrated into what’s now New Mexico to establish the pueblos where their descendants still live.
All the park’s ruins are located twenty or more tortuous miles up from the roadside visitor centre. The access road forks to reach the two main constellations of remains: Chapin Mesa to the south, and Wetherill Mesa to the west.