(nr Cortez CO)
A major site of well preserved cliff dwellings and native ruins is Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado. It does a good job of explaining the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloan culture.
Most of my time was spent exploring the Chapin Mesa. First, I visited the museum and saw a film about the area. Then drove the Mesa Top Loop and saw ruins of pit houses, kivas and larger structures like the stone Square Tower House and Sun Temple.
Next a brief look at Spruce Tree House, and later I took a ranger guided tour of Cliff Palace. He provided lots of details, and showed an original mural inside one of the dwellings. It was kind of a whirlwind tour. Still, I got to see most of the things of importance before sunset.
On the way out, I stopped at a few viewpoints and at Park Point Overlook, highest point in the park. Montezuma Valley could be seen one way and far out to Shiprock the other way. The Wetherill Mesa section of the park was closed for the season. So, a visit during peak season would be needed to see it.
I finished viewing the ruins late; then, went looking for a camp. There was a BLM dispersed area just outside the park; but, it looked to have a lot of rigs. So, I continued east on US-160 and found a campsite in the forest.
Camp: San Juan NF – Boondock
Scene: Mesas, canyons, rocks, ruins, museum