Mesa Verde National Park – Great for Boondocking

 Mesa Verde National Park – Great for Boondocking

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is home to the largest archaeological preserve in the United States with incredible cliff dwellings.

The Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde National Park is nestled into a scenic canyon some four and a half miles off US 160 from the park entrance.

With 267 sites, it seldom fills up. That's because all but 15 are for dry camping only and of the 15 with full hookups, none accommodate RVs over 45 feet in length.

The Class A congestion that turns so many other campgrounds into “tinominium “complexes is refreshingly absent here.

mesaverdecampsites
Our sites at the Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde National Park. The travel trailer for my daughter and her family is on the left, my son's borrowed Roadtrek SS in the middle – both in the full hookup sites. Our RV is across the street in a dry camping site.

Nature & Wildlife

Each site at Morefield Campground has lots of space between its neighbors. You're in a spectacular wooded canyon that abounds with wildlife and native Gambel oaks, tall prairie grasses, and wildflowers.

There are also lots of deer in the park who wander freely amidst the campsites. But it's also bear country, so you need to take precautions.

mesa verde deer
Lots of deer wander about the Mesa Verde National Park Morefield Campground

Campers are told at check-in to be sure and put everything away at night, especially and including the white water hoses of those in the full hookup sites use.

The mother bears in the area have taught their young that biting into one of those little hoses leads to a nice drink of water. Janet, one of several women who staff the registration desk, told us, “We had one camper who didn't follow our suggestion and awoke the next morning to find that his water hookup was now a sprinkler hose.”

Mesa Verde

cliff palace at Mesa Verde
Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

The key attraction here at Mesa Verde is the amazing archeological cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. They lived here between 600 to 1300 in structures built within caves and under outcroppings in cliffs.

The ruins are the largest archaeological preserve in the United States,  scattered across 81.4 square miles. The park was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt and there are lots of spots to see them and even crawl through them.

Mesa Verde Square Tower
Square Tower at Mesa Verde National Park

No one knows why the ancestral pueblo people settled here, in an arid and hot high desert. More mysteriously, no one knows why, after centuries of living here, they suddenly moved.

But the sandstone dwellings are amazingly well preserved and the U.S. Forest Service does a great job explaining everything.

sleeping dogs
Let sleeping dogs lie – Dog sitting at Mesa Verde

We did the tours in shifts because of the dogs. I dozed with them in a shaded picnic area while the others toured.

Then it was our turn and they watched the dogs.

Jennifer climbing out of Cliff Palace
Jennifer climbing out of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde

This is a huge park. To get to the cliff dwellings, you drive 23 miles up a winding mountain road, climbing to about 8.500 feet from the 6500 at the campground level.

There are several great hiking trails, too, for all levels.

Wear lots of sunscreen up here. The air is thin and the UV rays really strong.

Mesa Verde sunset
Mesa Verde sunset

Sunsets are spectacular. And sunrises are peaceful in the clear, clean mountain air. With a cup of coffee and your dog by your side, as seen in the photo of my son, Jeff, it doesn't get much better…anywhere.

enjoying the sunrise at Mesa Verde
Jeff and Sequoia at sunrise at Mesa Verde

Explore our 7 Day Adventure Guide to Colorado

When Jennifer and I first went to Colorado, I felt like I finally understood what John Denver meant by his song: I've now been Rocky Mountain High.

And like Denver, exploring all that Colorado has to offer made me want to sing, too.

This is a fully designed and edited guide that you can download and start reading immediately on your phone, tablet, computer or e-reader.

Explore our 7 Day Adventure Guide to Colorado

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

53 Comments

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison, near Montrose is a don’t miss. 550 Highway is very scenic, but can be a little hair raising….

  • We’re going to be heading there, too, soon. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Regarding “Let sleeping dogs lie”.
    Mike … you are working too hard!! You need to learn to relax a bit more. LOL 🙂

    Looks like you are having a great family adventure. I’ve enjoyed following along.

  • This is one of my favorite places. I lived in Durango for a couple years. We used to x-country ski on the Mesa. I also worked at the gift shop on the top of the Mesa for a summer. You can see the best summer monsoons on the top of the Mesa. The range programs a really good too. If you get a chance go into the town of Mancos about 10 miles fro the Mesa. There is the best coffee house and bakery there. Great little town.
    Love this country.

  • I’m enjoying your travels Mike. We were there about 6 years ago. It is gorgeous country for sure. Continue to be safe.

  • Looking forward to when I retire and I can rv full-time. Until then I am enjoying your adventures!

  • Sounds like you are having a wonderful family adventure. I am a little confused by your use of the word “boondocking”. I always think of boondocking as setting up camp in an undesignated area like BLM land. Sounds more like you were just drycamping especially since Morefield has showers and bathrooms. Just saying…..:)

  • Don’t miss Colorado National Monument just outside Grand Junction. It is a breath-taking drive.

  • Have fun. We were there by car a few y

  • Mike,

    We camped there many years ago and our son is now an archaeologist and anthropologist.

    Special places like these inspire young minds.

    Bill

  • A great day hiking trail for RVing families to explore at Mesa Verde is the Badger Hosue Community Trail. The 0.75-mile (one way) trail passes through six centuries of Anasazi village ruins, including a great kiva and a mysterious tunnel.

    Rob Bignell
    Author, “Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids”

  • An excellent recommendation. Just the drive to the Park area is worth the effort of going there…and the Mexican food in Cortez was superb.

    One note: The National Park (not Forest Service) Rangers who staff and research this park have a pretty clear idea of both why the site was originally chosen and also what later led to the indigenous peoples’ migration away. It was for the same basic reason that caused Mayan tribes to abandon highly developed cities like Tikal in Guatemala. Hope you too can visit Mesa Verde and learn the ‘secrets’…

  • ’85-ben voltam ott ( igaz , nem lakoautoval )

  • Been there its alsome

  • There needs to be trees IN the camp sites.

  • need squirrels !!!!!

  • I’ve visited Mesa Verda. Loved it. I spent two weeks their a few years ago. Didn’t boondock there but did going from Ga and back.

  • I LOVE Mesa Verde!!!! A few more miles up the mountain and you will find PARADISE!!!

  • …also…check out the amphitheater!

  • One great place to visit.

  • We were there a few years ago – beautiful place!!!

  • Exactly what I need. Love to camp, love to travel. Need a great man friend!

    • See previous post: you don’t need a man……. if you don’t want to go alone, grab a girlfriend…….. Just do it!

  • Don’t wait for a man to follow your dreams Willa DeSilva. Besides, “great man” is an oxymoron.

    • said by a woman!!

    • said by a woman!!

    • Whoa! Ron, thems fightin’ words! I am a widow of 15 years would you have me give up this life because there is no man in my life???

    • there are exceptions.

  • Looks beautiful. While you are in the area, Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon are pretty great places to visit with good camping also.

  • This will be me when I retire ….SOON I HOPE !

  • Been here many times with grand kids…they study clif dwellers early in elementary geography!

  • That is a fabulous place to see! We went a couple of years ago. Impressive to say the least!

  • This looks like something I would like to do. Where is this located? I am in Canada, so how would I get there?

    • Mesa Verde is in the “Four Corners” area of the United States. It’s in the southwestern corner of Colorado, and makes a great trip with about 9 National Parks or Monuments or Tribal Parks within a 2 day vicinity! They have a fantastic restaurant, as well, called Metate Room, and a comfortable (not fancy) hotel on-site if you don’t camp/RV. I highly recommend it!

  • Thanks for some warm memories on a COLD day

  • Thanks for some warm memories on a COLD day

  • Voilà, le véhicule qu’il nous faut mon Pit, on pourrait partir pour plus que 2 jours!

  • Voilà, le véhicule qu’il nous faut mon Pit, on pourrait partir pour plus que 2 jours!

  • We would like to trade our 37 ft motor home on one of these.

  • We would like to trade our 37 ft motor home on one of these.

  • Been there twice, you have wild turkeys wondering along with mule deer and skunks thro your camp site.

  • Been there twice, you have wild turkeys wondering along with mule deer and skunks thro your camp site.

  • Been there and done that. Nice area and it does have a few small trees.

  • Been there and done that. Nice area and it does have a few small trees.

  • Let’s go!

  • So,d luv to have one of these!

  • No trees.

    • Its still beautiful Remember it is the western high desert.

  • Beautiful! I can’t wait to go back..

  • I love this area I am so glad you were able to visit it. I am loving your adventures !! /*

  • sites look nice and spread out

  • Trees would be a necessity in the summer there !!

  • Great article, Mike! I love Mesa Verde and have explored it several times, but never in an RV. Maybe someday (one can dream)!

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