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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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