After leaving Moab and Arches & Canyonlands National Park, we headed out for a historical park visit at Mesa Verde. We arrived too late in the afternoon to get a tour that day so we picked up some tickets for the next morning. Our rental for Mesa Verde was in Durango, about a 45 minute drive east of the park. We had hoped to explore some of the mountain lakes and hikes near Durango (and we did) so we picked that as a location to stay rather than the smaller towns around Mesa Verde.
Our tour of Mesa Verde was actually on July 4th, which is really a delightful time to visit a National Park. We headed out early to get a couple miles of hiking on a short out and back hike and we got to see some endangered condors protecting their nest.
Then it was time for our tour! We had booked the Cliff Palace tour, which is the most popular/traditional tour. The idea of having to explore with a guide was a bit frustrating but our guide was great. He managed the different interests and physical abilities of the group with ease, shared a lot of information, and made the experience enjoyable. We climbed down and up stairs (but not too many) and followed trails through ancient villages.
The tour itself was really pretty mesmerizing. Ancient buildings that told stories of cultures so different from ours but with the same needs and clear ingenuity. Mesa Verde might not be your traditional hiking park but it's definitely one worth thoughtfully visiting.
If you are a National Parks passport stamp, do not go searching for the Yucca House. It does not exist.
If you are driving from the Moab area to Durango, you can do a short side trip to Hovenweep National Monument. It's a very quiet park with some similar features os Mesa Verde. Why not take the chance to see something few others do?