July 1, 2011
My sister and her family were visiting and the boys wanted to see a National Park. Plus they wanted to hike in the desert. This is both. It’s always amazing for me to be at the park, hear all of the languages spoken and remember that people come for all over the world to see Mesa Verde. It makes the summer crowds bearable. If you come in the “off season” you will have the place nearly to yourself. You can get more information about the trail, including a map at the Mesa Verde National Park website.
Trail Head: This trail is in Mesa Verde National Park. The park entrance in off of Highway 160 between Mancos and Cortez, about 15 minutes from our home. It is $15 per car to enter to park. Or get a annual pass if you are a local – a great deal. From the entrance it is a 35 minute drive to the museum. The museum is worth seeing and this is where the trail down to Spruce Tree House and Petroglyph Trail begins. The Petroglyph trail breaks off from the trail to Spruce Tree House.
Terrain: The first half of the trail is along the edge of the canyon wall, often under overhanging rock. There are areas of climbing over boulders and up and down rock steps. The second half of the trail makes the loop complete back to the museum. This is on the mesa top in pinon and juniper trees. Flat and pretty exposed to sun.
Accessibility: This trail is open only to hikers and only when the gate to Spruce Tree House is open.
Length: 2.4 miles
Difficulty: The trail down to Spruce Tree House is a series of switch backs that are paved. After beginning the Petroglyph Trail there is some climbing and scrambling over rocks. In the summer it can be very hot. For active kids that are old enough to be trusted when scrambling around on rocks it is a lot of fun. The last part of the trail on the mesa top is flat and easy going.
Highlights: There is a nice petroglyph panel about halfway into the hike. Thus the name of the trail – duh. The rock scrambling keeps things fun and exciting. When it is real hot we just turn back when we are ready to and avoid the hot, sunny mesa top route back. One of our favorite parts of this hike it that there is a cafeteria in the Chapin Mesa complex at the top. There is Haagen Dazs ice cream (and other food too if you are into that sort of thing) at the cafeteria. What a way to end a hike!