LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --
Mesa Verde National Park offers a view of the Pueblo American Indian culture as well as archeological sites, nestled in the canyons of Southwestern Colorado about an hour from Cortez, Colo. It is America's first World Heritage site (an organization that encourages the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage sites) and holds more than 700 years of history.
Famous cliff dwellings were first discovered in the 1870s and 1880s and are said to have stimulated the rise in southwestern archeology. Among these cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde National Park also offers other areas open to the public such as an archeological museum, hiking and selfguided tours.
Two mesas open to the public are Chapin and Wetherill. Chapin Mesa is more
developed and open year round. This mesa houses a dozen cliff dwellings to view, but the major cliff dwellings are Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Spruce Tree House.
Wetherill Mesa offers less viewed sites found on a 12-mile car ride that also offers
a glimpse of wild horses and turkeys. This mesa offers two cliff dwelling tours; the Long House which is one-and-a-half-hours long and Step House, which is self-guided. The hiking trails offered range in length from 1.5 to 7.8 miles.
There is a park entrance fee of $10 for privately owned vehicles until May 27, after which it is $15. Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Long House, require tickets
costing $3 each. Spruce Tree House and Step House are self-guided and require
no ticket. Luke's Information Tickets and Travel office offers discounted flights and
hotel accommodations. Traveling by car from Phoenix to Mesa Verde is a 443-mile drive.
Hours of operation vary seasonally. For more information about Mesa Verde
National Park, go to www.nps.gov/meve/index.htm