Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to preserve and interpret the works of prehistoric man. Prior to the park's establishment many of the archeological sites were looted. In order to preserve existing sites for future generations, hiking in Mesa Verde National Park is limited to the trails listed below.
Open year round, weather permitting.
Soda Canyon Overlook: This 3/4-mile trail through big sagebrush, Utah juniper, yucca and gambel oak provides the only view of Balcony House available without taking a ticketed tour. This is a fairly low-growing, open area and will be hot in the summer sun.
Farming Terrace Trail: Starting and finishing on the spur road to Cedar Tree Tower, this 3/4-mile loop leads to a series of prehistoric check dams built by the Ancestral Puebloans as farming terraces. This trail is a good place to look for lizards, hummingbirds, and a wide variety of plants. This trail has been closed since fire burned through the area during the 2002 Long Mesa Fire.
Far View Archeological Sites: Located along the Main Park Road, this 3/4-mile, level trail leads to 6 different mesa top sites. Animal tracks are particularly plentiful here in the winter. This area is open all year.
Petroglyph Loop Trail: 2.8 miles, begins from the Spruce Tree House trail. The trail follows below the edge of the plateau to the South, then makes a short climb to the rim of the mesa and returns via the rim. You will have good views of Spruce and Navajo Canyons. This is the only trail in the park open to visitors where you may view petroglyphs. The trail ends near the museum. The gate to access this trail is open only during visitor hours to Spruce Tree House. Please contact a ranger for times the gate is open. Along the way, the Petroglyph Point trail guidebook points out geologic processes, common plants (Douglas fir, Mormon tea, serviceberry, prickly pear cactus, and broadleaf yucca) and their uses, as well as wildlife habitat and natural history.
Spruce Canyon Loop Trail : 2.1 miles round trip, begins from the Spruce Tree House trail and follows the bottom of Spruce Tree Canyon; turns up Spruce Canyon and then terminates at the picnic area. This trail offers an opportunity to experience the canyon bottoms at Mesa Verde. The gate to access this trail is only open during visitor hours to Spruce Tree House. Please contact a ranger for times the gate is open.
Trail head access by vehicle in spring, summer and fall.
In winter, access by snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
(No permit required.) Prater Ridge Trail: 7.8-mile round trip, begins on the West side of the Morefield Campground. This trail ascends the east side of Prater Ridge and follows a loop around the top of the ridge and returns via the same ascent. Changes in elevation and vegetation types along with views of surrounding countryside. Knife Edge Trail : 1.5 miles, trail follows the old road alignment from the Northwest comer of Morefield Campground toward the Montezuma Valley Overlook. This trail provides good views of the Montezuma Valley, and is an excellent place to watch sunsets from. Point Lookout Trail: 2.3 miles, trail switchbacks up the back side of Point Lookout and follows the top of the mesa. The trail provides excellent views of both Montezuma and Mancos valleys, as well as the surrounding countryside.
Open Memorial Day to Labor Day
Nordenskiold Site No.16: The 2.2-mile round trip hike to Ruin No.16 overlook offers a leisurely stroll on the quietest trail in Mesa Verde. The booklet, available at the trail head, provides information about native plants and their historic uses. The 2000 Pony Fire severely burned this area. As a result, there is no shade available along the trail.