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Mesa Verde National Park is offering a series of unique ranger-guided educational experiences in 2016. Tickets for these special hikes are limited and must be purchased online at www.recreation.gov.
Ranger-guided hikes and programs include hikes to Mug House, Oak Tree House, and Spring House; a half-day bicycle/hiking tour on Wetherill Mesa; Sunrise Tours of Balcony House; Twilight Photography tours of Cliff Palace; and tours of Yucca House National Monument. Check the website for more detailed descriptions of each program.
Named for three mugs tied together with yucca rope found hanging inside one of its rooms, Mug House was built over several decades in the A.D. 1100's and 1200's and likely supported a population of 80 to 100 people. This strenuous 2-hour, 3-mile (4.8km) round-trip hike follows an unpaved, uneven trail that descends 100 feet (30m), and includes steep drop-offs, switchbacks, and scrambling up and down boulders. Mug House is available from May 31 to October 15, 2016 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Tickets cost $25 per person, and group size is limited to 10 people per hike.
Oak Tree House
This 60-room site built on two ledges is one of the largest cliff dwellings in the park. It is a well-preserved but fragile site that features plastered walls and varied architectural styles. The 2-hour, 1-mile (1.6km) round-trip hike is moderately strenuous. Expect a narrow, unpaved, uneven trail, with steps carved into the sandstone, steep drop-offs, and two ladders (4-feet and 15-feet; 1.2m to 4.6m) and a total elevation change of 200 feet (61m). In addition to up-close views of this site, you will have stunning views of Cliff Canyon, Cliff Palace, and Sun Temple. The Oak Tree House hike is available from May 3 to May 28 on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This hike will also be offered in the fall from September 12 to October 14 on Mondays and Fridays. Tickets cost $25 per person, and group size is limited to 10 people per hike.
As you hike to Spring House, you will be rewarded with views of alcove sites in Navajo and Wickiup Canyons. Spring House is the largest unexcavated cliff dwelling in the park. It is extremely fragile, so you will not enter the site but will get excellent views of the cliff dwelling from a platform at the south end of the village. This 8-hour, 8-mile (12.9km) round-trip hike is very strenuous and travels along an unpaved, uneven trail with an elevation change of 1,500 feet (457m) and includes steep drop-offs and switchbacks. Group size is limited to 10 people. Tickets are $40 per person. The Spring House hike is offered on Sundays and Wednesdays from May 1 to May 25, and September 11 to October 12, 2016.
Wetherill Mesa Hike and Bike Adventure
Hikers and bicyclers, this is the trip for you! This ranger-guided, 4.5-hour trek on the quieter side of Mesa Verde includes about 5 miles of biking, 4 miles of hiking, expansive canyon views, spectacular overlooks of remote cliff dwellings, and a tour of magnificent Long House. A bicycle is required for this, so plan to bring your own bike or visit https://go.nps.gov/bchikes for information on local bicycle shops that have rentals available. With a ranger, you'll bike to several mesa top archaeological sites, walk to others, and hike about 3 miles round-trip through the pinyon-juniper woodlands for cliff edge views of Nordenskiold #12 and Double House. The tour concludes after the Long House tour, and participants are free to continue exploring Wetherill Mesa, or bike back to the parking lot with the ranger. The Adventure is offered Wednesdays and Sundays from Wednesday, June 1 to Sunday, September 4. Tickets cost $18. Group size is limited to 15 people.
Balcony House Sunrise Tour
Start your morning the way the Ancestral Pueblo people did over 700 years ago. This strenuous 90-minute tour requires you to climb a 32-foot (9.8m) ladder, crawl through an 18-inch wide (45cm) and 12-foot (3.7m) long tunnel, and climb up a 60-foot (20m) open cliff face with stone steps and two 10-foot (3m) ladders to exit. These tours are available May 7th, June 20th, June 21st, September 21st, September 22nd, and October 10, 2016. Tickets cost $15 per person, and group size is limited to 25 people.
Twilight Photography Tour
Photographers, here is an opportunity to spend 90 minutes in Cliff Palace with a park ranger in a small group setting. Dramatic sunset lighting will appeal to both amateur and professional photographers, as well as those seeking a deeper connection with this extraordinary archaeological treasure. The tours are offered daily from May 27 to September 5, 2016. Tours are limited to 10 people. Tickets are $20 per person.
Yucca House National Monument
Two ranger-guided tours to Yucca House National Monument are offered this year. Yucca House is a large, unexcavated pueblo which was probably built around A.D. 1200. Tours are scheduled on Saturday, May 14 and Saturday, September 10. This easy to moderate 2-hour, 1/2-mile (0.8km) walk is along a mostly level, unpaved path. Tickets cost $5 per person, and group size is limited.
Mesa Verde National Park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 550 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects almost 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.
For reservations of more information, visit www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.