Mesa Verde – they lived in the cliffs and then were gone

This whole trip started with the idea that it would be cool to see Mesa Verde, Colorado. The incredible cliff dwellings have long been of interest but little did we know how fascinating they would be. The landscape changes dramatically from Monument Valley, into Utah and then through the four corners where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet (Kim’s feet fit in all four states below). And it gets greener as you start climbing to Mesa Verde (funnily enough).


The cliff dwellings, one of which contains 150 rooms, where built by the ancient Pueblo people 800 years ago. They’re literally in the cliff sides, tucked under alcoves in the sandstone, with steep drops to the canyon below, just over the retaining walls they built. It appears the only access was by hand and toe holds in the rocks in some places.

It’s spooky to stand in their villages and utterly fascinating that thousands lived in the canyon walls. Why did they build here? And why, by 1300, were they all gone? Kudos to the National Park Service, for managing crowds in very challenging terrain (we climbed ladders, crawled through openings and refused to look down in some places) and for the marvellous tours of both Cliff Palace and Balcony House. Oh, to spend a summer there as an archaeologist!

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