Cycling Mesa Verde NP from Entrance to Park Point
Ride 10 miles gaining 1,970’ at 2.6% average grade (5% climb only).
On average, Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez Colorado has between 500,000 to 600,000 with a high of 742,080 in 1992 and low of 445,400 in 1974. By contrast, Smoky Mountain NP, the most visited park, had 14,000,000 visitors in 2021 followed by Zion far below with 5,000,000. The park was established in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt and is a Unesco World Heritage site:
“A great concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings, built from the 6th to the 12th century, can be found on the Mesa Verde plateau in south-west Colorado at an altitude of more than 2,600 m. Some 4,400 sites have been recorded, including villages built on the Mesa top. There are also imposing cliff dwellings, built of stone and comprising more than 100 rooms.” Unesco.
Climb summary by PJAMM ambassador Dan Razum, San Jose, California.
The climb starts just after the Visitor Center, right off of highway 160. There is plenty of free parking at the Visitor Center, you can just park and ride from there. The Park Entrance Station is about a half mile (uphill) from the Visitor Center and there is a $15 entrance fee for cyclists, as of August 2022. (or you can use the National Parks Interagency pass, if you have one) Please note that they do not accept cash, credit card only. If you forgot your credit card in your car at the Visitor Center then you can add on an extra half mile to the climb (don't ask how we can be so sure about that...)
After the Entrance Station it is about 3 miles of climbing to Mancos Overlook. This part of the climb is very scenic, with ever expanding views as we scale the mountain. The road is in good condition, the air is fresh and the mountain looming over us makes it feel epic.
After Mancos Overlook there is a downhill section, and we pass by Morfield Campground. At the bottom of the downhill there is a tunnel, the only one on the climb. The tunnel is straight and not too long, but it's still advisable to have a rear light. After the tunnel we start climbing again, the scenery isn't as grand as before. We can usually see the road carved in
the mountain in front and above us, so it's always pretty clear where we are headed. We pass another overlook, Montezuma Overlook, but the views aren't as epic as from Mancos Overlook. There are still some nice views scattered along the way, though. Eventually we come to another short downhill section, which is a nice break before the final section of climbing.
The final half mile is a small road to the Park Point fire lookout. The road goes to a parking lot and at the end of the parking lot is a small foot trail a couple hundred yards long. Ride up the trail and enjoy the awesome views in all directions.
Finish the climb at 8,572’