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 at the end of the parking lot near the museum. The Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling is nearby and worth a quick look before starting the climb. There used to be a walking path to the Spruce Tree House but it has been closed for several years, so we can only look across the canyon at it. It is nice scenery to start the climb.
Overall the climb is pretty mellow, never too steep. The first 5 miles up to Far View are along the top of the mesa, with no scenic views. We pass through an area burned by a forest fire in 2002 and there is little sign of recovery, 20 years later. It makes us appreciate the destructive nature of fires and the contrast between the burned and non-burned areas is stark.
There is a cafeteria at Far View Terrace, which is a good place to take a short break and refuel, especially when riding the entire Mesa Verde loop from the park entrance.
After Far View there is a downhill section and then we continue climbing for a couple of miles. There are some views along the way, but not super scenic. We then come to another short downhill section before the last section of climbing. The final half mile is on a cutoff road to Park Point, which ends at a parking lot. At the far end of the parking lot is a small trail
leading to the summit. The trail is a little steeper than the rest of the climb, but not too bad and it is short. At the top there is a fire tower and two view areas with scenic views of the surrounding terrain in all directions.
Road Condition: The road is in good condition throughout. There can be a moderate amount of traffic, but the cars were all courteous and we felt safe. The road is exposed the entire way and even if it is not too hot the sun can still be strong.