Mesa Verde National Park
Wetherill Mesa, forming part of the western boundary of Mesa Verde National Park, contains the second largest concentration of ruins in the area. The 1958 archaeological survey of the mesa documented close to 900 sites ranging in age from Basketmaker pithouses (A.D. 450-750), to classic Pueblo cliff dwellings (A.D. 1200-1300).
To see the ruins on Wetherill Mesa, you'll drive 12 miles from the Far View Visitor Center to the parking lot. The roadway leading to Wetherhill Mesa provides excellent vistas into the nearby Montezuma Valley, the Sleeping Ute Mountain, and eastern Utah. Visit the Step House, then catch one of the free mini-trains that leave frequently for the sights of Badger House, Two Ravens House, and Long House. Most sites require a short hike and others can be viewed from overlooks. Allow at least four hours to see all the sites. Wetherill Mesa is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer only. The mini-trains have wheelchair access.
Step House: When Gustaf Nordenskiold first excavated this site in 1891, he believed there were signs of two separate occupations. His suspicions proved correct 30 years later, when Jesse Nusbaum found remains of both the early pithouse builders (Basketmakers), and Anasazi from the Classic Period. Look inside the partially constructed pithouse built in 625 A.D. and contrast it to the stone cliff dwelling next to it built 600 years later. This is a self-guided tour, though a ranger is on hand to answer questions.
Badger House: A self-guided tour leads through 600 years of cultural development along the top of the mesa. You'll see the historical progression from pithouse to the remains of multi-storied stone pueblos.
Kodak House View: Standing on an overlook, you'll see Kodak House, a two-story ruin with 60-70 rooms. In 1891, the scientist and photographer Gustaf Nordenshiold stored his camera in this ruin.
Long House: With 150 rooms, 21 kivas, and an unusually large central plaza, the second largest ruin in the park is named after the long overhang above it. As the Anasazi population grew, rooms were added to fill the alcoves. The original village was several stories tall. The large rectangular great kiva in front of the dwelling was probably used by neighboring Anasazi as well as the Long House inhabitants. The one-hour guided tour is a steep half-mile round-trip. You can also observe this site from the mini-train route along the mesa top.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication