For guests of the Colorado Trails Ranch, there’s a lot more to explore than horseback riding and fishing or rafting. One of the most interesting is the opportunity to tour the ruins of the ancients nearby.

Mesa Verde National Park is the finest example of Ancient Puebloan dwellings. These Puebloans were formerly called Anasazi. Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906, the third of our nation’s national parks. It is the only park dedicated to the preservation of works of mankind as opposed to nature. It is a very special park encompassing approximately 55,000 acres of land at an average elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level. It is located in the southwest corner of Colorado, very near the Four Corners.

The ancient people who populated this area were here from as early as 500 AD and were gone by 1300 AD. Their dwellings range from early pit houses to waddle and daub, stone Pueblo style structures to the cliff dwellings that seem to have been constructed only during the last 100 years of occupation. These people began as hunters and gatherers, and then settled down to an agricultural life, growing mostly corn, beans and squash.

As there is no written history of these people and no direct word of mouth history, it is not known exactly why they left the area. The most common theory stems from the fact that the area in which they lived was up on a mesa and limited in size with no continuous source of water. As it is believed that as many as 5,000 people lived during the most populated times, they just used up their resources and moved on. Most moved on to become today’s Pueblo Indians, most prominently the Hopi.

Tree ring dating also shows that the area was abandoned after about 25 years of drought. The tree ring dating is also the way archeologists have been able to determine the ages of the structures found. These structures and artifacts found are well-preserved because of the wonderfully dry climate in the area.

Colorado Trails Ranch offers a full day guided tour of the park. There is no way to see the entire park in one day, but their guide covers as much as possible in the time they spend at the park. The entrance to the park is just an hour’s drive from the dude ranch. The tour not only covers all the different structures through time, it also shows how diverse the terrain in the area is. From Park Point, the highest point in the park also used as a fire look-out, you can see 100 miles or more in a breathtaking 360 degree view, covering the four states of Four Corners. These states are Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. You are on top of the world.

On the tour, you are also able to explore (as much as archeologists allow) the third largest ruin, including an opportunity to go into a re-constructed kiva (underground ceremonial room). Today’s Hopis still use kivas in their day to day life. Mesa Verde has a wonderful museum, with lots of great interpretive information about the Ancient Puebloans and their life. It is a day of beautiful countryside mixed with fascinating history of the early inhabitants of our part of Colorado.

This is an added excursion to the activities you’ll enjoy in our all inclusive family vacations package. One that is well worth the cost though. Our guide makes the trip twice as interesting as visiting the park on your own.