Located in the southwest corner of Colorado, is a unique national park. Where many national parks were formed to preserve dramatic landscapes and unique ecosystems, Mesa Verde National Park preserves history. Ancestral Puebloan People lived in this area for around 700 years. If you travel the southwestern area of the United States, you probably already know that these people lived in several different locations in this region. So what makes Mesa Verde unique? Here during the 12th and 13th centuries, these Puebloan People built roughly 600 cliff dwellings.
While many of these cliff dwellings contain fewer than 10 rooms, the largest, Cliff Palace, contains 150 rooms. After the cliff dwellings were abandoned by the people who built them, there are many years when they sat unnoticed. However, the cliff dwellings were re-discovered in 1874. Thus beginning a period of exploration and excavation. In 1906, a bill was signed creating Mesa Verde National Park, protecting this region and these unique dwellings for future generations. As a result, we are all invited to explore the unique history and culture of the Ancestral Puebloan People. Here we can appreciate a past society and stand in awe of their impressive cliff dwellings.
Mesa Verde falls into the long list of national parks that are not particularly dog-friendly. If you bring your pup with, activities will be limited. However, there are a few ways to enjoy this park with you four-legged companion.
You can walk your leashed pet anywhere along paved roads, in parking lots, and at the campground.This is relatively standard across most national parks.
An added bonus at Mesa Verde is that leashed pets are also allowed on some of the trails on Wetherhill Mesa. This includes the 5-mile Long House Loop. Keep in mind that Wetherhill Mesa is closed in the winter. Additionally, there are restrictions for oversized vehicles on Wetherhill Mesa Road. We visited Mesa Verde in an RV and were unable to drive up to these dog-friendly trails.
Additionally, each park is slightly different in their enforcement of whether or not you can leave your pets unattended in your vehicle. At Mesa Verde National Park, they follow this guideline:
Pets may be left unattended within motor vehicles with proper ventiliation and water, only in weather that is not hazardous to the immediate welfare of the animal. – nps.gov/meve
So if you are visiting in the summer, leaving your pet in a vehicle probably won’t be an option. But if you are visiting in cooler weather, you may be able to explore some of the cliff dwellings while your pet waits in your vehicle. If the weather isn’t right or if you prefer not to leave your pet in your vehicle, there is a kennel at Morefield Campground, just 4 miles from the park entrance.
Find more information about Mesa Verde’s pet policies at the official NPS site.
We camped in Morefield Campground, a privately run campground just inside Mesa Verde National Park. The campground had many grassy sites to choose from and was surrounded by beautiful scenery. Although we did not take advantage of this service, there were also a couple hook-up sites that required reservations. We enjoyed a nice walk through the large campground with the pups during our stay.
The campground area also offered a coin laundry and coin showers, in case you are in need of those services while visiting Mesa Verde. Campsite information can be found here.
Activities in the Surrounding Areas
We did not explore the area outside of Mesa Verde much, except to stop at the Cortez Dog Park. This was a great area just outside of Mesa Verde to let Sasha run off-leash for a little while. The dog park itself was nice. There was only one other family using the area while we were there. The park was next to a river (but fenced off from it). The fenced in area was small enough to easily keep track of your pup, but big enough for Sasha to really run.
Although, we didn’t spend much time in the immediate area outside of this park, we can certainly recommend the two nearest National Parks. Especially since both are dog-friendly. Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is located 3.5 miles away. And Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is about 4 hours away.
Mesa Verde is a unique national park that offers a look into the history of a people that lived hundreds of years ago. Having the chance to walk through their fascinating dwellings is an amazing experiences. Dogs are limited in their exploration of this park. However, there are many options for ways to enjoy this park with your pup. It just takes a little creativity and some advanced planning, but the extra effort is well worth it.
Have you visited Mesa Verde with your pet? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.