Our First Dispersed Camping Experience // Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park, here we come.

From our spot in Fort Garland, Colorado, in the Southeast corner of the state, we drove 4 hours to the Southwest corner of the state to Mancos, Colorado.

We booked a site with Harvest Hosts in the chance that we weren’t able to find a spot in the dispersed camping area we had hoped. Fortunately, luck was on our side and we found the area to be mostly empty! There were a couple tent campers and another RV, but even at that, the sites were so far apart we still had a good amount of privacy. They weren’t the most level sites, but with a view like this, we didn’t want anything else for a first experience!! (Edit: Added bonus, (the point of this post) this spot was only 5 minutes outside of Mesa Verde National Park!)

Like I said, this is what is called a “dispersed camping area”. When you camp in these kinds of areas, there are designated spots where you can and cannot park. For instance, you are not supposed to park anywhere that has not been utilized as a site before, emphasizing the point of “Leave No Trace”.

We got ourselves settled and ran a couple errands in the nearby town of Mancos.

Groceries, laundry, propane fill-up.

The fun stuff.

I remember the weather was not on our side as a storm rolled in that night.

We woke up the next morning to another alarm, this time a little bit later. It was still a bit cloudy from the storm the night before, so we weren’t set on making it for sunrise. Nonetheless, we made it just in time to see it but more so just wanted to get in to the park early to beat the heat.

It was about an hour and a half drive from the entrance of the park to the Petroglyph Point Trailhead near the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum. Unfortunately, one of the major roads, the Cliff Place Road, was closed, so we were extremely limited in which cliff dwellings we’d be able to see. We did stop at the Park Point Fire Lookout Tower, though, and to get some more views of the park.

Just before we got to where we were going, Devon spotted something absolutely unreal:

3 bucks, all with fuzzy but still fairly grown antlers.

How the hell Devon even spotted them, is still beyond me.

Fifteen minutes later, we were at the trailhead; complete with water fountains and restrooms!

This trail is 2.4 miles long and indicated to be Moderate by All Trails. Here are some more details if you’re wondering if this trail is for you!

While Great Sand Dunes was, “The Hardest Hike We’ve Ever Done”,

Mesa Verde was definitely, “The Most Adventurous”. As soon as you start the trail, you’re greeted with your first sighting of a cliff dwelling!

Unfortunately, access to this cliff dwelling was closed so this was as close we could get 😦

While the Petroglyph Point trail takes you along the inside edge of the canyon before finally coming back along the rim, the Spruce Canyon trail goes further into the floor of the canyon!

Some parts you have to literally weave and squeeze between the crevasses in order to make it back up the side of the cliff!

By mile 1.4, you’ll see a, “large panel of petroglyphs” on the wall to your left.

As always, honesty is the policy here.

Was the hike worth it?

Yes, loved the hike for what it was.

Was it worth it for the petroglyphs?

Ehhhhhhh.

“large panel” might be a slight exaggeration.

They were very cool, don’t get me wrong.

But would I name the entire hike after it?

Maybe don’t ask me.

Seriously though, the hike was so much fun. The stairs up the side of the cliff, the narrow passageways, the little bits of evidence of what life was…

Very very cool.

Just maybe don’t get your hopes up super high about the petroglyphs like I did!

Like I said at the beginning, this trail goes in and out of the canyon pretty quickly, with the last mile or so going along the top rim.

Needless to say, our legs were tired when we finally made it out!

We got home, tired, and ready to start making a plan for the upcoming days. When we went outside later that evening, we were treated to one of my favorite phenomenons…

All of the color in the world, mixed with a rolling-in thunderstorm.

The storm the night before woke me up here and there, but I was able to go right back to sleep.

The storm the second night….

God was up there with the whole Angel Bowling Team and they were all hitting strikes.

(If you weren’t told thunder was just angels bowling, what were you told??)

POINT IS- It was INTENSE.

Unfortunately, this kind of weather only let up for a brief moment the next morning; long enough for us to pack up and make our next move. From Mesa Verde, we had wanted to go North into Telluride, but it wasn’t supposed to stop raining for the next 3 days there either…

so instead, we opted to make Moab, Utah our next stop.

Arches National Park, we’ll see you soon.

Time to crank the hiking up a notch.

Until then,

j&d

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