Mesa Verde with kids

What to do in Mesa Verde with kids? Mesa Verde National Park is an exception among national parks. Besides beautiful nature, this park is mostly about the native inhabitants who lived here in houses in the cliffs. The park and visitors center, along with the museum, give a perfect insight into what it must have been like here in the past. It is very special to see how the native inhabitants came to live here as early as 550. They have lived in this place for over 700 years and, as a result, much can be found of what life must have been like. In this blog, we provide all the information you need to visit Mesa Verde National Park with the family.

General information Mesa Verde National Park

Everything in Mesa Verde National Park is also geared toward kids to make it fun, engaging and insightful for them. Unfortunately, the Wetherhill Mesa trail in this park is closed until winter 2025/spring 2026. However, there is more than enough still to see in this park and you will need about a full day to see everything properly. Do you really want to do all the hikes in Mesa Verde with kids that are there? Then you may need more than 1 day.

The entrance fee to this park is $35; we recommend buying an America the Beautiful pass for $80. This gives you year-round access to all of America’s national parks and more (see, for example, blog Saint Augustine, Florida). The purchase of this pass will pay for itself after visiting 3 national parks. Entry is always by vehicle. Because America is so car-oriented, you are often more expensive if you visit a park without a car.

For Mesa Verde National Park tickets, check the Mesa Verde National Park website.

Best travel time Mesa Verde with kids

The best travel time to visit Mesa Verde with kids is from April through September. It can get very hot in the national park during the summer months, though. In winter, a lot of things in the park are closed. Therefore, we do not recommend visiting this park in winter. Of course, keep in mind that the summer months are often also the busiest months in the western United States and, as a result, accommodation prices may also rise.

Mesa Verde with kids

Transportation to and in Mesa Verde NP

You can only visit Mesa Verde National Park by car or RV. Therefore, it is not desirable to travel to this park by public transportation, for example. From Los Angeles you will drive to this national park in about 12 hours and from the major city of Denver it is about 7 hours. In both cities it is possible to rent a car at the airport.

You can rent a car in both cities through Sunny Cars. Sunny Cars uses an All-inclusive formula in which everything is included in the price of the rental car and you know the price right away. To rent a car at Los Angeles airport, take a look here and to rent a car at Denver airport, take a look here.

Children’s Activities Mesa Verde National Park

#1 Hot Spring

On the way to Mesa Verde National Park, you will encounter Pinkerton Hot Springs. This can be a nice little stop to let your kids dip in the hot spring for a while. The hot spring is not very hot and also only very small. Still, we thought it was a nice break for half an hour. You don’t have to detour for it.

The hot springs are right next to the road and there is a parking lot right next to the road. Don’t make the mistake of driving into the side road like we did. Indeed, this is what Google Maps indicates, but this is not where the hot spring is located. This hot spring is on the 550, which does make it a little less romantic, but if you sit with your back to the main road you have the hot spring at your back and beautiful views in front of you.

We have seen prettier hot springs before, but still it is nice and beautiful enough to stop briefly. If you continue driving through the beautiful landscape of Colorda you will eventually arrive at Mesa Verde National Park (of course, this depends on which way you drive).

Mesa Verde with kids

#2 Visitor Center Mesa Verde

In Mesa Verde National Park, be sure not to skip the visitor center. There is a large visitor center here with lots and lots of background information about the native inhabitants (we might say Indians, but this can also be taken as a swear word in America). It explains which tribes lived here and how they lived here.

In fact, several Native American tribes lived here, including the ancestors of the Ute and the Hopi. Also on display are dolls seeding or gathering. In addition, there are displays for kids to explore. This also makes it very fun and insightful for the smallest kids.

This visitors center also has a whole archive of excavated pots and the like. The film in the museum tells more about the background of pottery. At the visitor center you can also get a lot of information about the park, including maps of the national park. In addition, it is fun for kids to join the Junior Ranger Program.

At Junior Ranger Program, kids can earn a badge by completing some puzzles and assignments. In this way, kids are already learning different things about the national park. At every national park in the United States, they have this. Our kids also know that at each national park you can earn a badge and look forward to working on the assignments each park.

The visitors center also sells $1 booklets with background information that can be nice to have with you when you visit the overlooks and houses in the national park. In addition, the visitors center also sells several booklets with old stories about the native inhabitants. You may have to translate the booklets for kids, but we really like them to give the kids a little more about America’s history. There are also several nice illustrated booklets with myths and stories from this era.

Mesa Verde with kids

#2 Far View Sites

Far view Sites is a place from where you can hike to various kievas. But the best part is that there is a ranger at Far View Sites who tells fun stories around this place. I’m not going to reveal them here, because that wouldn’t be fun ;-). The nice thing is that the stories are really geared toward kids and the ranger takes into account how well the kids speak English. There are no large groups of people here and he takes notice of every family that comes.

Kievas are round dwelling houses in the ground where ceremonies were also performed. The small ones were residential houses, the large ones public spaces and rooms for ceremonies. Also around it there were cottages built that you can visit if you take a small walk from here (the ones close to the parking lot you are just not allowed to walk through).

What we regard as ruins is a sacred place to the descendants of the native inhabitants. They know that their ancestors lived here and always treat the land with respect and place spiritual value on it. Perhaps good to pass along as your kids explore among the ruins.

Incidentally, this is also addressed by the rangers at the Junior Ranger Program. They ask the kids to promise to treat dissenters with respect.

What to do at Mesa Verde with the family

#3 Visit the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum

The Chapin Mesa museum has a collection of all the materials that were used in this area. For example, there are beautiful painted pots on display, you can see how knives used to be made. This museum gives you a good impression of how people used to live here and we really respect these inhabitants who lived in such an ingenious way.

They also show how baskets are woven from yucca, as well as sandals were made from it, and how people traded in order to also get these materials they did not have themselves. During the construction of this museum, native residents were involved in its design and construction. This is to avoid looking at the original inhabitants too much from a Western perspective

In addition, there is a film about the native inhabitants of Mesa Verde National Park. Our kids always really enjoy watching the movie even if they don’t understand everything. The beauty in this park is that they also carry a big piece of history with them. You can also turn in your Junior Ranger Program booklet here.

From the museum, you can hike to the amphitheater from where you have a beautiful view of the gorge and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, Spruce Treehouse is closed and it is unknown when it will reopen. The visit to the museum is included in your ticket to the national park, making it free. Near the museum is another small gift shop.

What to do at Mesa Verde NP

#4 Visit Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace is the most photographed, but you may visit this gorge only with a guided tour. You can book these in advance on the national park website. Please note that this can only be done from May through September. The hike is also down 4 ladders. It can be done with kids if you’re careful and help them out equally.

At Cliff palace you will see houses built in the gorge. You get an explanation of when this was built, how it was done, what the customs were and why they eventually left. If the climb to Cliff palace is too much or the tour is already fully booked, you can see these houses in the mountains very nicely from the viewpoint.

In addition to Cliff Palace, you can also visit Balcony House with a guided tour. This one is a little less popular than Cliff Palace because there is also just a little less to see. Should you fall behind the net in terms of tickets to Cliff Palace, this is a good alternative though.

What to do at Mesa Verde NP

#5 Hike the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail

This hike is 1.9 kilometers long and therefore great to do with young kids. The nice thing about this hike is that you also get beautiful views. In addition, the hike has little elevation gain. When we were there it was very hot and our kids were soon done hiking.

Another hike in Mesa Verde National Park that is great to do with kids, but that we did not hike ourselves, is the 3.9-mile Spruce Canyon trail (a little more climbing and descending). The 3.9-kilometer petroglyph point trail is also good to do with kids. It can get very hot, even as early as April and May.

This can greatly affect the walking behavior of you and your kids. Keep this in mind and bring plenty of water. So if you have to choose, we would recommend the upper hike first.

In addition to the above activities, you can drive to the Mesa Summit Loop. This is a nice loop to drive anyway, but totally fine to do in warmer weather (if you have air conditioning in the car). You will pass several viewpoints including Sun Temple, Sun Point view, Pit Houses and Navajo Canyon View.

This park has a fine campground where you can stay overnight, as well as lodges. If you travel with an RV, the campground also allows you to refill your water and empty your black water tank for free.

What to do at Mesa Verde NP

Family-friendly restaurant Mesa Verde

Unlike many other national parks, you can eat in Mesa Verde with kids. The park does have 3 eateries for dinner in the national park! At one of these restaurants, you’ll have a great view while you eat. This is more of a gift shop/cafeteria in one. The other two restaurants are a little more upscale and the price is accordingly. The menu at Metate Room includes a variety of meat and fish, but vegetarian options are also available here. There are choices for kids, too.

There is also the Far View Lounge and this restaurants is very nicely decorated. Kids are welcome at all three restaurants in the park. But dining outside the park, of course, is also fine.

Keep in mind when planning to eat that from the end of the park and the point where there are the most scenic viewpoints and the best hikes, to the visitors center you still have to drive a good 45 minutes. This can be very treacherous when you think you are 15 minutes away from a restaurant and then you have to drive for another hour because it is still so far to drive out of the park. The park is very vast, even now that one loop (round trip) is completely closed.

At Spruce Tree Terrace you can also have a very nice picnic. There is also a store in the park. But the most fun is to get yummy things for the picnic from the supermarket beforehand and eat them at this point. Each picnic area has a picnic table, a fire pit for barbecuing, and parking next to your picnic area. If you choose one of the spots on your left, you’ll also have a great view.

What to do at Mesa Verde with the family

Family-friendly hotel Mesa Verde National Park

You have one family-friendly accommodation located near Mesa Verde National Park and that is Far View Lodge. You have family rooms here with, for example, two double beds in the room. Families with kids rate the Far View Lodge a 9.3 overall. For more information about Far View Lodge, take a look here.

Of course, there are other options in the area for families with kids, but they are a bit away from the national park. For example, you have the tremendously well-reviewed Retro Inn at Mesa Verde which is just over 10 kilometers from the national park. This accommodation also has family rooms for 4 people. For more information on Retro Inn at Mesa Verde, take a look here.

If you are looking for a more luxurious accommodation that is close to the park, Hampton Inn Mesa Verde/Cortez Co is a good option. At this hotel there is also a swimming pool which is obviously very nice with kids. For more information on Hampton Inn Mesa Verde/Cortez Co, take a look here.

About the author: this blog is written for Ilse Stelma on IG to follow under traveling_stelmafamily. Ilse has been to 34 countries and she loves to travel with her family. In addition, they love nature, (wild) camping, occasional luxury and places not yet frequented by many tourists.

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