Step House site from an overlook, Wetherill Mesa, Mesa Verde National Park.
At Mesa Verde National Park you can only visit the cliff dwellings on-site as part of a Ranger-led tour. To protect them from the high numbers of visitors that want to see them these days. (If you don’t care for such a one or two hour trek, there are nice overlooks to get photos from above).
Paved path down to Step House alcove site, Wetherill Mesa.
The Ranger-led tours only cost $5 per person, per tour. A nominal fee. But you have to buy your tickets in person at the park, or in Cortez, not online. You can buy them locally up to two days in advance, though.
Step House site, looking up at the ancient stone steps hugging the face of the alcove.
There is one notable exception: the Step House site on Wetherill Mesa. You don’t need to buy a ticket, because they station a Ranger down there from 9am to 4pm to both protect the site and to answer questions for visitors.
The cliff dwelling pueblo at Step House, Wetherill Mesa.
Step House is also an easy walk, on a paved path. Not only that, but it has been developed so as to show off two very distinct periods of habitation. Most noticeable is the cliff dwelling pueblo, which was the later period, just before they exited the area around 1300 A.D. But long before that, the pre-puebloans, who had not yet learned how to fire pottery, let alone build habitable stonework pueblos, lived on the same site in pit houses.
Reconstructed pit house dwelling at Step House.
And at Step House a pit house has been reconstructed to give you a much better idea of what that had looked like. It’s a wonderful two-for-one walk, just a stone’s throw from the parking lot.
Step house alcove panorama, Wetherill Mesa.
Photo location: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
© Copyright Stephen J. Krieg