The “hike” to the Cliff Palace is more of an adventure than a hike, narrow paths built using large stones, and ladders leading up and down to more narrow paths. Suddenly you find yourself standing in the middle of the Cliff Palace where stones were laid during the late 1190s by the Ancestral Pueblo people creating dwellings built beneath the overhanging cliffs underneath the mesa tops they farmed. Structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to entire villages complete with more than 150 rooms. Heat and elevation can be an issue for some - the Cliff Palace is located at approximately 7,000 feet elevation. We were there at the beginning of July and it was HOT.
Overall, it was a fun adventurous hike for the kids which kept them engaged and distracted from the heat as well as the fact that we were hiking. They had so much fun that they wanted to take the tour of Balcony Palace which is even more of an adventure with steeper and taller ladders, and tunnels to crawl through. We ate a delicious dinner, I enjoyed a glass of wine while watching the sunset on the mesa top.
The next morning we were up bright in early in hopes of being first in line for tickets to Balcony Palace. While the 2 out of 3 kids worked on earning their Junior Ranger badge, I waited somewhat impatiently for the Ranger to arrive so I could purchase tickets for the tour. Unfortunately for us, by the time the visitor center was available for purchasing tickets, the morning tours were sold out. The earliest tour available was for 12:30pm, we already had a five hour drive ahead of us to Page, Arizona. In hindsight, we should have done taken the tour and powered through the drive, but I knew the next morning in Page we had an early wake-up call and FULL day planned. We vowed to come back to Mesa Verde with my husband so we could all visit Balcony Palace together. Lesson learned - purchase your tickets for tours in advance.
The Four Corners Monument is one of those roadside attractions that you read about that sounds pretty cool and totally cheesy at the same time. When else are you going to find yourself at a place where you can stand in four states at the same time? I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit it, but if it is on your way, why not.
As you can see by our photo at the Arizona border I was on the verge of hangry (no food options at the Four Corners Monument). Food selection between Mesa Verde and Page, AZ was hard to come by. We stopped at a “restaurant” somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t stomach the food, fried chicken tenders would have been the safest bet, so I ate yet another cliff bar and powered on to Page where a pool, restaurants, and my husband were awaiting our arrival…thank goodness.