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One of the largest cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde!
Mesa Verde National Park, located in southwestern Colorado, is one of the best known places to see Anasazi ruins. The park is massive, and contains some 4,000 archaeological sites. Many of these sites are mesa-top dwellings, petroglyph sites, and other hard-to-see places that are not open to the public. Other sites are easily visible from the canyon rims - cliff dwellings dot the canyon walls. Very few of these are open to the public as well though. Spruce Tree House is one of the exceptions. While Spruce Tree House is open year round, from November to March it requires a ticket that can be purchased at Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum (small fee) for a ranger guided tour.
From mid-March on through late October, though, the ruin is open to all who wish to visit. There are rangers stationed in the ruin, one of the better preserved of the Mesa Verde ruins, to answer questions. There is even a restored kiva that you can enter in the ancient plaza. Although much of this cliff dwelling has been restored, primarily during the great depression, much of it remains as it was discovered by Richard Wetherill.
The trail starts out at the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum. It quickly descends the cliff face leading into the canyon bottom, 100 feet in all, in a series of switchbacks. At the bottom of the canyon, before reaching the ruin, there is a spring and a pool of water. This likely supplied the Spruce Tree House residents with their water.
There are numbered signs throughout the ruin, and these correspond to sections of the trail guide, available at the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum. During the summer, the ranger guides can be quite busy answering questions, so it is recommended that you pick up this guide to help direct you around the site.
Visiting the kiva is certainly one of the highlights of the site, as there are very few Anasazi kivas that are roofed and able to be entered easily across the southwest. This is a great opportunity to see what the Anasazi might have seen when they were in their ancient, possibly sacred rooms.
From Spruce Tree House, you can take a further trail to Petroglyph Point, or continue back to the parking lot and museum by the trail you came in on.
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