While it was my nerdy husband’s childhood dream to see the striking cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park, we were simply too tight on time at this point in the trip to make the long 3-4 hour one-way drive from our RV park. Luckily, we were able to visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings nearby Colorado Springs – a much smaller, more touristy recreation of those in Mesa Verde.
We paid the entrance fee and parked the car, and quickly made our way through the dwellings. Apparently, these bricks were originally located in McElmo Canyon (near Mesa Verde) and relocated to Colorado Springs in 1904, a message they don’t effectively convey while you’re on site. The building are said to be the work of the Pueblo Anasazi people, a surprisingly advanced people who appeared near Mesa Verde almost 3,000 years ago.
This park allows us to peruse the dwellings and get a close up look. It was cold that day so the shelter was a relief from the wind and it was pretty ingenious home construction for the time. There’s also a small museum inside the gift shop but it took us only about an hour to see everything.
So it was LIKE we visited Mesa Verde, and we definitely learned a lot about traditional structures, but it just wasn’t the same. If you have the chance, we’d suggest Mesa Verde, which of course is definitely on the bucket list for the future. It looks amazing. But this is a nice visit if you’re unable to visit the National Park.