This is my third travel recap of our road trip across the country to move to California. We started out camping in Custer State Park, South Dakota, drove through Wyoming, stopped off at my fiance’s parents’ house near Boulder, then headed to southern Colorado to explore the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde.
After a morning spent hiking in the Great Sand Dunes, we said goodbye to Eric’s parents and set off on the (relatively) short four-hour drive from the Dunes to Mesa Verde National Park.
Morefield is the only campground inside the park, so we didn’t exactly have a choice as to where to stay, but I absolutely loved our campsite. It was my favorite one of the trip! After we arrived, we pitched our tent and Eric built a fire while I prepared dinner. We were starving after a morning of hiking and an afternoon on the road, so the hotdogs and s’mores tasted doubly good.
Then, we cleaned up, relaxed outside as it cooled down, and turned in early, as we had a full schedule planned for the next day!
Mesa Top Loop Driving Tour
After packing up the car the next morning, we drove to the southern end of the park to see the sites! It was already hot when we arrived mid-morning, so instead of hiking, we opted to drive the 6-mile Mesa Top Loop. You can stop at a dozen different archaeological sites on the loop–there’s parking at each site–to see what the park is most famously known for: the Pueblo dwellings, including the cliff dwellings.
I took loads of photos along the tour, and I’ve included a smattering of them below with details about the sites. Overall, I would 100% recommend this tour, especially for travelers like us who want to see a lot of the park but don’t have much time to spend there!
The first site on the tour, Navajo Canyon, isn’t an archaeological one, but definitely worth a stop for the photo opportunity.
Next, we saw some of the older pithouse dwellings. While the well-known cliff houses were built between 1200-1300, the Pueblo people lived in pithouses on top of the mesa for hundreds of years beforehand.
Finally, we got to see the cliff dwellings! These are the cliffs where the dwellings are built; can you spot them in the first picture? You can pay for a guided tour of the dwellings, but it’s relatively expensive, so Eric and I opted just to admire them from afar.
Four Corners Monument
We continued onto our hotel in Navajo Nation, Arizona, after finishing up the driving tour. On the way, we stopped off at the Four Corners Monument to get a picture of ourselves standing in four states: Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Again, the timing of our stop wasn’t ideal: the Monday of Memorial Day weekend. We paid $5 per person and waited in line in the sweltering heat for close to an hour just to get one picture! I’m glad that we got the picture, but in retrospect I wouldn’t do it again if the line was that long.
It costs $30 to reserve a spot at Morefield Campground ahead of time, which I highly recommend doing, because although there are hundreds of sites, every single one was booked during Memorial Day weekend while we were there! Also, be aware that you can’t reserve a specific site within the campground; it’s first-come, first-served after they open for the day, but they’re all fairly nice sites. We weren’t charged the park entrance fee because we had a campground reservation, but it’s usually $20. Firewood can be purchased at the general store inside the park for $6 per bundle.
Tell me some road trip stories from your life, though! What’s the longest (or felt like the longest) road trip you’ve ever taken? How do you pass the time when you’re bored in the car? I wish I could read in the car, but it makes me carsick. On this trip, I spent most of the time going through old music on my phone and singing along to Taylor Swift songs from high school… no shame 😛