About Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park is, in a word, fascinating. This United States National Park, located in South-western Colorado, is home to some of the most incredible historical ruins in North America. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Its these special ruins that draw a half-million visitors to the park each year. But its the incredible variety of things to do in Mesa Verde National Park that keep them coming back year-after-year.
Camping in Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most popular pastimes here. RVers and tent campers alike are known to spend a few days to a few weeks enjoying the Mesa Verde National Park attractions. Although there are loads of hotels and resorts in and around Mesa Verde NP as well.
Around 2,000 years ago, nomadic members of the Anasazi Indigenous community began to settle the table-rock forests that cover much of the park. Families began to settle down and over the next 2,600-years, some 4,000+ sites were established.
Among the many ruins at Mesa Verde National Park are the magnificent cliffside dwellings and communities. These small villages cling to the sides of the towering rock faces in ways that seem to defy understanding.
Staying Outside The Park
If Morefield Campground is full or you want to stay closer to Durango, there are some other private campground options such as:
- Oasis RV Resort & Cottages: Located in Durango, Colorado, about 50 minutes away from the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
- Mancos State Park: Located in Mancos, Colorado, about 20 minutes away from the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
- Bayfield Riverside RV Park: Located in Bayfield, Colorado, about 1 hour away from the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
- Alpen Rose RV Park: Located in Durango, Colorado, about 50 minutes away from the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
- Sky Ute Fairgrounds and RV Park: Located in Ignacio, Colorado, about 1 hour and 10 minutes away from the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center
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The Best Free Camping Near Mesa Verde National Park
Located in Colorados southwest corner is the 6th national park in the system, Mesa Verde National Park. And, believe it or not, you can find great free camping near Mesa Verde.
We always recommend boondocking when taking a road trip. Its the best way to connect with nature and save a few bucks.
Lets dig in!
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What To Know About Free Camping
An incredible benefit afforded to campers by state, local, and federal governments is public access lands. Whether managed by the Bureau of Land Management or another organization, these lands are often great spots to camp.
Many times these spots are free of charge but sometimes require campers to check-in or get a permit.
It should be noted that the use of this land is a privilege and not a right. Disobeying rules and regulations often leads to this privilege being revoked.
Campers should practice leave no trace practices when enjoying public access lands.
Researching in advance can aid you in following all rules and regulations.
Pro Tip: Youll probably want to invest in a solar generator if this is your first boondocking road trip.
Plan Your Trip To Mesa Verde National Park
Book AccommodationsDont want to camp? Thats alright too. Find a nice hotel near MVNP on Agoda, which usually has the BEST deals around.
Pack Your Bags Wondering what to pack? Check out our Essential Camping Gear post to get a downloadable list! Or head over to 25 Cool Camping Gadgets for 2019 to get the low-down on the latest and greatest gear.
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Campgrounds In Cortez Colorado
- Fires: Not permitted.
- Reservations: Recommended
While they do not accommodate tent campers, Sundance RV Park makes a great in-town option for the RV crowd. The park is conveniently located within walking distance to grocery stores and restaurants, and its just 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Keep in mind that there is a $4 per person, per day extra-person charge for all additional guests over age 16.
Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, dog walking area, laundry, and vehicle wash.
Camping In Mesa Verde National Park
Morefield Campground, with its seasonally open gift shop and not always immaculate restrooms, provides an absolutely adequate place to call home when exploring the park proper. The jury hasnt gotten back from their Jeep tour yet, but those who tend to enjoy this particular campground are those who value proximity to the visitor centers, trails and Ancestral Puebloan structures.
Its also rather luxurious for a national park campground, with fancy options like a laundromat and all of the beef jerky, gasoline and Southwestern knickknacks one could fit on the dash of their truck.
Just dont expect cell reception, or rely on Morefields WiFi for your nightly streaming addiction.
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Why You Should Visit Mesa Verde National Park
Tucked away in the corner of southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park preserves more than 4,000 Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites across more than 52,000 acres. Its a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.
The area that is now Mesa Verde National Park was home to the Ancestral Pueblos from about A.D. 600 to 1300. Among the thousands of archaeological sites, are 600 spectacular cliff dwellings, some of which can be explored on guided tours.
In addition to exploring the many historical sites throughout the park, there are also lots of great day hiking opportunities.
A few days is plenty for exploring the best archaeological sites and hikes within Mesa Verde National Park.
Things To Do At Mesa Verde National Park
Whether youre visiting for the history, the culture, or some adventure, there are more things to do in Mesa Verde National Park than you can fit into a day. Whether youre exploring what to do in Mesa Verde National Park in a day, or visiting for a weekend or more, here are some of our top spots for taking in the park.
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Guide To Camping In Mesa Verde National Park
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Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorados best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Mesa Verde hosts a collection of diverse ecosystems, from semiarid desert environments to high elevation pine forests.
Of course, the most compelling reason to visit this beautiful national park is to see the centuries-old ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. The Pueblo people of the four-corners region built rich, thriving, and complex communities, and the cliff dwellings are just one lens into their incredible culture and society. Mesa Verde National Park is home to a jaw-dropping 600 cliff-dwellings, and nearly 5,000 archaeological sites!
Nature lovers will agree that wild places like Mesa Verde National Park are best experienced on a camping trip. Theres no better way to cap off day in the outdoors than to spend a night under the stars. Since camping options are limited, it can be difficult to find good information on camping. Thats why we created this comprehensive guide so you can spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!
Dispersed Camping On Madden Peak Road Forest Service Road 316
Location: 15 miles east of MVNP
Approximate GPS Coordinates:37.348770, -108.200992
Other Information: San Juan National Forest Dolores Ranger District: 882-7296
If youre looking for free camping near Mesa Verde National Park, then look no further than Forest Service Road 316. Located about 14 miles east of the parks entrance, it offers some excellent backcountry, free camping close to Mesa Verde National Park. This is NOT the closest free camping site near MVNP.
So why do we list it as our favorite? Because it offers the best balance of proximity to the park, seclusion of campsites, and beautiful surroundings.
As you turn north from 160, youll pass through a small area of private property, then you will enter the San Juan National Forest. There are quite a few sites at this lower section which is easily accessible for most vehicles and even has some pull-through style spots.
Most of these spots are located a good distance from one another and you shouldnt have much an issue with noise from neighbors. Although there might be some traffic on the road going past you.
As you continue forward, youll enter our favorite area. The road begins to climb and smaller, more secluded sites are found with plenty of large trees around them. If you have a 4WD vehicle and want to go a bit deep into the woods to find a completely secluded spot, you can do so here.
As always, make sure to leave no trace.
How To Get To Mesa Verde National Park
Located in southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde is quite remote, but is easily accessible by motor vehicle. From either Cortez or Durango, you need only to head toward the park on Highway 160 and follow well-posted signage. For full directions from a variety of other orientations, .
Whether you fly in and rent on-site or drive from your hometown, taking a rental RV is a great way to experience Mesa Verde — or any national park. Youll get front-row access to all the fun by camping within the parks boundaries, and you can easily string together multiple parks to create an epic family vacation without having to worry about packing and unpacking in a string of so-so hotel rooms.
If youre flying to the desert southwest, the nearest airports to Mesa Verde are in Cortez, Durango, or Farmington, New Mexico. Larger airfields are available in Las Vegas, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ancient Cedars Generously Accommodates Rv Campers
Please join us at our classic RV Campground. Enjoy cedar tree-shaded sites, fire rings and picnic tables. We offer spacious sites for any size RV along with special areas for individual tent camping and accommodations for group camping. We also have sites that can combine tent and RV camping. The surrounding mountains and national park offer fabulous views from any area of our grounds. Make yourself at home and enjoy the best camping experience nature has to offer! We recommend daytime arrival so that Campers will have time to set up camp and familiarize themselves with all that the Four Corners Area has to offer. Reservations are highly encouraged.
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Mesa Verde Camping: Morefield Campground
There are lots of reasons why we usually choose camping over other types of lodging when visiting national parks. Cost is definitely one of them.
As far as national park campgrounds go, Morefield Campground is on the expensive side. Its run by a private concessioner, so the cost is about double what you would typically pay for camping in a national park $38 per night for tent/RV sites without hookups and $51 for sites with full hookups.
The sites at Morefield are quite large, and like most national park campsites, come with a picnic table and fire ring. Occasionally, during arid weather, a fire ban goes into effect, and campers must cook on a contained camp stove, so be sure to pack one just in case.
Morefield Campground makes a great home base for anyone who wants to spend time exploring in Mesa Verde National Park. Creature comforts may be lacking, but the sites are right near the park entrance and close to hiking and historical sites.
Explore Colorado: Spectacular Mesa Verde Camping And Lodging
Explore beautifully preserved Pueblo ruins, embark on some easy hikes with views that never end, and pitch your tent under the canopy of a billion stars at Mesa Verde National Park.
Mesa Verde is a must-visit if you are passing through the Four-Corners area of the Southwest, and the best way to see the sites is to spend a few days exploring.
Mesa Verde is located in a remote part of Colorado, so your best bet is to stay right inside the park, either at Morefield Campground or Far View Lodge.
In all honesty, you dont have a lot of choices for Mesa Verde camping or lodging, but weve explored those options and want to share what weve learned with you.
I brought my dad to Mesa Verde National Park for Fathers Day, and it was such a memorable and magical experience. He loves archaeology and learning about cultures of the past, and I love easy hikes on remote trails.
This incredible park has plenty of both, along with wildlife, scenic drives, and great ranger-led programs.
I wont dig too deep into our itinerary here. Instead, I want to tell you about Mesa Verde camping and lodging opportunities.
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Best Sites For Free Camping Near Mesa Verde National Park
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Visiting Mesa Verde National Park to see its astonishing and excellently preserved cliff dwellings should undoubtedly be on your bucket list. And if youre like me, you probably want to see these spectacular 1,000-year-old feats while spending the least amount of money possible on accommodations. Dont worry, there are plenty of free campsites nearby.
Rather than opting for an expensive hotel in nearby Cortez, Colorado or dishing out $38 to $54 per night to stay at the 267-site Morefield Campground inside Mesa Verde National Park , Id highly recommend saving a pretty penny and opting for one of the nine free Mesa Verde National Park camping sites in this article.
Although the Morefield Campground is only open from early May to early October, all of these other sites for free camping near Mesa Verde are open year-round.
Its also important to note that Mesa Verde National Park is gigantic at more than 52,000 acres of land. Although the Visitor Center and National Park Entrance are located just seconds off the highway, itll take you 45 minutes from the entrance to the Cliff Palace. Plus, theres no towing allowed inside the park, so youll have to drop off your rig anyway if youre not camping inside the parks campground.
Mesa Verde National Park In The Spring
Spring at Mesa Verde is an excellent time to visit when the bitter cold temperatures start rising, and more aspects of the park begin to reopen. Weather can still be intermittent, and the cliff dwellings can be viewed from afar. But the tour season for the cliff dwellings and other events in the park doesnt begin until May 1.
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Just Outside Of The Entrance To Mvnp:
Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde Camping RV Resort
This RV resort is the closest full-service camping you can find near MVNP. It is just across the road from the visitor center and offers a large heated pool, 2 playgrounds, 2 hot tubs, AND an 18-hole mini golf course. Sites have picnic tables, grills, and nice flat parking areas.
If you want to step it up, cabin rentals are offered, sleeping 4-5 people. Each has a queen bed, bunk beds, pillow-top mattresses, TV, refrigerator, microwave, air conditioner, and heater.
Mesa Verde RV Resort Mesa Verde Camping
This is one of the highest rated locations for RV resorts and campgrounds near Mesa Verde National Park. Does that mean its the best? Not always.
But it has bathrooms that are kept very clean, laundry facilities, two hot tubs, a heated pool, on-site security, a convenience store, and free coffee in the office. If you want to be a bit pampered while camping near Mesa Verde National Park, this may be the spot for you.
Mesa Verde Visitor And Research Center
Right before the entrance to the park, make the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center your first stop. Check out different rotating exhibits and learn more about the rich culture and history of the Ancestral Puebloan people. This is also a place where you can learn about different tours or offerings that are happening in the area during the time of your visit.
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The Best Free Camping Outside Of Mesa Verde National Park
If you love the low, low cost of free camping on national forest and Bureau of Land Management land, your biggest regret in this corner of Colorado may be the gas you burn trying to check them all out. From the cell-phone-service laden Madden Peak to hidden treasures like Bay City Gulch, it sometimes feels like paying nothing for everything is more possible than ever in Western Colorado.
Other Places To Stay Or Camp Near Mesa Verde National Park
If the Mesa Verde National Park camping or Far View Lodge are booked, dont worry. There are plenty of places to stay and camp near Mesa Verde National Park. Youll have a bit of a longer commute, but the park is worth it.
Mancos State Park
Mancos State Park is located just 13 miles northeast of Mesa Verde NP. In the park youll find a wonderful reservoir, excellent hiking and mountain biking trails, and a landscape that make a visit here worthwhile, even if you arent camping.
Mancos State Park has two campgrounds with 32 sites. The campgrounds are located on opposite sides of the reservoir. There are no electrical hookups at Mancos State Park, but there is access to toilets.
The east campground is open year-round and has drinking water available. The west campground does not have drinking water and closes during the winter.
There are also yurt rentals available at Mancos State Park for those looking for a memorable glamping experience. The yurts sleep six and have both electrical and water hookups.
The park reservoir makes for an incredible place for a paddle. We always have our Bluefin inflatable SUP with us, just in case we have a chance to get on the water.
Mesa Verde Camping at the Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA
You can book reservations on their website here.
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