One of our favorite parks we visited on our Grand Circle road trip was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Since it was towards the end of the season, it was pretty empty and quiet. We stayed at the Far View Lodge inside the park. The Lodge is open from April to October. While the buildings are old, they offer great views if you can get a view room. The Kiva rooms have been updated and are pretty nice. The restaurant the Metate Room was fantastic! It was one of the best National Park restaurants we have been to for dinner. I had a chicken and pasta dish that was delicious. We found out the chef is from New York City. The staff was also great.
Before we got to Mesa Verde, we stopped in Cortez outside the park. We went to the Colorado Welcome Center there and picked up our Balcony House tour tickets ($4pp) for the next day. They were very helpful and there is a lot of Colorado info in the welcome center. You can read about the park tours and how and where to purchase tickets on the NPS web page for Mesa Verde.We also had lunch and some beer at the Main Street Brewery.
Balcony House was one of the few guided tours that were going on in October. Cliff Palace was closed for work and Spruce Tree House was self guided. The Balcony House tour was amazing and lasted about an hour. We had to climb a few ladders on the edge of cliffs as well as crawl through some tunnels. The ranger was great and everyone on the tour was very respectful. It actually brought tears to my eyes to be walking around these amazing sites.
We also went to the park Visitor Center, Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, hiked the whole Far View Sites complex, and drove the Mesa Top Loop Road and the Wetherill Mesa Road. Next time we will stay longer so we can tour some of the other houses like Long House. We got to see Cliff Palace from an overlook, but I would love to walk through the site soon. If you will be near Mesa Verde, you should visit and see the cliff dwellings. The park preserves 600 cliff dwellings and 5,000 archeological sites! The dwellings were discovered in 1888 by two cowboys Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charlie Mason. They were looking for stray cattle. They must have been in awe!
Because of the high elevation, the views are are beautiful. Have fun!