Thursday & Friday, October 12-13, 2023
For the past year or so, Diane and I have been planning to spend an extended three-day weekend in southern Utah so we could watch the Annular Solar Eclipse that would be occurring on Saturday morning. A month or so back we found out that she would also have Thursday off from work, so I went ahead and grabbed two permits for the Square Tower House Tour at Mesa Verde National Park because it’s the only tour offered in the park this year that we had not been on before. Since we had such a great time exploring Wetherill Mesa last summer I thought it would be a great idea copy that trip and spend the entire day visiting sites and overlooks on Chapin Mesa this time, especially the ones I hadn’t been to before or just don’t remember all too well. In the end we would spend sunup to sunset on Chapin Mesa and have a pretty great day, even if it was a bit windy and chilly out!
Our first stop of the day was with the Ranger-guided tour to Square Tower House. It was great to get an up-close visit with this impressive cliff dwelling, especially since the last time we saw it from the overlook there was still some scaffolding up around the tower.
These ruins, which are tucked away in a crack up in the corner of the alcove, are not visible from the overlook.
After spending a couple hours at Square Tower House we took some time to visit the various Mesa Top Sites nearby along the Mesa Top Loop.
Sunset House viewed from Sun Point
After completing our drive around the Mesa Top Loop we stopped at the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe for an early lunch and then made our way over to the Far View Sites.
Along the way we stopped to check out the Cedar Tree Tower.
Of course, I had to stop and visit the Chapin Mesa Fire Lookout since it’s one of only four Fire Lookouts left in Colorado that I had not been to yet. Hopefully I will be able to make it to the final three next year.
When we reached the trailhead for the Far View Sites, we hiked the short loop around to visit them all.
I just love this nice spiral pecked into a large brick at Pipe Shrine House.
Far View Tower
On our way back to Spruce Tree Terrace we stopped to hike the Farming Terrace Trail.
Next up I hiked the Spruce Canyon Trail alone while Diane did a little shopping in the gift shop. This was the final trail on Chapin Mesa that I had not hiked, so I wanted to make sure I got to it on this visit.
On the way to the northern trailhead I passed by the historic Fewkes Cabin, which was the original Ranger Station and Museum for the park.
As I followed the rim I had a good view of upper Spruce Canyon.
Following the trail as it descended into Spruce Canyon.
As I figured, there wasn’t much of a view from the trail along the bottom of the canyon.
Spruce Canyon Trail
I finally started getting back out of the trees as I hiked out of the canyon to meet the Petroglyph Point Trail near Spruce Tree House.
After my hike into Spruce Canyon, Diane and I wandered through the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum for a while and then we went for another drive around the Mesa Top Loop to visit a couple sites we had skipped earlier in the day.
Echo House viewed from the Navajo Canyon Overlook.
Navajo Canyon Overlook
We also went for a drive around the Cliff Palace Loop and stopped to see the Sun Point Cliff Dwelling.
House of Many Windows
Near the end of the day we returned to the Square Tower House Overlook and watched the light change until sunset. It was a great way to end the day- right back where it had started!
Square Tower House at Sunset
Yucca House National Monument
On Friday we were going to be heading into Utah to find a place to camp and watch the Annular Eclipse this weekend, but before we drove across the Great Sage Plain and out of Colorado we stopped to check out Yucca House National Monument, which was set aside in 1919 to preserve a large unexcavated pueblo in Montezuma Valley which is nestled between Mesa Verde and Sleeping Ute Mountain.
The entrance to Yucca House was a little unusual since it is basically accessed from this boardwalk across from someone’s front yard…
Following the boardwalk into Yucca House National Monument.
Welcome to Yucca House National Monument
Since this is an unexcavated site, there is not much to see in the way of ruins, but there was this one exposed wall of the pueblo.
On our drive back across the Montezuma Valley before heading into Utah, I stopped to take a photo of this icy wheel line irrigation system in the early morning light.