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Chapin Mesa at Mesa Verde National Park

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.

Square Tower House Alcove

Square Tower View

Kiva View

Square Tower

Upper Ruins

Square Tower

Lower Ruins

Looking Up

These ruins, which are tucked away in a crack up in the corner of the alcove, are not visible from the overlook.

High Crack Ruins

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.

Mesa Top Kiva

Sunset House viewed from Sun Point

Sunset House

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.

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.

Chapin Mesa Fire Lookout
Chapin Mesa Fire Lookout Ladder

Top of the Chapin Mesa Fire Lookout

Chapin Mesa Fire Lookout II

When we reached the trailhead for the Far View Sites, we hiked the short loop around to visit them all.

Far View House

Far View House Kiva

Far View House Doorways

I just love this nice spiral pecked into a large brick at Pipe Shrine House.

Spiral Brick

Far View Tower

Far View Tower

Coyote Village

Coyote Village

Coyote Village Kiva

On our way back to Spruce Tree Terrace we stopped to hike the Farming Terrace Trail.

Farming Terrace Trail View

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.

Fewkes Cabin

As I followed the rim I had a good view of upper Spruce Canyon.

Spruce Canyon

Following the trail as it descended into Spruce Canyon.

Spruce Canyon Trail Descent

As I figured, there wasn’t much of a view from the trail along the bottom of the canyon.

Spruce Canyon Trail

Spruce Canyon Trail

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.

Spruce Canyon Trail View

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.

Echo House

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.

Sun Point Cliff Dwelling

House of Many Windows

House of Many Windows

Soda Canyon

Soda Canyon

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 Overlook

Square Tower House at Sunset

Square Tower House at Sunset

Square Tower Sunset

Square Tower House 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…

Yucca House National Monument Entrance

Following the boardwalk into Yucca House National Monument.

Yucca House Boardwalk

Welcome to Yucca House National Monument

Yucca House National Monument Sign

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.

Yucca House Wall

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.


>> Chapin Mesa Photo Gallery

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