Rising above the Mancos Valley in southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park spans over 50,000 acres preserves both ancestral Puebloan heritage and 8500 acres of wilderness area. Mesa Verde is most famous for its preservation of numerous cliff dwellings, in which hundreds of people lived between 1400 and 700 years ago. The dwellings provided security and climate control, yet allowed the Pueblo people access to their farmland on the mesa top, which was provided ideal growing conditions as it receives much more rainfall than the surrounding low-lying valleys.
In addition to ranger-guided tours of cliff dwellings and a museum detailing Puebloan culture, Mesa Verde provides excellent animal viewing opportunities. During a quick trip we were able to see elk, deer, a coyote, wild horses, and the highlight, a cinnamon-colored black bear foraging along the bottom of Soda Canyon. Views from the park are also outstanding, as one can see over 150 miles on a clear day.