About 1,400 years ago, the Ancestral Pueblo people began their occupation of Mesa Verde. Sandstone dwellings deep within the shady overhangs of Mesa Verde's cliffs were not constructed and occupied until the final 100 years of the 700 years in which these people flourished here. Then, for reasons not fully understood, they emigrated to points south, leaving many fabulous structures well preserved by the dry air and shadowy recesses of the alcoves. Within the Mesa Verde National Park, three small and separate sections on the steep north and east boundaries are designated as the Mesa Verde Wilderness, serving as buffers to further protect the significant Native American sites and natural setting. A significant amount of the Wilderness is undergoing post-fire early successional recovery. These small areas contain exemplary stands of piñon-juniper woodlands and other ecological communities. Unlike most Wildernesses, here visitor access is not allowed but permitted researchers are.
You can explore the ruins open to the public when they are open and travel other designated trails running over about 15 miles of the Wilderness. Federal law prohibits harming or removing artifacts. Because hunting is also prohibited, the park has become a haven for deer, elk, black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, golden eagles, and more.
Closed Wilderness Area
Ten of the National Wilderness Preservation System's 762 wilderness areas are closed to access and use by the general public. By order of the park superintendent, the Mesa Verde Wilderness and the rest of Mesa Verde National Park's backcountry areas, are closed to visitation to protect wildlife and other natural, cultural, and/or other resources consistent with the conservation purpose(s) of the park.
The park is located in the southwestern corner of Colorado in Montezuma County. Two small wilderness units are located on the north escarpment and one larger unit on the east escarpment. Remember that these wilderness areas are closed to general public visitation.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(No official title, designates National Park Service wildernesses) - Public Law 94-567 (10/20/1976) To designate certain lands within units of the National Park System as wilderness; to revise the boundaries of certain of these units; and for other purposes.