Third Trip, Part 4: San Juan Skyway and Mesa Verde National Park

The route thus far:

Southwest Colorado. The last frontier before my entry into Utah. The last of the Great Colorado Rockies and the entry into the vast and beautiful desert of Southern Utah. About 150 miles of scenic byway separate Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde. Taking the route Southwest through via the San Juan Skyway US Route 145.

San Juan Skyway Sign

The route cuts Southwest across the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. Here, like the Mountains to the east, the trees are ablaze with beautiful color changes.

San Juan Mountains near Tulluride

Passing such cities as Tulluride and Mountain Village Grand panoramic Mountain views greet you at every Mountain pass. Some Mountains stretching over 14,000 feet challenge your car to creep up their epic slopes.

San Juan Mountains
View of the Lizard Head Wilderness

Driving through valleys with trees ablaze down towards the epic Mesa’s of South Western Colorado is an epic sight. The transition from Mountainside to desert brush land is not quick, but the differences are dramatic. From changing and mighty trees to much smaller ground clinging plants, containing their energy and in constant search of water these grounds form a harsh environment for the animals and people that call them home.

Panoramic View of Mesa Verde’s Canyon area

Up in the distance though, high above the flats, an epic Mesa, a vertiable oasis in an otherwise harsh environment, a land so fertile and life sustaining to the ancient people who lived there they named it Mesa Verde, or “green table”.

This Mesa sits high up on the country side providing a valuable defense for its former inhabitants. The marks of the Pueblo people that used to live there are remarkably well preserved and beautiful.


These relics of the past societies that lived here show at least one thing: they picked a damn good place to build a city. Many ruins are much as 2000 years. The ancient cities built into the cliff were left more around 800 years ago.

Me, with way too many straps on my body, in Balcony House
Balcony House

Photosphere of the view:

Deciding to get a closer look I went on a tour of one of the dwellings and it gets you a beautiful up close look at the dwellings. The way which they are constructed by a people who were without metals and had to make everything with stone tools. All this with relying on foot travel, as it was their only form of transportation. These were an industrious people, they made use of the land and were great farmers. They raised turkey and dogs, they were also astronomers using different tools to identify the changing of the seasons.


Mesa Verde is a park more about the culture and history of ancient Native American Cultures from a time gone by. The landscape is gorgeous and the cliff dwellings serve to stir something in the imaginations of us all.


As I was readying myself to watch the sunset at an old fire lookout tower (which is still in use) and taking in an amazing view of the surrounding area, I met a fellow road tripping warrior named Jay. He and I both have a bit of a propensity for long epic trips; he has actually been on the road since January of this year seeing all 50 states. We exchanged travel stories and ideas and even shared a camp later that night. Meeting new friends is one of the best parts of traveling, especially when viewing a magnificent sunset.


Overall Mesa Verde is a wonderful National Park that preserves both a wonderful natural landscape and part of our American heritage in spectacular fashion.


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