A great route with plenty to explore along the way and highlighted by a stop at Long House
Features: Fall Colors — Spring — Views — Wildlife
Dogs: No Dogs
is located at the end of Wetherill Mesa, one of two mesas the park makes available for the public. The turnoff for Wetherill Mesa is on the right, immediately after Far View Lodge, opposite the abandoned Visitor Center. The road is open from dawn until dusk, and a gate is locked at dusk (law enforcement makes sure no one gets stuck inside). The drive down the mesa is long and winding, and will take approximately 45 minutes. Once at the end, there is a shade structure, restrooms, water fountains, and a paved path to the Long House
trailhead. You can bring your bike or run the ~1 mile to the trailhead. Make sure to bring water!
The trail to the cliff dwelling is a series of paved switchbacks and stairs. The path is uneven and weathered, so please watch where you step. The ascent/descent listed on this page is not accurate: you must ascend the same trail that you descend, so expect a 120 ft ascent at the end of your tour. Again, please make sure you bring water and drink lots of it. I would recommend drinking at least 1-liter through the duration of the tour if you are not acclimated to the elevation and/or the summer heat.
is the second largest cliff dwelling located in the park, second only to Cliff Palace
, although this tour offers much more exploration with visitors being able to climb ladders into the heart of the dwelling and see several original walls and the seep spring in the back of the alcove, which is usually filled with healthy plants, standing water, and is much cooler than the front of the alcove. The tour groups are generally smaller, especially early and late in the season, so the experience is much more personal than tours available on Chapin Mesa.
, as we see it today, was built and occupied from approximately A.D. 1225-1280/1300. There was one earlier occupation during the Basketmaker III time period ~A.D. 600-725. Long House
is also home to one of the few plaza kivas in the entire park: a great kiva layout was recreated on an open plaza with no surrounding walls, suggesting some ceremonial events were more inclusive at this site rather than exclusive. It is not completely known why people left at the end of the 13th Century, but a combination of drought, increasing violence, and a cultural shift may have all contributed to the ultimate abandonment.
Typical high desert plants can be seen on this trail, including sage brush, piñon, juniper, yucca, and some plant species that are unique to the park. Fauna, although rarely seen in the height of the day can include elk, deer, bears, and spotted skunks.