1. When finding some place to stay check your options. I like to go to tripadvisor.com and find out what places are rated. You should decide if you want to camp in the park or stay in the park. When travelling with a family I found trying to find a place that will accommodate a family difficult. Unless you are in the park, be aware that getting to the park and through the park takes up to an hour and a half. Even in the park it takes awhile to get from one area to another area, about 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes between the visitor's center and other main areas of the park. There is rotating road construction as well as slow cars that travel at speeds of 25 miles an hour on a 45 mile per hour road. Can be frustrating if you are in a hurry (of course I had all the time in the world). You can camp in the park which will cost about $30 a night, and that is not including the entrance fee into the park.
We decided to stay at White Eagle Inn and Lodge, http://www.whiteeagleinncortez.com/ . It was only about 10 miles from the entrance of the park. I found this place well priced, well maintained, they didn't hesitate when I said I had 4 kids, and you can't beat their customer service. It is family owned and run and you can tell they care about it! It is an older style motel that has a charm about it. The pool is not filled, but they do have a miniature golf course that my kids loved.
- There are tours that you should book months in advance that take you to areas of the park that most people do not get to see. They rotate these areas to lessen the impact on the ruins, and these tours can only be reserved online at http://www.recreation.gov/tourList.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72397 Some of these are appropriate for children, some are not.
- The tours offered at the park on a regular basis are the Long House, Balcony House, and Cliff Palace. The only place to buy tickets for these tours is at the Visitor's center, and you should get there as early as possible to buy your tickets. We were there at 10:30am, and the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. By the time we got to the counter the only tour we could get for the day was Long House, but we were able to buy tickets for the next day for Cliff Palace and Balcony House. So if you want to get more accomplished on your first day I would recommend getting to the visitor's center when it opens!
- The tours offered through the visitor center are not for little kids who are carried, but you can put them in a backpack.
There are 2 main areas of the Park, Wetherill Mesa and the area out by the Chapin Archealogical Museum, the Visitor's Center is in the middle of these two areas. I would choose to do one area one day and the other area the other day.
The Long House
- Make sure you buy your tickets for the Long House tour at the visitor's center, before heading out to Wetherill Mesa!
- The tram ride takes you on a loop, you do not need a ticket for this. You can get off and on at different viewpoints and see ancient Puebloan villages.
- The Step House, a self-guided tour through a cliff dwelling, there is a Ranger there if you have any questions. The Step House closes at 4:30pm, so if you have a 3:00pm ticket for the Long House, go to the Step House first! Or you will miss it!
Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
|Spruce Tree House|
|Inside of a Kiva|
Mesa Top Loop
Cliff Palace Loop and Cliff Palace
|The way we climb out of Cliff Palace|
|Ladder going into Balcony House|
|climbing through Balcony House|