Located in the Mesa Verde National Park, the Spruce Treehouse is the third largest cliff dwelling in the park, and one of the best preserved. Spruce Treehouse is the most accessible cliff dwelling in the park, however some will find the steep decent/accent via a paved path to be a bit of a challenge.
The Spruce Treehouse was believed to be constructed between 1211 and 1278 A.D. by the ancestors of Puebloan people. This particular cliff dwelling contains 130 rooms and 8 kivas (a ceremonial chamber) one of which you’re allowed to explore.
This cliff dwelling was first discovered in 1888, when two local ranchers happened upon it while searching for stray cattle, twenty years later the park opened to visitors. The name “Spruce Treehouse” was derived by the fact that a large tree, which the ranchers identified as a Douglas Spruce, was found growing from the front of the dwelling to the top of the mesa.
How to Get There
Mesa Verde National Park is located just 35 miles west of Durango off of highway 160. From Cortez, take US 160 east for eight miles to the park entrance, then follow the winding park road 15 miles to Far View Visitor Center, then, 5.5 miles farther to Chapin Mesa Museum—the Spruce Tree House is just below the museum.
When to Go
Mesa Verde is open year-round, however many sites/services may be closed due to weather. Winter is a wonderful time to visit as the snow gives the park an entirely different look as the rest of the year, and, there are far fewer people. The park is quit spread out and traffic/crowds are usually not a problem, except for perhaps some of the more popular sites. Wildflowers bloom from April through September.
On a one-day visit, begin early and stop first at the Far View Visitor Center (which is open mid-April to mid-October) to purchase various tour tickets. Then head to the Chapin Mesa Museum for an overview… you can walk down to the Spruce Tree House for a tour of your first cliff dwelling (no tickets required). From there drive the Cliff Palace Loop Road. In the afternoon, follow the Mesa Top Loop Road. Wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for some strenuous climbing if you plan to visit the cliff dwellings—depending on the time of year there are several you can explore. Binoculars are useful for views across the canyon. If you have more than a day, stay the night at the lodge or camp out at one of the campgrounds…the stargazing is amazing!
Click the following link to see more of my pictures of Mesa Verde National Park. Or, click the following link to read a post and watch a video of my favorite cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde, the Balcony House.
If you’ve ever been to Mesa Verde National Park, leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best?