Over the years had not seriously considered spending any time in Mesa Verde National Park. The main reasons being never allowed off-trail or essentially out of sight of an NPS ranger. But a recent first party report of a good visit and just knowing eventually it should be done, led to this 5 day visit.
Trip itinerary was drive to Cortez, Colorado and spend the first night at the Ute Mountain Casino. This allowed for entering the park early the next morning to optimize chances on getting tour tickets that best matched my schedule. Those tickets turned out to be the Cliff Palace Ruin at 9 AM the next morning followed by Balcony House Ruin that afternoon. The harder logistically to access Long House Ruin was scheduled for noon the next day.
The standard tour reservations were first-come first-serve at the park visitor center. In addition, I had purchased two backcountry tours via the Recreation.gov site. These were for Square Tower Ruin and Mug House Ruin. I'm sure Mug Tower would have been worth doing, but skipped it as I was ready to head home by then. Regular tours were $5 while the backcountry tours were a more pricey $25.
I would have reservations about doing this trip during prime tourist season.
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