Category: Mesa Verde National Park

Guide to Camping in Mesa Verde National Park

Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorado’s best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of…

Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorado’s best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Mesa Verde hosts a collection of diverse ecosystems, from semiarid desert environments to high elevation pine forests.

Of course, the most compelling reason to visit this beautiful national park is to see the centuries-old ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. The Pueblo people of the four-corners region built rich, thriving, and complex communities, and the cliff dwellings are just one lens into their incredible culture and society. Mesa Verde National Park is home to a jaw-dropping 600 cliff-dwellings, and nearly 5,000 archaeological sites!

A soft winter sunset in Mesa Verde National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Sandy Groves.

Nature lovers will agree that wild places like Mesa Verde National Park are best experienced on a camping trip. There’s no better way to cap off day in the outdoors than to spend a night under the stars. Since camping options are limited, it can be difficult to find good information on camping. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide so you can spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

Mesa Verde is home to a rich collection of archaeological sites, including these petroglyphs seen along the Petroglyph Point Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Mesa Verde National Park Basics

When to Visit

The weather in Mesa Verde National Park is quite variable and it can change quickly. You can get warm, sunny days in January and snowstorms in May! While Mesa Verde is beautiful year-round, most campers will want to visit between April and October. These months typically have the best weather for camping and many campgrounds are only open during the summer season.

Check out this great webpage for more details on weather in Mesa Verde.

Pets

Pets are allowed at the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park, provided that they are kept on a leash. You can also walk your dog along any paved road in the park.

Pets are not allowed in any of the park buildings, at archaeological sites, and on most trails in Mesa Verde (although leashed pets are permitted on the Long House Loop and some other trails at Wetherill Mesa).

There are a few pet boarding options in the area near Mesa Verde National Park, including the kennel at the Morefield Campground. You can find more information about pet boarding here.

Fires

Fires are permitted in designated fire rings at the Morefield Campground. Fires are prohibited everywhere else in Mesa Verde National Park. If camping in the park, check with the Morefield warden upon arrival, as seasonal fire bans may be in place.

Wildlife

Nature lovers will appreciate the great diversity of wildlife in Mesa Verde National Park. The park is of particular significance for several unique bird species, including the threatened Mexican Owl.

Campers should keep in mind that bears are active in Mesa Verde National Park. It’s important to store food and other strong-smelling items (sunscreen, toothpaste, etc) in your vehicle, a bear locker, or other secure location.

What to Bring

Preparing for your Mesa Verde National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Mesa Verde National Park:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up al fresco dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in this part of Colorado can get intense! You may not be able to find a shady spot where you’re camping, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container – Save yourself the hassle of constant trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler an essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Background Reading: There’s nothing better than relaxing at your campsite with this great book about the history of Mesa Verde.
Bears are active in and near Mesa Verde National Park, so campers need to properly secure their food items. Photo courtesy of NPS/Joshua Petersen.

Camping Inside Mesa Verde National Park

When it comes to camping in Mesa Verde National Park, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that backcountry and dispersed camping are not permitted anywhere within the park. The good news? It’s still possible to enjoy camping in the lovely and convenient Morefield Campground, and those looking for more remote dispersed camping have a few good options nearby.

Morefield Campground

  • # of sites: 267
  • Type: Tent, RV, Group
  • Fees, per night: $35 (Standard tent or RV w/o hookups), $50 (RV w/hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits

The Morefield Campground is located about four miles past the main entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. This large campground is run by the concessionaire company, Aramark, and therefore offers amenities more commonly seen in deluxe private campgrounds than in your typical NPS facilities. Keep in mind the base fee only covers groups of two, and you’ll need to pay a fee for every additional person in your group, plus a park entrance fee.

Amenities

  • Flush toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Dump station
  • Kennel
  • Campground store and cafe
  • Trash and recycling
  • Bear lockers

Reservations

Reservations are strongly recommended for the 15 RV sites in the campground, as these fill quickly throughout the season. Advance bookings are typically not essential for the tent/dry RV sites, although it’s a good idea to reserve a spot for holiday weekends.

Morefield Campground is open with full services from early May through mid-October. Off-season camping (no services) is available for a few weeks before and after the campground’s official opening and closing dates. See the campground website for details.

Reservations can be made HERE

A bird's-eye view of the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park.
A bird’s-eye view of the Morefield Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds Near Mesa Verde National Park

Despite the limited options for camping within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park, there are plenty of good campgrounds in the surrounding area. All of the campgrounds covered in this section are within 30-minute’s drive of the park entrance. Those wanting to prioritize proximity can camp just down the road from the park entrance, while campers looking for more services will find those in the towns of Mancos and Cortez.

Below we’ve shared our top picks and tips for the best campgrounds near Mesa Verde National Park:

Campgrounds near the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park

Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde RV Park

  • # of sites: 80+
  • Type: Tent, RV, Group, Cabins
  • Fees, per night: $30-$33 (Standard or deluxe tent), $38-$55 (RV w/hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

This comfortable campground is conveniently located just across the road from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. The plentiful amenities make this a great option for RVs and tent campers alike. Reservations are recommended in the peak summer season. There is a $3.50 charge per person for groups larger than two.

Amenities include free wifi, hot showers, laundry facilities, mini golf, dump station, dog park, playground, and swimming pool.

Mesa Verde RV Resort

  • # of sites: 57
  • Type: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fees, per night: $31 (standard tent), $39 (RV w/ partial hookups), $42-$49 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

The Mesa Verde RV Resort is just minutes from the entrance of the park. This friendly campground can accommodate big rigs, tiny tents, and everyone in between! The convenient shop sells grocery items and snacks on site. There’s a $3.50 extra-person charge for groups of three or more. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 970-533-7421 or emailing info@mesaverdervresort.com.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, pool, dog walking area, and playground.

Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center in front of a blue sky.
The Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center is just minutes from the campgrounds described above. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds in Cortez, Colorado

Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA

  • # of sites: 115
  • Type: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fees, per night: $43 (standard tent w/electric), $42 (RV w/ partial hookups), $53-$70 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

This excellent campground has all of the amenities you’d expect from a KOA, plus easy access to a large dog park, walking trails, and in-town services. It’s a fifteen-minute drive to the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Campers love the quiet and scenic setting near Denny Lake.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, dishwashing station, wifi, convenience store, snack bar, pool, dog walking area, and playground.

La Mesa RV Park

  • # of sites: 38
  • Type: Tent, RV
  • Fees, per night: $25 (standard tent, 1 person), $44-$46 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not permitted. Only gas grills are allowed in the park.
  • Reservations: Recommended

This family-friendly RV Park is a simple, no-frills option that offers a convenient location and reasonable prices. La Mesa RV Park is less than 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, and very close to shops and services in Cortez. Keep in mind there are extra-person charges for tent campers.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, and laundry.

Sundance RV Park

  • # of sites: 63
  • Type: RV only
  • Fees, per night: $48 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not permitted.
  • Reservations: Recommended

While they do not accommodate tent campers, Sundance RV Park makes a great in-town option for the RV crowd. The park is conveniently located within walking distance to grocery stores and restaurants, and it’s just 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Keep in mind that there is a $4 per person, per day extra-person charge for all additional guests over age 16.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, dog walking area, laundry, and vehicle wash.

A back SUV pulls an RV in front of a mountain near Mesa Verde National Park.
RV Campers will find plenty of great options in Cortez.

Campgrounds in Mancos, Colorado

Mancos State Park

  • # of sites: 32
  • Type: Tent, RV (no hookups), Yurt
  • Fees, per night: $22 (Tent and RV, June-September), $18 (Tent and RV, October-May) + $9/day park pass
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Permitted in designated areas (purchase local firewood and check ahead for seasonal bans)
  • Reservations: Required

This is one of the best camping options for those looking to get closer to nature, while still having easy access to Mesa Verde National Park. Camping options in Mancos State Park consist of the Main Campground with spaces that can accommodate most small and mid-size RVs or tents, as well as an auxiliary tent-only West Campground. Both camping areas are on the edge of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir, making for a scenic and tranquil place to spend the night. Keep in mind that reservations are required for all campers and can be made HERE or by calling 1-800-244-5613.

Amenities include vault toilets, drinking water (available at the Main Campground only), picnic tables, fire pits, and a dump station.

Riverwood RV Resort

  • # of sites: 68
  • Type: RV only
  • Fees, per night: $44 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not allowed.
  • Reservations: Recommended

Guests love the friendly service and well-kept facilities at this convenient RV park. The Riverwood RV Resort is walking distance to the local coffee shop and just a 10-minute drive from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Unfortunately, they only accommodate RV’s, so tent campers will need to head to Mancos State Park if they want to camp in the area.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, dog walking area, laundry, and a lending library.

Echo Basin RV Park

  • # of sites: 65
  • Type: RV, Cabins
  • Fees, per night: $45-$55 (RV w/full hookups May-October)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not allowed.
  • Reservations: Recommended

This RV park is a bit further afield, but guests enjoy the peaceful, wooded setting that comes with the location. Echo Basin offers competitive rates and a variety of sites for RVs of all sizes. There are also cabins available for rent on the property. Unfortunately, they they do not accommodate tent campers; they’ll need to head to Mancos State Park if they want to stay in the area.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, and laundry.

Looking out at mountains and scrubland from Park Point in Mesa Verde National Park.
Camping in Mancos gives you quick and easy to some of Mesa Verde’s most beautiful viewpoints, like this one at Park Point. Photo courtesy of NPS/Jacob W. Frank.

Dispersed Camping Near Mesa Verde National Park

For those seeking a less developed and more affordable (ie; free) place to pitch a tent or park an RV, dispersed camping near Mesa Verde is a fantastic option. Keep in mind that it takes a little legwork to find a good dispersed camping spot, and you’ll need to bring your own water and of course, leave no trace. Your efforts will be rewarded with the kind of deep satisfaction that only comes from spending a night tucked in the trees and under the stars.

County Road 34 BLM Land

This is by far the closest dispersed camping option to Mesa Verde National Park. These thirteen dispersed camping spots can be reached by driving for a short ways along County Road 34, which is accessed from US 160 (East Mancos Road). While there are a few potential drawbacks about this area, such as crowds and trash, the fact that it’s less than 10 minutes from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park makes up for any downsides. It is important to note that County Road 34 is not paved and can get quite rutted. When dry, it’s typically passable for most vehicles and smaller RVs, but it becomes a muddy nightmare when wet.

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is a huge and beautiful expanse of wilderness that sits just northeast of Mesa Verde National Park. Below, we’ve shared the best dispersed camping options for those wanting easy proximity to MVNP. Be sure to check the current fire restrictions before heading out.

Madden Peak Road

This is a favorite dispersed camping area for those visiting Mesa Verde National Park. It can be reached by driving a mile or two along a dirt road (Road 316), just off US 160 near Mancos (about 15 miles from the entrance of the park). The road is typically in pretty good shape, and the sections closer to the highway are definitely passable for RVs and larger rigs. There are about 15 spacious spots dotted along the closer stretch of road, although there are more options further back. Those seeking greater seclusion should continue uphill and camp further back along Road 316.

Road 561

There are plenty of dispersed camping areas in San Juan National National Forest that provide good proximity to MVNP, but this is one of the better options. It is located roughly twenty minutes from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, and the road is more accessible than most of the other dispersed camping areas nearby (brave souls with good 4WD can also check out Cherry Creek Road). There is a large open area on one side of the road, and then a few more secluded spots further up. Spots are marked with fire rings and many can accommodate RVs. The views of the surrounding mountains are lovely.

Road 566

This is another great option for both tents and RV’s in San Juan National Forest. Also known as Echo Basin Road, Road 566 is typically accessible for all vehicle types, although extreme caution should be used in wet or muddy conditions. It is located about 25 minutes from the park entrance. The spots along the lower portion of the road are located right beside the creek, while the areas further up offer splendid views and seasonal wildflowers.

Close up of the Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in Mesa Verde National Park. You can explore the fabulous network of hiking trails, watch for a myriad of fascinating bird species, and, of course, wonder at the incredible Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Your next adventure is waiting, and it all starts with the perfect basecamp. Happy camping!

No Comments on Guide to Camping in Mesa Verde National Park

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search