Mesa Verde National Park and the Durango and Silverton Railroad

From a historic train ride to a legacy of mining, from ancient Puebloan architecture to the inspiring landscapes of Mesa Verde National Park, learn the story of the Four Corners region.
Rating (5)
Program No. 1263RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

The Ancestral Puebloans chose Mesa Verde, now a world heritage site, as their home over a millennium ago, building an elaborate culture among the canyons and cliffs. Learn about these prehistoric Puebloan people as you trace park history from its discovery to the Native Americans who share Four Corners country today, and hear about railroad and Colorado mining history during a full-day field trip aboard the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to one-half mile over varied terrain. Must be able to climb short ladder at ruins. Elevations up to 9,700 feet.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Study the cultural, artistic, engineering and farming advancements of these prehistoric people during visits to ruins on the mesa-top and to view cliff dwellings at Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde’s showpiece.
  • Hear expert instructors discuss the CCC boys at Mesa Verde, railroads, miners, cowboys and Navajo inhabitants of this Western region.
  • Ascend nearly 3,000 feet by steam train through some of the most dramatic terrain ever traversed by rail; return to Durango on the Million Dollar Highway.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Jerry Cohoe
Artist Jerry Cohoe is the son of a Diné (Navajo) medicine man from Tocito, New Mexico. His mother is from the Bit'ahnii (leaf) clan and his father from the 'Ashiihi (salt people) clan. Jerry’s interest in art began as a child when he would watch his mother weave intricate traditional Diné rug designs or witness ritualistic sand paintings during his father's healing ceremonies. Jerry's work reflects his Diné heritage and most of his studies are framed in the setting of the Great Diné Nation.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Jerry Cohoe
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Trina Lindig
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Guide to the Geology of Mesa Verde National Park
by Mary O. Griffitts
Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to protect and study the large concentration of Anasazi Indian sites on the mesa tops, cliffs and canons. Although most of the thousands of visitors to the Park are attracted by the archaeology sites, the spectacular scenery certainly enhances the enjoyment of this area. This book provides first, a road log with brief descriptions of the geology at many viewpoints. The second section contains a more detailed geologic history of the region from some two billion years ago to the present, along with the explanation of some of the basic geological processes at work. References are given throughout the road log too more detailed discussion of specific topics in the second section of the text. A glossary at the end of the book may help with unfamiliar terms. A geological map of Mesa Verde also accompanies this book.
Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest
by Steve Plog
The American Southwest is home to some of the most remarkable monuments of America's prehistoric past, such as Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. Stephen Plog, who has spent decades working in the region, provides the most readable and up-to-date account of the predecessors of the modern Hopi and Pueblo Indian cultures in this well-received account. Chaco Canyon became the center of a thriving Anasazi cultural tradition. It was the hub of a trading network extending over hundreds of miles, whose arteries were a series of extraordinary roads that are still being discovered and mapped. Interweaving the latest archaeological evidence with early first-person accounts, Professor Plog explains the rise and mysterious fall of Southwestern cultures. 224pp.
With Picks, Shovels, & Hope: The CCC and Its Legacy on the Colorado Plateau
by Elizabeth A. Green, Wayne K. Hinton
At the height of the Great Depression, two of America's richest resources-its young men and its public lands-were in peril. As unemployed young men despaired at their prospects for earning a living for themselves and their families, choking dust storms stripped away farmland and fire ravaged the nation's forests. Only days after taking office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched a new program to help save both treasures.
The Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde
by Gustav Nordenskiold
The summer and autumn of 1891 I passed through Colorado, engaged upon investigations of the remarkable cliff dwellings scattered in the canons of an extensive plateau, the Mesa Verde, in the southwest of the state. The present work is the result of those researches. It contains a description of the ruins, an account of the excavations carried out there and of the objects discovered. In order to trace as far as possible the development of the cliff-dweller culture, I append a survey of the ruins in the South-western states akin to the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, a description of the Moki Indians, the descendents of the ancient Pueblo tribes, and an account, based on the relations of the first Spanish explorers, of the manors and customs of the agricultural town-building Indians in the middle of the sixteenth century. A special part of the work is devoted to a description by Prof. G. Retzius of the crania found during the excavations.
Ancient Ruins of the Southwest: An Archaeological Guide
by David Grant Noble
This third edition of David Grant Noble's indispensable guide to archaeological ruins of the American Southwest includes updated text and thirteen newly opened archaeological sites. From Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in Texas to the Zuni - Acoma Trail in New Mexico (including Canyonlands National Park, Grand Gulch, Natural Bridges National Monument, San Juan River, Newspaper Rock and other Moab area rock art sites), readers will be provided with old-time favorites and new treasures. In addition to descriptions of each site, Noble provides time-saving tips for the traveler, citing major highways, nearby towns and the facilities they offer, campgrounds, and other helpful information. Filled with photos of ruins, petroglyphs, and artifacts, as well as maps, this is a guide every traveler needs when they are exploring the Southwest. Covers much of southeastern Utah including Grand Gulch Primitive Area, Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, and Canyonlands National Park. 238pp.

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