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Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

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posts: 42
reviews: 70
Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Hi folks

I will be traveling from Monument Valley to Moab at the beginning of April, as part of a Grand Circle driving tour. I will definitely plan to see Arches NP and Dead Horse Point State Park around Moab. Due to time constraints, I will have to choose between Canyonlands NP and Mesa Verde NP but can't visit both. I will have a total of 2.5 days for this part of my trip, including travel time between Monument Valley and Moab.

Which one should I plan to leave out of my plan? Is Canyonlands NP similar to Dead Horse SP combined with Arches NP? Is Mesa Verde so good that I should take a detour for it and skip Canyonlands? Thanks so much!


Kipling. SK
Destination Expert
for Zion National Park
posts: 4,081
reviews: 105
1. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

If your plan is to visit Dead Horse state park, you are practically in Canyonlands Island in the sky district already.

Canyonlands Needles section is South of Moab about a little less than two hours drive away. This section would be best seen en route to Moab from Monument Vallet if driving US 191

If you were to visit Mesa Verde you would plan to stop there first on the way from Monument Valley, hopefully with an overnight in Cortez, and then afterwards, on to Moab. Arches would be the most popular park by far in the Moab area.

And yes Mesa Verde is completely different from Canyonlands, 'so good' is dependant on a persons individual taste.

posts: 42
reviews: 70
2. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Thank you! Can I drive from Monument Valley, see the Cliff Palace and Balcony House of Mesa Verde and still make it to Moab in the same day? Or is one day not enough for this? If so, I will skip Mesa Verde and go straight from Monument Valley to Moab, maybe paying a visit to the Needles area of Canyonlands en route.

Park City, Utah
Destination Expert
for Utah, Winter Sports
posts: 12,472
reviews: 242
3. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

While it would be a LONG day, you can stop at Mesa Verde en route to Moab. It's not directly on the route but you can do it. Does that leave you with two nights in Moab? If so, that's OK - not a long time but enough to see Arches, Canyonlands Island in the Sky (not Needles) and Dead Horse.

Have fun.

posts: 42
reviews: 70
4. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Thank you so much for your expert advice! Yes I will have two nights at Moab after a long day from Monument Valley to Mesa Verde to Moab.

posts: 432
reviews: 130
5. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Arriving in the middle of the day at Mesa Verde, you may find all the tickets gone for Cliff Palace and Balcony House. You'd see good stuff, but you'd miss out on some of the best the park has to offer.

Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
posts: 44,273
reviews: 148
6. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Agreeing that Monument Valley to Mesa Verde to Moab is a bad plan. Days are still short in early April. Mesa Verde is NOT a quick stop kind of place. If you can't give it a full day, I'd give it a pass. Moab itself is worthy of 3-5 days.

Better to have quality time at fewer places than rushing to touch more bases.

Edited: 1:51 pm, November 23, 2012
Destination Expert
for Newport, Depoe Bay
posts: 8,659
reviews: 43
7. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Have to agree with Redrox. Mesa Verde not a quick stop. We spent most of a day. It is on our short list of favorite NPs. On that same trip made a quick visit to Arches on way out of Moab. But we have not seen Canyonlands. Hope to do that this spring, and see a little more of Arches.

posts: 42
reviews: 70
8. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

Thank you all for taking time to write your advice! Given the general vote against a quick stop at Mesa Verde, I will skip it this time and focus on the Moab area. Hope to get a chance to see Mesa Verda later!

Destination Expert
for Colorado
posts: 8,347
reviews: 120
9. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

I would not miss Mesa Verde, personally. It is a World Heritage site and a national treasure. You are going to be seeing a whole lot of beautiful rock formations and wild country along your route, but Mesa Verde is unique. Would it be possible to arrange your schedule to arrive in Cortez the evening prior to your visit? Then you could get next day tour tickets for Cliff Palace or Balcony House at the Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez. Visit Mesa Verde the next morning and then head for Moab, stopping at the Needles Overlook.

10. Re: Mesa Verde NP or Canyonlands NP?

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