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Mesa Verde in Winter

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posts: 1
Mesa Verde in Winter

We are planning a US trip in winter (December/January) and am wondering if it is worth going to Mesa Verde during this time. We know that some of the sites are closed. We are looking at driving from Santa Fe through to The Grand Canyon and then onto Las Vegas. A major question we need answered is - What are the road conditions like during winter? We are from North Queensland in Australia and have no snow (just lots of sun and rain)

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Destination Expert
for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
posts: 17,353
reviews: 33
1. Re: Mesa Verde in Winter

From Santa Fe to Mesa Verde can be clear and sunny or snowy/icy. Check road conditions nmroads.com . It is incredible to be in Mesa Verde in the winter. Very few people! You can see Spruce Tree House (with a ranger tour) and drive the Mesa Top Ruins Road. Also Farview Ruin. Stay in Cortez and then off to Grand Canyon with a side trip to Monument Valley.

WestSlope,CO
Destination Expert
for Colorado
posts: 7,392
reviews: 82
2. Re: Mesa Verde in Winter

IMO it is worth a visit to Mesa Verde at any time of the year, even if just to visit Spruce Tree House, the visitor center and Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and drive the Mesa Top Loop and walk to some of the views. If there's enough snow, there are snow shoes for loan at the Visitor Center and the Museum; if not, rangers can tell you which trails are open for walking.

The road in to Mesa Verde should be accessible, but you might call before you head out if there's been a recent snow just to make sure.

Some people think that winter is a great time to visit the national parks because there are no crowds and you get to experience a whole different atmosphere and beauty. But there is a risk of bad weather and hazardous driving conditions.

The roads along the rest of your route could be anything from dry to snowpacked or icy in spots to very slick and icy to closed. Road closures don't happen often, but they can happen. If a road is closed, it is usually for only a few hours to a day. One day a couple of winters ago we were heading to Sedona via Telluride and Lizard Head Pass. The Colorado roads were open but the roads leading to Sedona and Flagstaff were closed due to poor visibility, icy conditions, & several wrecks and cars off the road... so we had to wait a day. The following day was a beautiful sunshiney day and the snowplows had been out so we had no problems. It is a good idea to allow a couple of extra days in your schedule so that you can wait out a snow or ice storm if you need to instead of feeling you have to push on to your next destination.

Do be prepared for emergencies, so that if you would happen to slide off the road into a snowbank you'll have some food, water, and warm clothing inside the car. Fill your gas tank more often, (don't let it get below half tank) and make sure you have good de-icing windshield washer fluid with extra in the car. Don't use cruise control, slow down below the posted speed limit, and accelerate and decelerate slowly. The Colorado road department and AAA have some more good tips for winter driving and you can find more tips on the forums by entering "winter driving" in the search box of the general Colorado and Arizona forums. Plus there's lots of info on the web. You might not run into any problems at all, but it is better to be prepared!

www.coloradodot.info/travel/winter-driving/

http://www.az511.com/adot/files/traffic/

http://nmroads.com/

…aaa.com/safety/…

If you have a few extra days, winter is a beautiful time to visit Durango and Telluride, too. And I bet Monument Valley can be very beautiful if there's some snow on the rock formations...Sedona sure is!

Ha, I see CasaAzul and I were typing at the same time, only I'm long-winded!

Edited: 10:12 pm, January 19, 2013
Sydney
posts: 49
reviews: 5
3. Re: Mesa Verde in Winter

Hi BushyBch,

I'm from Sydney and I just found your post about visiting Mesa Verde in winter because that is exactly what I am researching! I see you are looking at doing a very similar route to us (at the same time), just going in the opposite direction. Our plan is to drive from Las Vegas via Zion NP and Page then Monument Valley, Durango, Mesa Verde and spend Christmas in Taos and New Year in Santa Fe (about two weeks in total for this leg of the trip).

The reason I thought I'd chip in is because we did a trip a couple of years ago (in winter) from Colorado through Utah (Arches NP), Monument Valley (amazing), Sedona and Jerome (fab, don't skip Jerome if you love eclectic cool arty towns), Grand Canyon, Page, Zion NP and ended up in Las Vegas. Not sure how much time you have or how your road trip will look (you were really only posting about Mesa Verde here) but I can say that Monument Valley is a must see, but do it with a guide. We had 4WDs so theoretically could have driven the loop road by ourselves but we took a tour with Navajo Spirit Tours (Larson) and it was fantastic. Really enthusiastic young guy who was a bit of a photography fan which suited us down to the ground. He was great with our girls (then aged 8 & 10) and took us into places we simply would never have seen if we had to stick to the loop road. He took us to a natural amphitheatre and played his Navajo flute - a very moving experience (the closest to "spiritual" I've ever got)! The tour was not cheap but we felt it was money very well spent. We stayed at The View Hotel in MV (owned and run by the Navajo) and loved it - great food, epic view, what's not to love. You only need one night in this area but you MUST be in MV for a sunset tour (dress warmly, it gets cold once the sun goes down, especially for you Queenslanders)! ;-)

We absolutely loved Moab (Arches NP) and Zion NP but I'm not sure whether you're hitting those areas. The place we were most underwhelmed by is the place everyone goes - the Grand Canyon. The sheer scale of the GC is incredible BUT when you're there in the middle of winter you are very limited in what you can do. Standing on the edge of the canyon will certainly tick it off your bucket list but you can't walk down into the canyon (or take mules), or go rafting on the river - all things that I think would greatly add to your enjoyment. I hate to say it but out of all the places we visited on our road trip it's the place I wouldn't go out of my way to go back to although I say that keeping in mind the season we were there.

Sedona is lovely - very touristy but done in such a tasteful and appealing way with such a great setting that you can't help but be enchanted. We did a jeep tour there and to be honest we could have skipped it since we'd already done MV - the scenery is lovely but pales into insignificance compared to Arches and MV! The place we LOVED that is close to Sedona is Jerome, a quirky old mining town full of gorgeous shops and galleries and fabulous little cafes - don't miss it!

Zion NP (just 2.5 hours from Vegas) is gobsmackingly, overwhelmingly BEAUTIFUL. This place just blew us away - the photos don't do it justice - it is magnificent! I know I'm raving, but it is THAT spectacular if you're lucky like us with superb blue skies and sunshine. The best thing about going in winter is that you can drive through the park (no shuttles after November) - the road has been recently re-done and it is the best drive we have ever taken. The village of Springdale is fabulous - cute, great shops, fab food and coffee - loved it. As you can tell, I could have just upped sticks and stayed in Zion - never mind a tree-change or a sea-change, I could have a red-rock-change!

The only place left to mention (from our road trip) that we unfortunately ran out of time to stop at is Page. We had planned on seeing Antelope Canyon but underestimated the drive between the GC and Zion and just stopped for lunch. We have since "sent" two sets of friends and both love Antelope Canyon (lower canyon is better) and Horseshoe Bend. We intend to go via Page on this trip as we were pretty disappointed to miss it last time.

I've probably written far too much given that I don't know where you're heading or what interest you have but I wanted to share our experiences - Australians in this part of the US at the same time of the year! Hope I've helped a little - feel free to message me directly I can help or you've got some hot tips for me from the research you've done!

Jenn

4. Re: Mesa Verde in Winter

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