Ouray is only 2.5 hours from Mesa Verde National Park!
When visiting Southwest Colorado, no trip is complete without a stop at Mesa Verde National Park. The park entrance is along the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway but the actual ruins are about 25 miles further into the park. The scenery is impressive and a hike on the Petroglyph trail is easy and allows for some grand vistas of the canyons along the way.
The Petroglyph Trail is a 3-mile loop trail and about 1/2 way down the trail, there are some petroglyphs on the wall. The hike starts next to the Spruce Tree Cliff Dwelling and undulates below the mesa top. The return is a steep climb of about 150-200 vertical feet to the mesa top and then mostly a flat walk. Be sure to take plenty of water as this is a very dry trail and in the heat of the summer, it will be hot. Plan on 2-3 hours to complete the full loop.
This trail has an accompanying trail guide that can be purchased near the trailhead (honor system) for $0.50 if you want to take it home or just borrow it during the hike and it is free to use. This brochure contains information on 34 marked points along the route. Most of the markers identify plants and using the guide book provides hikers with information of a herbacious nature describing the plants along the way including the coniferous trees and bushes as well as shurbs and flowering plants. However, this brochure also enhances the journey by explaining how the particular plant was used by the ancestral puebloans.
Along the route, there are also some small ruins that are somewhat non-descript but their seeps (areas where water flows out of the sandstone) are obvious and interesting to see up close. Views of Spruce and Navaho Canyons are wonderful. Of course, there are petroglyphs too and this is the only place in Mesa Verde National Park where trails pass petroglyphs.