Mesa Verde National Park can be a confusing place to navigate during a first time visit. What initially appears to be impenetrable bluffs when looking up from the valley floor is actually a series of branching mesa arms with canyons in between. There are many lush green meadows on the high mesas and the deep canyons are heavily eroded ravines. There are some heavily forested rolling hills in the mix too. For a place that looks so forbidding from the valley floor, the Mesa Verde terrain is nothing but a lush green paradise when viewed from above, hence the name of this ancient native sacred place certainly is apropos!
The best place to begin a tour of Mesa Verde is the visitor center, because this destination is a cultural museum and a research center where plenty of information can be found. Park maps are provided at the main gate and detailed maps can be purchased in the visitors center. On the flip-side, the paper maps in no way indicate how the terrain can leave a visitor totally lost with no sense of direction. The paved touring roads in Mesa Verde wind like a snake through the steep mountains and they zig-zag all over the place, so after about five minutes of driving it is nearly impossible to tell which direction the vehicle is going.
The visitors center may be the best place to start a Mesa Verde venture, but the Park Point Tower is by far the best place to become familiar with the Mesa Verde landscape, which certainly is confusing on a first visit. The Park Point Fire Tower is the highest elevation in Mesa Verde National Park and an overview of the entire region can be experienced at this place. The unobstructed views of the vast valley floor extend all the way to Four Corners, Bears Ears and the nearby San Juan Mountains. It is easy to see that the Park Point location was the perfect choice for a National Forest Service Wildfire Lookout Tower.
The hiking trail to the Park Point Fire Tower and scenic overlooks is about a three quarter mile round trip. The hiking path is paved, so those who have mobility challenges can do the trek, but assistance on the steep grades may be of help. Park Point is a lush green area during spring and the wildflowers bloom late into the summer season at this high elevation, so a hike is as pleasant as can be!
At the top of the mountain peak there is a Forest Service Wildfire Lookout Station that has many National Park placards and plenty of posted information that is interesting to perouse. On opposite sides of the fire tower are two short paths that go to scenic overlooks. The panoramic views from the overlooks are as majestic as can be and the viewpoints are equipped with high power binoculars, so taking a closer look is easy to do. Park benches are located along the edge of the high overlooks, which makes this is a cozy little spot to set a spell and take in the breathtaking views.
The Park Point Tower is the first point of interest along the road going into Mesa Verde. Taking the time to look at the twisted labyrinth of roads and the features of the Mesa Verde terrain from the Park Point Overlook will be a great help when navigating this park the rest of the day. A lot can be learned about wildfire fighting in this region by visiting this lookout tower and the panoramic views from up top are what memories are made of!
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