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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Exploring the Manitou Cliff Dwellings

The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park are in Colorado but, as most people don’t realize, the place isn’t exactly close for a day trip from Denver. It takes about seven hours one way to pull in to Cortez, Colorado, the nearest major town, so it’s hardly easy for a weekend getaway either. So, when such an opportunity isn’t available, it’s possible just to head down to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings instead.
The cliff dwellings were built and opened in 1906 for the benefit of tourists. They were never actually used as homes like those of the Anasazi in the southwest part of the state. Yet, with its present age, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings have become more than just a tourist trap in the Pikes Peak area.
Heading west on Highway 24 from Colorado Springs, Claudia, a visiting German journalist, spotted the sign and asked if we could stop. I was more than happy to as this is a placethat I was curious about visiting for quite some time. And it turned out to be a worthwhile tour in my mind as the real deal cousins in the southwest are a bit more difficult to reach.
We enjoyed the hands on opportunities the place offers, which makes it a great stop for kids, as it’s possible to climb over, through, in and around the “ruins.” There are sign postings all around too so it’s possible to learn a bit about how these replicated homes would’ve actually been used. It’s all quite educational and fun; plus there’s no worry about damaging anything incredibly historic in the stop.
A gift shop hugs the side of a hill just off the parking lot. And as Claudia commented, it’s incredibly big. Built in the adobe style as was popular hundreds of years ago as the south of Colorado was being settled, it must be the largest gift shop in a building of its kind anywhere. A small museum is also in two different parts of the shop explaining some of the history of the peoples that would’ve lived in similar cliff dwellings.
This is a great stop that can easily be combined with a hike at the Garden of the Gods or a day up on Pikes Peak, which towers over the dwellings. But, for me, I was just happy to get out and stretch my legs in the middle of a long day of driving and learn about something new. And with the hands on opportunities here, it couldn’t have been a more perfect place for just that.

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