Winter 2019 in Colorado was a ridiculous one. I hear. It was our first winter out here, but everyone we talked to assured us that it was unusual. The season began fairly mild but by March – right about the time I was ready for winter to end – the snow arrived with a vengeance and lingered for nearly 3 more months. The final snow storm in Denver arrived 3 days before Memorial Weekend, throwing a wrench into everyone’s plans and thwarting efforts to have certain popular highways opened in time for the holiday.
However, the earlier months of winter provided for numerous beautiful days of winter adventuring. In fact, it wasn’t until the middle of February that Pat and I encountered a weekend in which the weather was unfavorable for hiking. The mountains were completely snowed in, so on this particular day we opted to head down to Manitou Springs and spend our day learning some history instead.
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are named for their present-day location in Manitou Springs (just outside of Colorado Springs), but the original location of these Ancestral Puebloan ruins was in southwestern Colorado, near present-day Mesa Verde. Back in the day, before conservation was a national priority, an anthropologist by the name of Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett decided to preserve these ruins. He had them painstakingly catalogued, dismantled one piece at a time, labeled, transported to Manitou Springs, and reassembled exactly as they had been before. The entire process took 3 years.
Today, the dwellings are open to the public for a $10/person fee, which provides access to the ruins and a very thorough museum containing artifacts, Ancestral Puebloan history, and history of the Cliff Dwellings themselves. Pat and I spent about half a day here and really enjoyed ourselves!
The neat thing about these ruins is that you’re allowed to walk through them and touch them and climb in them, which is something that isn’t allowed at any other ancient ruins site I’ve visited.
There were also lots of native plants with explanations of what Ancestral Puebloans had used them for, which was fascinating.
After, we headed just up the road to Red Rocks Open Space for a quick hike through the rock formations before the snow storm rolled in. Even though the sky was blue above us the clouds were fast approaching and, thanks to the wind, we were getting snowed on despite the sunshine overhead. As a result, we only ended up hiking about 2 miles (3.2 km) before making a mad dash for the warmth of our car.
Stay tuned for next week’s post, which will also be part of my Colorado Destinations series: a scenic train ride!
The Important Stuff
- Getting there: the cliff dwellings are located in Manitou Springs, Colorado just off Highway 24
- Fees and passes: $10/person for adults, cheaper rates available for children, seniors, disabled individuals, and groups (fee information here)
- Hours: check their website for updated operating hours, as they vary with the seasons
- Other: as with most places along the Front Range of Colorado, crowds are likely; arrive early to avoid the worst of it. Also, the dwellings are outside so come dressed for the weather of the day!