You Can Visit The Ute Mountain Tribal Park On A Guided Tour & Dive Into Prehistory

You Can Visit The Ute Mountain Tribal Park On A Guided Tour & Dive Into Prehistory

While much smaller than the Navajo Nation (the largest Indian reservation), the Ute is one of the largest reservations of the Four Corners region (take the time to visit the Four Corners National Monument too). Visitors can see many timeless original pictographs and petroglyphs of the tribal park that tell the tale of stories of ancient times.

The Ute Mountain Tribal Park in Colorado is one of the great places to learn about the deep history and living heritage of the Four Corners region. Mesa Verde National Park is a continuation of the same archeological and geological attractions found in the tribal park. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park offers a chance to escape the crowds of the more famous Mesa Verde.

Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park
Photo by MARIOLA GROBELSKA on Unsplash

Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park

Why The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation Is Significant

The Ute Mountain Tribal Park is part of the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation in southwestern Colorado extending into northwestern New Mexico. The reservation spans 553,008 acres and the elevation varies between 4,600 feet and 9,977 feet (at the peak of the Ute Mountain). The main settlement is the town of Towaoc.

  • Population: Approx. 1,700 (Reservation)
  • Size: 125,000 acres

The Ute Mountain reservation is a sovereign nation, and visitors are asked to be respectful and respect their ways of life along with their cultural beliefs. The area has been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years – including the Ancestral Pueblo. Today, it has a rich collection of cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and more, often dating from the Ancestral Puebloan as well as Ute cultures.

Related: Looking For Ancient Ruins In Colorado? Head To This National Park

Ute Petroglyphs in Arches National Park, Utah

What To Know About The Ute Mountain Utes & The Reservation

The Ute Mountain Utes are the Weeminuche band of Utes (counted as one of the seven original Ute bands that have inhabited Colorado). They are believed to have been established in the Four Corners area by around 1500 AD, and they moved to the Southern Ute reservation in 1897.

The history of the 1800s was traumatic for the Ute tribe (learn about the clash of cultures during the Plains Indian Wars at the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument in Montana). Today, the Utes are proud to show visitors their land and their history to all respectful guests. They believe it is their duty to preserve and protect their historical land sites.

The Ute Mountain Tribal Park encompasses around 125,000 acres of land and stretches for 25 miles along the Mancos River. The park is set in the Mesa Verde/Mancos Canyon and is located just next to the famous Mesa Verde National Park and its cliffside dwellings (the largest of its kind).

At the park, visitors can also discover the truly ancient geological history of the land. Discover the history written in the rocks of an ancient ocean that once covered the land. Learn about the extinct creatures that inhabited the ocean, the explosive molten magma, and the mighty ice-age river that once existed there.

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, USA
Photo by Alec Krum via Unsplash

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, USA

Visitors to the Ute Mountain Tribal Park are required to go on a guided tour in order to protect the historic sites. Dogs are forbidden on the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Land and no professional photography is permitted.

Related: Museum of the Plains Indian & How Horses Transformed Society

What To Know About Planning A Visit To The Ute Mountain Tribal Park

At the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, it is the tribal members who interpret tribal culture and the archeological sites of the area, including pictographs, cliff dwellings, artifacts, and ancient ruins. The tours offered start at the Tribal Park Visitor Center and Museum. Visitors need to check in at 8.30 am for a 9.00 am departure.

Visitors can make reservations by calling (970) 565-9653, and there is a selection of tours to choose from.

Half-Day Tour

See the Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs as well as Ute pictograph panels as well as ancient sites and scenic formations. This is a good choice for those looking for a shorter tour.

  • Time: 9.00 am to Noon
  • Difficulty: Easy

Full-Day Tour

Those looking for a more active tour and deeper dive can book the full-day tour. It includes a 3-mile-long hike on unpaved trails to where visitors can see four preserved cliff dwellings.

  • Time: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
  • Difficulty: Active

Visitors can also enjoy a special tour of the remote parts of the tribal park (prior reservations are required for these tours). Plan in advance for a tour of the more inaccessible Casa Cliff Dwellings.

Camping At Ute Mountain Tribal Park Campground

Travelers who would like to soak in the atmosphere of the park can camp at the primitive campsite in Mancos Canyon for a fee. Permits are required for camping, and the camping ground has drinking water and firewood. For a bit more comfort, there are also cabins for rent at the campgrounds.