Park Point Tower ~ Mesa Verde National Park
The Mesa Verde National Park can be a very 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 mountain range 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 is certainly 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 varied terrain in Mesa Verde 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 impossible to tell if the direction of the road is going east, west, north or south! Throw in the steep mountain grades and a state of dazed vertigo can easily occur while driving through Mesa Verde!
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 gained at this place. Unobstructed views of the vast valley floor extend all the way to the Four Corners, Bears Ears and the San Juan Mountains. It is easy to see every detail of the surrounding San Juan National Forest and the Ute Mountain Tribal Territory from this high vantage point, so 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 early summer and the wildflowers bloom late into the season at this high elevation, so a hike here 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, which are interesting to peruse. 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 make this is a cozy little spot to set a spell and take the breathtaking views in!
The Park Point Tower is the first major attraction to be found along the road going into Mesa Verde, so this short hike should be the first activity to opt for when doing a tour. Taking the time to look at the twisted labyrinth of roads and the features of the Mesa Verde terrain from the high Park Point Overlook will be a great help when navigating this National Park during the rest of the day. A lot can be learned about wildfire fighting in this region by visiting this lookout tower too and the panoramic views from up top are what memories are made of!