Visitors at the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park, located south of Cortez, have a chance to see a rare location this summer — but spots on the limited tours are filling up quickly.
Veronica Cuthair, director of the tribal park, said the tours occur on four Sundays in July and August and one is already full. Another special occurs on Memorial Day during the seventh annual Tribal Park Open House, which includes trips to several ruins. Regular tours run from March through October.
“We have a combination of Anasazi, or ancestral Puebloan sites, and we have Ute sites with Ute pictographs,” Cuthair said. “It’s the same terrain as Mesa Verde, but our (park) is noncommercial.”
The rare Pool Canyon tour begins with a drive through Mesa Verde National Park, then visitors hike approximately three miles round trip to four cliff dwellings. Gustaf Nordenskold, an early explorer, named the sites at the end of the 19th century.
Each participant should be in good physical condition and is responsible for bringing
adequate hiking gear, at least a gallon of water and lunch. The tour costs $60 and an additional $12 for transportation. It begins at the Ute Mountain Pottery plant, south of Cortez, at 8:15 a.m.
Cuthair said the normal tours offered at the 125,000-acre park are limited to less than 30 people per tour guide and all guides share the Ute Mountain Ute heritage.
“You get a personalized type of tour out here. You really get to know your Indian guide, and it’s unusual compared to Mesa Verde National Park,” she said.
A full-day tour at the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park covers more than 80 miles of dirt and gravel roads, includes a hiking section and a climb on five ladders to visit four preserved cliff dwellings. Other tour options include half-day and private trips. The park also has a campground.
For more information, visit Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park.