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Manitou Cliff Dwellings

A step back in time

Article and photos by Liz Jurkowski

Many of us have been to Mesa Verde, where massive cliff depressions housed the buildings and homes of Native American groups who inhabited much of the southwest many centuries ago. While Mesa Verde National Park is well worth the drive to the southwestern corner of Colorado, if you are interested in seeing the same type of majestic ruins much closer to home, then travel only a short distance away to Manitou Springs.

Just east of town on Highway 24, very near the entrance to the Cave of the Winds, there are some of the most remarkable cliff dwelling ruins Colorado has to offer. The ruins within the cliffs are a site to see themselves, but the entrance ticket also includes the ancient pueblo building, which now houses two museums and a gift shop.

The Cliff Dwellings of Manitou Springs have been a tourist destination since 1907, when the local tribe allowed visitors to enter their pueblo to observe native traditions and ceremonies. The structures were built by the Ancestral Puebloans (many people still call them the Anasazi) and were inhabited continuously from the eighth century until the late 1300s.

Still privately owned, the dwellings and museums rely on entrance fees and revenue from the gift shop to stay open. The trip there from Castle Pines is definitely worth it. After two hours there, grab a bite to eat and do some window shopping in downtown Manitou Springs where businesses are trying to rebuild after the devastating flood from early August. Whatever your schedule, plan a day trip to the cliff dwellings. You will not be disappointed.

For information, directions, and hours of operation, visit www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com.

The cliff dwellings site at Manitou Springs not only has outstanding ruins, but also a large pueblo as seen in the background.

Unlike Mesa Verde National Park, visitors are allowed to walk in and around the cliff dwellings at Manitou Springs.

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