Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Ancient Balcony House

When viewed from across the canyon, Balcony House in Mesa Verde National Park looks impossible to get to.

But a sign at the trailhead explains how it's done.

The steps down and walking along the ledge are "no big deal."

Then you get to the 32-foot ladder.

But still "no big deal" except that the air is kind of thin up here at 8000 feet.

This is the balcony that Balcony House is named for. By taking core samples of the log beams, they have determined that the balcony was built in the 13th century.

The second room has several "kivas," round ceremonial rooms that were originally covered. They think that each clan had its own kiva.

Look out! Don't step back!

Why did these ancient ones move from homes on the mesa tops to cliff dwellings underneath the ledges? The theory is that as food and water became scarcer, the need to protect them became more important.

Back in its day, Balcony House had only one entrance, which was our exit. It was easy to guard.

Only 18 inches wide and 12 feet long, it was a tight squeeze.

But the hardest part was getting your feet out first, so you don't have to take a dive.

If you want to go on the tour, and are worried about getting stuck midway, they have a "virtual tunnel" at the visitor's center.

But you aren't done yet! Another ladder -

A 60-foot climb along an open face rock, and yet another ladder, and you're done!


  1. Fantastic, but clearly not for the faint of heart.

  2. Wow what a great tour ~ I am sure my wide hips would NOT make it!!!
    Have fun

  3. My friends Wendy and Al are seasonal rangers there. I wonder if one of them was your tour guide?

  4. So THAT's what I missed! I had bought a tour ticket for Balcony House, but hadn't bothered reading the description of the trail until 15 minutes before the tour. The ladders didn't scare me, but the 18" wide tunnel sure did! Glad you provided a virtual tour for what I missed! I've got some pics of the Cliff Palace tour on my blog if you're interested in that one under (August, 2011). Mesa Verde was a fascinating place!

  5. Thanks for the great virtual tour, Diana. You've save me the pain of making it up the ladders and through the tunnel and a threat to my claustrophia!

  6. Okay - another one of those places that I'm sure glad you took us along with you because it won't ever happen in my life. Heights, ladders, hips - no way.

  7. When buying tickets for the different tours the park ranger said if you were afraid of heights this was not recommended. My husband said 'but we are on an adventure'! As I got near the top of the first ladder I had a little panic attack and couldn't move. The ranger called down and said that the oldest person to do the complete tour was 92....after that humiliating encouragement I finished the whole 'adventure'!! It is our favorite memory of the park!!! Stunning views!!
    missy from the bayou

  8. What a fascinating place. Great idea to have a virtual tunnel for people to test out before they get to the real thing.

  9. What a great tour - I can't imagine people from that time actually building this place in the rocks - so high. I wonder how long it took them to complete? Thanks for the virtual tour! :)

  10. LOL .. I LOVE the trial tube to crawl through! Great idea!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  11. Thanks for the memories. We've done the tour three times and, as we get older, it is more challenging, but still an adventure. We are currently a few hours north of there. We did Colorado National Monument today, including a couple of short, but interesting trails. I'm not trying to keep up with this trip on my blog, but Karen is on hers at Thanks, Donna. I’ve started on the videos and slides for this trip, but I’m not trying to keep up as we go. Too many times away from internet and too many photos to post-process. Karen is blogging as we go at her blog, .

  12. Oops-- I pasted too much in the comment from "Thanks, Donna" to "at her blog" was not intended to be included... sorry. :(

  13. A very interesting post,and something new for me, thanks. It never ceases to amaze me how sophisticated they were all those years ago. I think I would have over come my fear of tight spaces and gone through the tunnel, just to experience the site.

  14. Your visual tour and description was enough for me..I hate both heights and tight spaces..shudder.
    Seeing the wonder of these structures would, however, be wonderful - glad you did it for me!

  15. Amazing to think they had to drag all the building stones through that little passageway and then up.

    I guess you can do amazing things when you don't have TVs, cellphones and other stuff to take up your time. ;c)


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