How to Travel From Las Vegas to Mesa Verde National Park by Car and Bus

The Balcony in House Mesa Verde National Park

Zeke Quezada / TripSavvy

Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado is famous for its Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. It's home to at least 5,000 archeological sites dating back to 600 CE. Mesa Verde is a popular side trip from Las Vegas, as it's 379 miles (609 kilometers) away—516 miles (830 kilometers) by road—and between the two are countless other monuments and landmarks at which to marvel. Driving the eight-hour route is the most common way to get there, but taking a bus (or a series of buses, rather) is an option, too.

  Time Cost Best For
Car 8 hours 516 miles (830 kilometers), rental cars starting at $50 per day
 
Sightseeing
Bus 16 hours, 30 minutes $80 Traveling without a rental car

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Las Vegas to Mesa Verde National Park?

The cheapest way to get to Mesa Verde National Park from Las Vegas is to drive. The iconic route will take you through some of the most spectacular sites of the American Southwest, from Monument Valley to the Four Corners. It will also give you the freedom to go at your own pace, stopping roadside for authentic Mexican tacos or Native American souvenirs as frequently as you please. You can rent a car for around $50 a day from Las Vegas. Ideally, you would split this cost with friends and spend at least a few days traveling out and back again. Keep in mind that seven-day entry into the national park costs $20 per car from May 1 to October 31 and $15 per car during all other times of the year.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Las Vegas to Mesa Verde National Park?

The cheapest way to get from Las Vegas to Mesa Verde is also the fastest. Whereas public transportation and group tour buses can take 16-plus hours, driving yourself takes only eight. This, however, doesn't include all the stops you're bound to make for photos, hiking, and the like. The fastest route from Vegas to Mesa Verde is to take Interstate 15 north to Utah, then get on State Route 59, which turns into State Route 389 in Arizona. Highway 89 will take you from the quirky desert town of Kanab to Page, then the 160 will take you through Cortez, Colorado, to the entrance of the park.

Is There a Bus That Goes From Las Vegas to Mesa Verde National Park?

You can travel by bus from Las Vegas to Mesa Verde National Park, but it's more expensive than renting a car, less comfortable, and takes about twice the time. First, you would take a Greyhound from the Las Vegas Bus Station to Grand Junction, Colorado. This takes about 10 hours and starts at $50 per ticket. Then, you would transfer onto another Greyhound to go to Cortez, which is the closest city to Mesa Verde. This takes another 4 hours, 45 minutes and costs another $30. From Cortez, you can arrange for a tour of the national park or take a 50-minute taxi, which could cost $100 or more each way. Altogether, the trip would take about 16 and a half hours. Alternatively, you could join a multi-day group coach tour of the broader Southwest with Mesa Verde as one stop.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Mesa Verde National Park?

Mesa Verde receives about 600,000 visitors every year and the bulk of them come during the summer months. Summertime is when many Americans have time off of work and school, but it's the worst time to visit the Southwest because of the heat. Places like Mesa Verde experience highs of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the month of July. It's much more comfortable to walk around in the desert during September, after the Labor Day crowd has died off.

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Mesa Verde National Park?

The route from Las Vegas to Mesa Verde National Park will already put you in the direction of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Kanab, Utah—home to the famous sandstone rock formation known as The Wave, which requires a permit to visit—and Page, Arizona, home of the Antelope Canyon and other slot canyons. You could easily spend a day in each. Afterward, it's worth taking a short detour to drive through the towering sandstone buttes of Monument Valley, Utah. After passing through Monument Valley, drive back down south to stop by the Four Corners Monument—where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet—before arriving at your destination.

What Time Is It in Mesa Verde National Park?

Mesa Verde is in a different time zone than Las Vegas. Las Vegas adheres to the Pacific Time Zone and Mesa Verde adheres to the Mountain Time Zone, one hour ahead. The time will change after you drive over the Nevada border into Utah.

What Is There to Do in Mesa Verde National Park?

Mesa Verde National Park is home to 5,000 known archeological sites, including its star feature of 600 cliff dwellings. The most famous of them is called the Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The 150-room palace is thought to have been built sometime around 1190 CE and abandoned by 1300.

You can observe this wonder from across a ravine or you can get a more up-close view by doing the .7-mile (round trip) ranger-led hike. This takes about one hour and requires climbing a series of short ladders in a steep, narrow canyon. If hiking through the desert isn't your thing, you can take in the sites from inside your car via the six-mile Mesa Top Loop Road.

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