The National Park Services includes some famous national parks, historic areas, and national seashores. And yet in southwestern Colorado just a 20-minute drive from Mesa Verde National Park, the Yucca House National Monument is one of the least-visited sites in the national park system. The difficulty in reaching Yucca House National Monument may indicate that the NPS wants to keep it that way. A good GPS system and careful watch on your car's odometer, however, will help you reach this underappreciated site.
The Yucca House National Monument is an unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan surface site. Located between the towns of Towaoc and Cortez, the site served as a center for the Ancestral Puebloan people between about 1150 and 1300. By preserving this site, the hope is that future archeologists will be able to continue studying this society and learn more about what caused its people to migrate from this region in the late 1200s.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this a national monument back in 1919 when the landowner gifted more than nine acres to the government for the purpose.
Today, there is a large complex of nearly 600 rooms (now covered with rubble) called the West Complex, and in it, the Upper House. The nearby Lower House contains some of the only visible standing masonry on the site. It contains about eight rooms. The entire complex is intentionally being left unexcavated.
There are no facilities at Yucca House, so be sure to bring your own water supply when you come. The nearest place to obtain water, food, gas, or lodging is the town of Cortez, about 10 miles away.
The site is in the middle of private land, so directions are complicated and you have to call nearby Mesa Verde National Park (tel. 970/529-4465) to get instructions. You'll have to drive through several livestock gates, opening and then closing them each time, and there are no signs to help you find your way.
Once you arrive at the small parking lot, enter the corral through the gate, then use the stile over the far corral fence to enter the monument.
Admission, Hours and Fees
There are no fees to visit Yucca House. The national monument is open year-round, weather permitting.
Yucca House National Monument (www.nps.gov/yuho; tel. 970/529-4465) The phone number is for nearby Mesa Verde National Park.