Little-Known ‘Yucca House’ National Monument in Colorado
Have you ever visited Colorado's? That's okay, neither has anyone else. If you're looking for a "socially distant" getaway, this may be the perfect destination.
You've probably been in the vicinity of this site dozens of times and didn't even know it. I'm certainly guilty. Well, if you're looking to get out and enjoy Colorado while remaining socially distant, this is the ticket.
W. H. Holmes, who created the first map of Yucca House National Monument in 1875 said, “These ruins form the most imposing pile of masonry yet found in Colorado. The whole group covers an area of about 480,000 square feet and has an average depth of from 3-4 feet. This would give in the vicinity of 1,500,000 solid feet of stonework.”
According to a Facebook post from Mesa Verde National Park, the great thing about this site - you can see the landscape the same way early archeologists did, before excavation and stabilization. With that, though, comes a measure of responsibility on behalf of the visitor. There are a handful of things you won't find at the monument:
- no water
- no facilities
- no formal trails
With the absence of formal trails, it's important you minimize your impact. You are asked to walk single file and to keep an eye open so as to avoid stepping on artifacts. According to the Mesa Verde National Park Facebook post, "If you see an artifact, enjoy it, photograph it, marvel at it, but then return it to the exact same spot."
You'll find Yucca House just outside of Cortez, Colorado roughly 21 miles west of Mesa Verde National Park. Depending on which route you take, Yucca House is a little over 200 miles and about four hours from Grand Junction.
Question: Why has this site remained unknown for so long? According to the Yucca House Visitor Guide, Holmes originally named the site Aztec Springs. The website adds, "The site was renamed for its location at the base of Sleeping Ute Mountain to clarify that it was not built by the Aztecs and to avoid confusion with nearby Aztec Ruins National Monument." Utes and other tribes refer to Sleeping Ute Mountain as the mountain with lots of yucca growing on it. Oddly, Yucca House National Monument has no yucca to speak of.
I don't know about you, but I'm long overdue for a socially distant road trip. My last getaway was to Mesa Verde last April. In that case, the entire trip was completed without making contact with another soul.
As a native Coloradoan (I've been here so long I still say Coloradoan, not Coloradan) I feel bad about never having visited this site. It looks fascinating. Perhaps this is the very getaway you've been looking for.