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Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park

Distance2.43 mi
Elevation Gain525 ft
My Time1 hr 1 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownCortez
Food NeabyFar View Terrace

Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park

Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park is one of the parks earliest hikes upon entering. It is near the campground and gives hikers and visitors some amazing views of the surrounding mesas and mountain ranges as well as a view of the valley below.

Mesa Verde is in Montezuma County in Colorado and is part of my ongoing attempt to hike in every county in the state. Montezuma makes 29 of 63 counties so I am closing in on half way there!

Getting Started

The Point Lookout trail is located just past the Morfield campground in Mesa Verde National Park. There is a large parking lot at the end of Hopi road and the trail starts on the northern corner where you come in. The start of the hike is really easy and flat. About the first two tenths of a mile are flat walking next to a mesa and some nice plants and wildflowers. After the quick flat section it is time to start the incline up the mesa and the hardest part of the hike.

The backside of a cliff and the start of the hike to Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park.
The view from the start of the Point Lookout Trail at Mesa Verde National park

Climbing the Mesa

Once the incline begins it doesn’t really stop. You will head up a series of tight switchbacks that stay pretty consistent at a 15% grade until you reach the top of the mesa. The switchbacks last about a half mile and will take you up around 450 feet of elevation gain in that half mile. The cliff that you see at the beginning of the hike turns into a nice measuring tool.

A photo from about halfway up the trail as judged by being halfway up the mesa across the valley on the hike to Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park.
Judging Progress against the Other Mesa on the Point Lookout Trail in Mesa Verde National Park

Each time you head up on the northern switchbacks you will get a view of the cliff and the Sleeping Ute peak in the distance. It is a great way to judge how far along the incline you have gone! The good news is once you get to the topside of the mesa the trail goes back to being pretty flat. So, once you make it up this part you can take a bit of a break.

The Topside Views

When you reach the top the trail flattens out and becomes a really enjoyable walk on top of the mesa. The top of the mesa, like most of the hike, is pretty exposed to the elements with not much shade so make sure you are prepared for that.

The views from the top of the mesa are pretty expansive of the valley below and mountain ranges on the east and west sides of the trail. This was the spot of the trail I needed to take quite a few breaks just to enjoy the views (and catch my breath from the trip up the mesa!)

A view of a mountain ranges under cloudy skies and a valley in front from the top of the mesa on the hike to Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park.
One of the views from the top of the Mesa on the Point Lookout Trail at Mesa Verde National Park

The top portion of the mesa is about a half mile from when you make it up there until you reach Point Lookout. The walk has a small incline towards the Point but nothing challenging after making it up to the top. The views continue for most of the time on top of the mesa and make this really enjoyable.

Point Lookout

Once you make it to Point Lookout you are probably thinking that the views can’t get much better. However, you are wrong. The views from the Point are stunning. On one side there is a line of mesa’s leading to the Ute Mountains. in front of you is the valley and to the right is another line of mountains. It is truly a special place and an amazing view. I kept walking back and forth to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There are more photos in the gallery below of the views from the Point.

The view from the final stop on the hike to Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National park. The view is of a line of mesa's with a valley to the right and the Ute Mountains in the distance.
The view from the Point on the Point Lookout Trail at Mesa Verde National Park

After spending some time at the Point I made my way back to finish the out and back. The trip down the switchbacks is actually a little tricky as the loose dirt and the 15% grades make footing a little tough if you don’t have good footwear or get moving too fast.

This was a great trail and one that I am glad I did early in the morning. The clouds and cool air made for a really enjoyable time and the views were so much nicer than I expected. It really started my day off on a great note!

Video of Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park

I have put together this time lapse video of the hike to Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park. It is designed to give you a feel for the hike and trail. If you enjoy this hike make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. It is free to subscribe and you will get the first updates when there is new content available.

Distance and Elevation

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 2.43 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 525 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 8,433 feet. I was also moving for a total of 1 hour 1 minutes.

Effort

The Point Lookout hike in Mesa Verde is relatively short but has some steep switchbacks. The switchbacks are pretty tight and have some loose dirt which makes hiking down just as tricky as hiking up. I am going to rank this as a moderate hike as the switchbacks can cause some slowdowns and present a challenge.

Terrain

The trail to Point Lookout is combination of rock and some sandy dirt. The trial is pretty flat at the beginning and at the top of the mesa but on the switchbacks the trail can get steep and a bit challenging. The rocks are smaller and some of them are loose adding another degree of difficulty. The loose dirt makes the descent a bit tricky as well and you really have to watch your footing.

Access

The trail for Point Lookout at Mesa Verde National Park is located just past the Morfield Campground in the park. At the end of the road there is a large parking lot and that is where the trail starts. There is a $30 fee in summer and $20 dollar fee in winter for a car to enter the park. You can see more of the fee schedule here. No restroom facilities were available at the trailhead.

Wrapping up the Point Lookout trail at Mesa Verde NP

Point Lookout Trail at Mesa Verde National Park was a great introduction to the park. While the beginning of the hike is a little flat and doesn’t have a lot of views, that doesn’t last long and before you are on your way up the hill and the views start to get better with every step.

The top of the mesa is beautiful and has views in every direction. I got into Cortez in the dark so this was my first experience seeing any of the surrounding terrain and I was blown away. The mesa was impressive and the distant peaks that formed a ring around the valley were stunning. If you have time and the skill I really recommend doing it first to get a feel of what the park has to offer.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to my interactive map page that you can find here. If you have a suggestion or comment you can email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. Or follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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