When we visited in 2004, we started our day in the park with the Cliff palace Tour. We lined the two tours (Cliff palace and Balcony House) back to back. You must buy advance tickets from the visitor's center. The ranger argued a lot about this and was greatly concerned that we would miss the second tour if we did not hurry after the Cliff Palace tour and even then we still might miss it. A ranger at the Cliff Palace laughed when we told him this and said it is about a mile down the road and we had plenty of time. We cold relax and have fun. We found the second ranger's story to be true and unfortunately it was a bit late as we left the Cliff Palace tour immediately instead of hanging around the site. So take that experience and apply it to what you may decide to do during your visit.

the crowd waits

When we got to the tour site we met "the smiling ranger" (we forgot her name) who was very nice and had good information about the place. She was going to be our tour guide and we considered ourselves lucky. Then another ranger showed up and they did not know what to do as both were assigned this tour. The new one finally told the first one that she was prepared and therefore she would take us.

The new ranger guide started out the tour telling us about herself and how she pondered how she could ever fit all the information about this site into a short tour. I suppose she never noticed the irony in that. When she was done talking about herself, we (all 60 people in the group) walked down to the edge of the site and waited. This gave us some time to look at the site with the previous group inside. It did help to give us a point of reference so that we could see how large this place actually was.

the palace kivas from above

The guide caught up and then talked about the history of the place for a while and then we got to go into the site. We learned that this was probably a common area like a town center rather than an apartment complex which was new information from my visit 8 years ago. The tour was educational, but we think different guides tell different angles so it might be interesting to do more than one trip to this site. I had a Pueblo guide the last time and he talked about the agriculture of the times and how some of that is still practiced today.

So there were plusses and minuses to this tour. I think the minuses were simply that we caught the busy season and in the late fall it would have been a bit quieter. The pluses were that the site was incredible and we did learn about the culture and the history beyond what was printed on the brochure. We recommend this visit, but with a note that in the summer it can be a packed trip and you can not take your own time. At the very least, try to see this site from the viewing station where the tour begins.