Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Useful Information

Location: Manitou Springs. 8 km west of Colorado Springs, follow U.S. Highway 24 west, turn right on Cliff Dwellings Road.
Open: JAN to mid-FEB Fri, Sat, Sun 10-16 (call for winter schedule).
Mid-FEB to APR daily 9-17.
MAY to SEP daily 9-18.
OCT to NOV daily 9-17.
DEC daily 10-16.
Closing time is last access, site is open for 90 min more.
Fee: Adults USD 9.50, Children (7-11) USD 7.50, Children (0-6) free, Seniors (60-99) USD 8.50, Seniors (100+) free, Disabled free.
Groups (10+): Adults USD 8.50, Children (7-11) USD 6.50.
Plus tax.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Bibliography: Duane A. Smith (1988): Mesa Verde National Park: Shadows of the Centuries, University Press of Kansas
Tim Blevins et. al. (2009): Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West, in chapter Judith R. Finley: Virgina Donaghe McClurg: Mesa Verde Crusader, p. 83.
Troy R. Lovata (): Archaeology as Built for the Tourists: The Anasazi Cliff Dwellings of Manitou Springs, Colorado, International Journal of Historical Archaeology Volume 15, Number 2, 194-205, DOI: 10.1007/s10761-011-0136-z
Andrew Gullliford ed. (2005): Preserving Western History, University of New Mexico Press, p. 136.
Address: Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum, P.O. Box 272, Manitou Springs, Colorado 80829, Tel: +1-719-685-5242, Free: +1-800-354-9971. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1904 beginning of construction.
1907 opened to the public.



Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
Public Domain.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a replica of Anasazi cliff dwellings, located under a huge overhanging cliff face of red sandstone. The original cliff dwellings are houses built by the Anasazi between 700 and 1,000 years ago in the area of Mesa Verde National Park. This ruins are 20th century replicas, which means they were not created by the Anasazi, but by modern entrepreneurs as a tourist attraction.

There are several legends about their orign on the web. There is the story about being rescued by a Colorado College Archaeological Class from a site that was about to be flooded. Then there is the story, they were copied after the Mesa Verde cliff castles, when the original dwellings became a National Park and thus inaccessible. And the third theory tells about cliff dwellings, found on private land, which were acquired and relocated. The third one is obviously the most unethical explanation, as it would imply destruction of archaeological remains for money. And there is actually no reason to use the rocks from an archaologic site for a replica. Unfortunately this is exactly what happened.

A small glimpse on the history of this site is given by Duane A. Smith in his book on the history of Mesa Verde National Park. He tells that a man named Harold Ashenhurst, head of the Ashenhurst Amusement Company, actually removed a ruin on private land, in Mc Elmo Canyon, south of Dolores, Colorado, to built this site. He was called professor, although he never had an academic degree, and he called this act of vandalizm an excavation. Others called him a "medicine show operator".

Unfortunately he was supported by Virginia McClurg, a woman who became known as the head of a group of women, who fought for the creation of Mesa Verde National Park. It seems she was successful with the creation of the park but later defeated in various decisions by the park management. In her disgust she supported this venture and even became a company stockholder. McClurg intended the replica to interest visitors who could not undertake the arduous trip to Mesa Verde. Ashenhurst promoted the replica as an original, to the disgust of archaeologists and park personnel. (For the details see the online version of the book linked below.)

Until today the management follows the lead of Ashenhurst. They avoid the topic very elegantly on their website, their statements always sound like this were actual Anasazi ruins, while never actually telling so. According to their version the ruins were carefully relocated by William S. Crosby, who owned the site at Manitou Springs. They avoid the name Ashenhurst, his partner, who is not mentioned even once.

The site is a fine place to see the architecture of the Anasazi in a rather comfortable way. The visit is not restricted by the strict protection rules of easily damaged archaeological sites. Enjoy the fact that you are not reprimanded by a Park Ranger if you accidentially leave the track by 10 centimeter. The overhanging cliff with its red rocks is impressive, and there is a nice museum in the pueblo in front of the cliff. Actually we do not understand, why the management is so secretive about their origin. The visitors who just guessed that they have seen a true archaeological site, will learn differently when they are back home. In the age of the internet, the truth is only a few clicks away, and Wikipedia and Roadside America are reliable sources. Many visitors feel fooled or tricked and the comments on sites like tripadvisor are rather blunt.