Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Wide view of Cliff Dwellings

Located west of Colorado Springs is an attraction that is sure to capture the interest of any history buff. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings in Manitou Springs, a quaint town nestled in the foothills of Colorado Springs are a perfectly preserved example of the lives of the indigenous people of the Four Corners region.

Guests are invited to not only walk through the dwellings, but touch the walls and artifacts that lay about each room in order to get a thorough understanding of what life was like for the people who lived there. If you find yourself in Colorado Springs and are looking to dive deeper into Colorado’s indigenous history, here is a complete guide to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.

Where Is Manitou Springs?

Manitou Springs lies west of Colorado Springs, just past Garden of the Gods on Highway 24. The easiest way to get to the dwellings is to drive straight there from Colorado Springs, although you can catch a bus that runs hourly from the main bus terminal in the Springs. 

The hours of operation change depending on the time of year, so it’s best to check the cave dwellings website before you head out to make sure they are open. It’s important to note that during the winter, the dwellings are not open daily and are closed Tuesday-Thursday.

Aside from the dwellings, you can also experience the museum, gift shop, snack bar and patio as you make an entire day out of your cave dwelling adventure.

A Quick History

Warm colored stone of Cliff DwellingsThe Manitou Cliff Dwellings are a relocated example of cliff dwellings of the indigenous people of the four corners region of Colorado. Originally set in McElmo Canyon in the southwest corner of Colorado, this example of Anasazi life was carefully moved in the 1900s in order to preserve the history from looters and relic hunters.

Virginia McClurg and William Crosby are credited for safely moving and preserving these cave dwellings from Dolores, Colorado to Manitou Springs. The original dwellings were measured and drawn to scale, and the artifacts were carefully packaged and moved by oxen out of the canyon to Dolores. They were then shipped by railcar to Colorado Springs where they were brought to Manitou Springs by horse and wagon. 

The dwellings were reconstructed using a concrete mix rather than the clay that would have been used by the indigenous inhabitants in order to allow tourists to walk through the dwellings without eroding or damaging the structures.

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are archeological examples of the Taos Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. The main pueblo building was home to a family of dancers that entertained tourists for generations. The family inhabited the dwellings up until 1984.

Other Activities

Detailed view of formation at Cliff DwellingsAside from walking through the dwellings, there are other fun activities to enjoy that will allow you to make an entire day out of your trip to Manitou Springs. On site, you can visit the Anasazi museum to learn more about the people who would have inhabited structures like the ones you just explored. 

There’s also a gift shop where you can purchase original Native American art as well as a snack bar to curb your appetite. Enjoy a quick, scenic nature walk via a few surrounding trails before you call it a day and head back to the Springs.

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