Round Trip Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation: 6777 - 6849 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Usage: Hiking - No Dogs
Time: 1 hr.
Facilities: Vault toilet at Balcony House
Trailhead: Soda Canyon Overlook
Fee: $10-$15/vehicle (varies by time of year)
Attractions: Scenic views of canyon and Balcony House
View Mesa Verde Soda Canyon Overlook in a larger map
The Soda Canyon Overlooks trail is located on Chapin Mesa in Mesa Verde National Park. The trail provides access to 3 Soda Canyon overlooks. From one of the overlooks you can see the Balcony House cliff dwellings. This is the only place where visitors can go at Mesa Verde to see the Balcony House without actually going on the guided tour. The Soda Canyon trail can be hiked year round as long as the gate is open on the Cliff Palace Loop Road which should be from about 9 AM to sunset. For more information and for help planning your trip to Mesa Verde National Park check out their website.
The Soda Canyon Overlooks trailhead is on the one-way Cliff Palace Loop Road just past the parking area for the Balcony House. The trail sees quite a few visitors everyday but not so many as to overly congest the area.
There is only about a 70 foot elevation change on this short trail which makes it very easy to hike. It would be advised to carry a little water on a hot day or if you aren't accustomed to the 7000 foot elevation. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to deal with altitudes that you aren't used to.
There are numerous wildflowers on this hike. The Yucca's are always pretty when they are blooming during the late spring and early summer months. The ancient inhabitants of the area would strip the fibers from the yucca leaves to make sandals, mats, ropes and other items. Ropes have been found that were hundreds of feet long. The Anasazi Heritage Center, near Dolores, Colorado, and the Edge of the Cedars State Park, in Blanding, Utah, are a couple of good places to visit to see such items.
As the trail comes near to Soda Canyon there is the start of a loop that will take you to the 3 overlooks. This post follows the loop by going to the Balcony House overlook first which is to the right.
The Balcony House is not only one of the nicest looking ruins in Mesa Verde it is also probably just about the most adventurous tour. If you look in the lower right hand corner of the picture you can see the 32 foot ladder that must be scaled to get up the cliff to the ruins.
In this photo you can make out the tour group that is lined up to go through the tunnel behind the large slab of rock that exits the ruins. On the other side of the rock is a ladder that leads to a set of hewn steps and then one final ladder that reaches up to the top of the mesa. You can click on the picture to enlarge it and see it better or check out the post for the Balcony House for more pictures and information.
The middle overlook has a viewing scope that you can use to look at the ruins in the opposite cliff across the canyon.
This small, well preserved, ruin is directly across the canyon.
The third overlook simply provides another place to view Soda Canyon. A pair of binoculars would be needed to see much of anything other than the landscape.
The Soda Canyon Overlooks trail is a nice short hike to stretch your legs on. There are several other worthwhile short overlook hikes on Chapin Mesa along the Mesa Top Road including the Square Tower House and the Sun Temple. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.