Round Trip Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Moderate - Strenuous
Elevation: 6476 - 7005 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Usage: Hiking - No Dogs
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Facilities: Flush toilets, museum, restaurant, gift shop
Trailhead: Chapin Mesa Museum
Fee: $10-$15/vehicle (varies by time of year)
Attractions: Scenic canyon hike
View Mesa Verde Spruce Canyon in a larger map
The Spruce Canyon trail is located on the Chapin Mesa within Mesa Verde National Park. The trail descends Spruce Tree Canyon to Spruce Canyon where it follows the seasonal stream up the canyon for almost 3/4 of a mile before climbing a side canyon back up to the top of the mesa. The trail is closed during the winter months and whenever the gate is locked so you may want to check out the Mesa Verde National Park website before coming to help you plan your visit. Other hikes in the museum area on Chapin Mesa include the Spruce Tree House and Petroglyph Point trails.
To get to the trailhead for Spruce Canyon begin near the museum on Chapin Mesa and follow the signs for Spruce Tree House. You might also want to consider going into the museum and registering for the hike rather than registering at the trailhead since you will not be returning to the trailhead at the end of the hike.
After following the Spruce Tree House trail for almost a quarter mile take the right fork in the trail that drops further into the canyon.
There is a trail register at the trailhead for the Spruce Canyon and Petroglyph Point trails. Since it asks you to sign in when you start and sign out when you finish it makes more sense to register at the museum if it's open.
The Spruce Canyon and Petroglyph Point trails go their separate ways at a point that is almost a half mile from the parking area.
The nice wide trail is a pure delight to hike as it gradually descends the side of the canyon wall.
The descent into the canyon eventually gets more aggressive as the trail begins switch-backing down the mountainside.
Each time the trail crosses from one side of the canyon to the other there are wooden bridges. The trail and the bridges in the Spruce Tree Canyon part of the hike are wide enough to get a 4-wheel ATV down. There weren't any tracks from an ATV but perhaps they use them to fight fires.
At the point where Spruce Tree Canyon crosses into Spruce Canyon the trail turns sharply to the right and begins a gradual climb. The nice wide trail continues down the canyon and there are no signs telling you to keep out. The map shows that the road eventually connects with other trails that lead to other ruins.
The trail up the canyon is pleasant to hike and easy to follow. The trail is only a single track at this point and it climbs at a gradual slope gaining back just under 200 feet of elevation over about 7 tenths of a mile.
At the point that the trail crosses over to the side canyon and begins its final ascent the climbing increases to where it gains 300 more feet of elevation over the next 4 tenths of a mile to where it tops out on the mesa near the picnic area. The trail climbing out of the canyon is primitive in comparison to the trail coming down from Spruce Tree House with more loose dirt and rocks.
When the trail gets to the top of the mesa simply follow the signs back to the museum.
The Spruce Canyon trail is a nice break from all the hustle and bustle of most of the cliff dwelling sites at Mesa Verde. The trail probably only sees a few hikers each day so you should be able to look forward to a very relaxed hike. If you are accustomed to hiking around Colorado you will probably feel that this hike only requires a moderate effort whereas if you aren't used to the altitude it will probably feel more strenuous. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.