Located just west of Colorado Springs between Red Rock Canyon and Cave of the Winds, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings occupy a private preserve of Anasazi cliff dwellings in the style of those found at Mesa Verde. Well developed, the site showcases a 40-room Anasazi dwelling that includes a kiva, which visitors can comfortably explore from the convenience of a concrete boardwalk that traverses the extent of the canyon wall ruins.
If it comes as a surprise to find Anasazi ruins this far from Mesa Verde, that’s because the Manitou Cliff Dwellings aren’t located at the original cliff site. In 1904, Virginia McClurg of the Colorado Cliff Dwellers Association contracted for the relocation of a collapsed cliff dwelling site in McElmo Canyon at Mesa Verde in the interest of preserving the sites from looters. At the time, sites like those at McElmo Canyon had no federal protections. McClurg acquired the rights to a portion of the cliff dwelling site and moved them to Cliff Canyon, then called Phantom Canyon. A good-faith effort was made to replicate the architecture of the original dwellings, but important alterations were made to make the new cliff dwelling site more visitor friendly. This includes using a concrete mortar to bind the stones. The result is an archeological experience that approximates an authentic Anasazi cliff dwelling within close reach of Colorado Springs and Denver—but visitors will wander the dark stone rooms with a constant reminder of the modern world.
The massive Pueblo, otherwise known as a visitor center, embellishes the cliff dwelling experience with exhibits of Anasazi history, a museum built into the rock of the canyon, app-guided tours, and a gift shop. Visitors will find it an interesting and enlightening education experience. The Pueblo was built in 1898 and has been expanded three times. Also on the grounds is a picnic area.