The trailhead for Prater Ridge is located at the west end of Morefield Campgrounds, which is the only campground in Mesa Verde National Park. The trail offers a variety of sections, starting with the climb to the top of Prater Ridge. From there you'll have the option of doing the North Loop or the South Loop for a shorter hike. Both loops are available as an option, and they connect to make a 7.8-mile hike. The North Loop will offer views of Montezuma Valley, while the South Loop offers views of Prater Canyon.
Most of the elevation gain is in the first mile of the hike, which levels off as you continue onto the loop trail(s). In this initial mile, the trail forks, so stay to the left to keep on the trail. To the right is the trail for Knife Edge, which isn't a popular trail, but which is great for sunsets overlooking Montezuma Valley. As you ascend up Prater Ridge, you will have views overlooking the large campgrounds. Keep you eyes open for lizards on the trail because they seem to be everywhere. This is also a great place to see a variety of wildflowers in the late spring and summer.
To continue onto the North Loop, which is recommended, stay to the right at the top of the ridge. You will gain some elevation for the first quarter-mile. The trail levels out and is flat for the rest of the hike before descending back down. Once atop the ridge, 360-degree views are available, with some small juniper trees obstructing certain views. From this point, the trail follows the rim of the canyon, offering views of the below valleys and surrounding canyons and mesas. Trail markers are sparse, so be aware of your surroundings. Several rock cairns will help guide you to the connector trail to the South Loop. However, if you lose the trail, stay near the rim and you will pick up the trail again.
You won't see any cliff dwellings or artifacts of the Pueblo people that are the main attraction of the park, but if you're staying at the campground, this is a beautiful hike that offers excellent views along with peace and quiet. Thunderstorms do move in quickly, so be wary of the weather because much of the hike is exposed.