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National park tips: These Colorado ladders and tunnel will challenge you

National park tips: These Colorado ladders and tunnel will challenge you
Tourist climb the tall ladder at Balcony House, a cliff dwelling in Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

For a medium-sized thrill at Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park, you climb the four short ladders that take you into Cliff Palace, a cliff dwelling with 150 rooms.

But for a big thrill, you head for Balcony House. Travelers who sign up for that tour confront a 100-foot staircase, a 32-foot ladder and a 12-foot-long tunnel that's about 18 inches wide.

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And near the end, there's another 60 feet of climbing up ladders and steps carved into the cliff face.

In honor of this year's National Park Service centennial, the Travel section is posting 100 park travel ideas and tips based on trips staff travel writer Christopher Reynolds has taken, along with photo-op advice from Times photographer Mark Boster. We'll post one per day through Dec. 31.

Follow Reynolds on Twitter: @MrCSReynolds

See travel videos by Reynolds from around the world.

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