There are so many reasons to visit Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. This area of New Mexico is home to an amazing network of pueblo ruins built by ancient Anasazi people that date back to AD 850. Chaco Canyon contains the largest collection of Puebloan ruins in North America. A trip here is perfect for both history enthusiasts and outdoor buffs.
The Chaco Culture National Historic Park (NHP) is the perfect getaway to explore the distinctive architecture, ruins and ancient roads of this major center of Puebloan culture. Explore the park through the day or enjoy a night in the canyon camping and stargazing. The choice is yours!
Things to do in Chaco Canyon
Ranger tours at Chaco Canyon
The best way to explore the canyon is with a knowledgeable guide. The Chaco Canyon NHP ranger-led tours offer fantastic insights into Chacoan history and life along with their interest about astronomy. The major runs within the Chaco Canyon can be explored through these tours. It’s a great way to understand the history of the ancient Puebloans.
If you want to go solo, that’s a great option too. There is a 9-mile paved loop around the most well preserved great houses. With options for parking near each site. Signs provide information as you walk in and around the ruins. Due to Chaco Canyons, remote location chances are you will have the place to yourself, especially if you visit during the week.
Hiking in Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon offers some great hiking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. The most common trails within the park are Wijiji Trail, South Mesa Trail, Penasco Blanco Trail, and the Pueblo Alto Trail, ranging from three to eight miles. Get hold of a trail guide booklet at the Visitor Center before you start your hike, and irrespective of the trail you choose, your hike will give you the chance to experience a unique landscape in the midst of ruins unlike anywhere else in the world.
Biking in the Canyon
If you want to cover more ground, opt for bicycling around the sites. The 9-mile paved loop drive is a great way to begin. Each main site has parking options, and a few of the sites you can cover are the Hungo Pavi, Pueblo del Arroyo, Casa Rinconada, Pueblo Bonito, and Cheto Ketl.
Night Sky Programs at Chaco Canyon
Go up a notch with this one, and sign up for a Night Sky Program offered at the park. Available on weekends and special celestial events through the year, the program offers presentations on archaeoastronomy, cultural history and viewing of celestial bodies through telescopes. If you are mesmerized by night skies, you’re already at the best place in all of USA to stargaze!
Camping Chaco Canyon
While it is possible to visit the Canyon on a day trip camping is a fun option. The park offers camping facilities at the Gallo Campground, with 48 individual campsites. Located near a small cave ruin there are no shaded areas so come prepared. The campsites offer picnic tables and fire grates. Come well equipped there are no stores in the canyon and its a long drive if you forgot to pack an item.
Location: northwestern New Mexico. Chaco Canyon can only be visited by driving on dirt roads. The best route is from the North via US 550. The turnoff is 3 miles southeast of Nageezi. This route is clearly signed from US 550 to the park boundary (21 miles). The route includes 8 miles of paved road and 13 miles of rough dirt road. Park Website.