The focal point for most visitors is Pueblo Bonito, the largest prehistoric Indian dwelling ever excavated in the Southwest. However, the biggest thrill and highlight of our visit was the walk along the cliff on the Pueblo Alto trail to get an aerial view of Pueblo Bonito. Don’t worry, everything will be fine, as long as you’re not claustrophobic or afraid of heights!
Brief history of Chaco National Historical Park Culture
After driving through the arid desert landscape, it is hard to believe that this area was a bustling, bustling city some 1,000 years ago. The inhabitants were the Anasazi (Elders), ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians (Rio Grande Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, etc.).
We are at the top of the Pueblo Bonito lookout!
It is thought that the Anasazi were already present in 1500 BC. Chr. have begun. Chr. lived in the Four Corners area. Moreover, from about 200 n. Chr. to 1300 AD. The Anasazi founded many important settlements in the area, including Navajo National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Chaco Cultural National Historical Park.
The Anasazi lived in a variety of structures, ranging from stone houses and small pits to large, massive houses. What makes the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park so special is that it was created at a time when culture and social development were flourishing. In terms of historical significance and uniqueness, the Chaco is often compared to the ancient city of Rome, the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge.
Anasazi, who lived in the Chaco Canyon, now called Chaco. Moreover, their society flourished from 1000 to 1150 AD. Chr. auf. The inhabitants of the Chaco built 16 large complexes of sandstone slabs, adobe mortar, and wood imported from remote mountain areas.
We could walk hand in hand through Pueblo Bonito without meeting anyone!
The Pueblo Bonito, which was considered a large house, was a massive building with walls three feet thick and nearly 50 feet high. The impressive stonework attracted other tribal members. Thus, Chaco soon became an epicenter for the Anasazi and served as the main center for trade, ceremonies, and governance. These Chaco complexes are the largest buildings before the 19th century. They were built in North America in the 19th century.
In addition to technological advances, they created sophisticated astronomical facilities that allowed them to accurately track equinoxes, solstices, and moon phases, and measure time. This allowed the Chacoans to predict the movements of the planets, stars, moon and sun.
Pueblo Alto Trail offers epic views of the Yellow House.
Many visitors to the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park leave amazed at the scale of the buildings constructed. Others leave impressed, knowing nothing of the cultural and technological achievements that took place in North America before the arrival of Europeans. If you are interested in the history of the Chaco, you might be interested in the Meridian Chaco or House of Rain sections: Follow a vanished civilization in the American Southwest before visiting the park.
7 amazing things to see in Chaco Cultural National Historical Park
The remote location of Chaco Cultura National Historical Park makes it an ideal place to enjoy history, nature, solitude and the night sky. For these reasons, Chaco Canyon is an ideal destination for hiking, biking, and camping.
Chaco is also a great place to observe wildlife!
For most first-time visitors to the Chaco, the highlight of the visit is exploring the ancient ruins. Below are seven great things to see in Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
1. Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito is the most important, famous and best studied place in the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park. The first Spanish explorers called the massive house Pueblo Bonito because it looked like a beautiful village. Pueblo Bonito is therefore considered a must-see and a highlight of the canyon.
Visitors can visit the remains of Chaco’s largest and most beautiful home on the mile-long walking trail. First of all, the construction of the Pueblo Bonito began around 850 AD. Chr. and lasted about 300 years. When finished, the huge complex covered three acres, was five stories high and had about 800 rooms.
Pueblo Bonito was the center of the Chaco world and was built in the shape of a semicircle. There are many kivas in the central square. These were circular, semi-underground chambers that archaeologists believe were used for religious, political and economic ceremonies. The large kivas are also much larger than the standard kivas and are only used for the most important ceremonies.
The large Chaco kiva has four seats on the roof supports, niches in the wall, a circular bench, two vaults on each side, and a raised fireplace in the middle. Finally, the rectangular rooms are used for housing and storage of the environment.
Pueblo Bonito Review
I plan to spend about an hour exploring the ruins. Afterwards, you can enjoy the beautiful views from the lovely house on the Pueblo Alto trail. The trail starts at the parking lot of Pueblo del Arroyo and goes behind Kin Cletso or Yellow House.
This short 3-mile hike was the highlight of our visit to the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park. To reach the top of the cliff, hikers must pass through a surprisingly steep and narrow gorge.
After the climb, the remaining 3,5 km to the viewpoint are fairly flat. Set aside at least an hour for the walk. Don’t forget to leave your permit (which is in the locker next to the trailers) on the dashboard of your car.
2. Chetro Ketl
The Chetro Ketl is the second largest folly and is located just outside of Pueblo Bonito on the 9 mile Canyon Loop Road. It is believed that the D-shaped structure, which has about 400 pieces, was used for large ceremonies.
From the parking lot for Chetro Ketl, visitors have easy access to Chetro Ketl, the Petroglyph Trail, and Pueblo Bonito.
It is estimated that 50 million sandstone slabs, 26,000 trees and 500,000 man hours were needed to build Chetro Ketl. At nearly an acre, Chetro Ketl is the largest house in the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park by area.
A 1.5 km trail leads visitors through the ruins of Chetro Ketl. Highlights of the tour include a large, well-preserved kiva, raised kivas and several hundred feet of intact wall around the perimeter. Schedule a half-hour visit to the Chetro boiler.
3. Petroglyph Way
After your visit to Chetro Ketl you should definitely visit the path with the petroglyphs. A small path runs along the cliff between Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito and shows several petroglyphs.
On your walk, look up and down as there are petroglyphs along the cliffs. Archaeologists suspect that the highest petroglyphs were made by standing on roofs or using ladders. The holes in the wall indicate that some sort of heavy beam was used to secure the building to the cliff.
Because of the size and height of the rock paintings, it is advisable to bring binoculars the size of a train or a good quality zoom camera. Allow about 20 minutes to walk the petroglyph path, which is 3 km long.
4. Pueblo del Arroyo
Pueblo del Arroyo is the last major stop on the 10-mile Canyon Loop Road. It is believed that the house had about 300 rooms and 17 kivas. The name of the big house in the shape of the letter D means the village by the wash house.
Do you see the unusual three-walled construction? So far, only 10 such structures have been discovered in the Southwest. It’s actually a pretty unique place south of the San Juan River.
The fourth largest house in the Chaco, the Pueblo del Arroyo, is unique in that it is the only large house not built on a cliff. It is also the only one that faces east instead of south. Archaeologists believe it was built to explain the overcrowding of the Bonito Pueblo.
The walls of the Pueblo del Arroyo are well preserved. This level of preservation allows visitors to get an idea of what the ruins originally looked like.
The attractions of the Pueblo del Arroyo include a rare structure with three shells that are said to have been used for ceremonial purposes, vaults in the shape of keyholes and well-preserved walls. Given the proximity of the parking lot, you should expect to walk about 20-30 minutes around the Pueblo del Arroyo.
5. Casa Rinconada
Because Casa Rinconada is not built in a large complex, it is a particularly large kiva. Instead, he stands alone at the top of a small hill.
At about 70 feet in diameter, the Casa Rinconada is one of the largest known knots. Unlike typical large kivas where the roof is at ground level, Casa Rinconada is partially above ground.
Do you see the interesting T-shaped gate and the underground corridor that leads to the centre of the large kiva?
Two other interesting aspects of the Casa Rinconada are two T-shaped south-north entrances and an underground passageway. This secret passageway would allow officials to enter and exit the kiva through the entrances.
The trail to Casa Rinconada is 0.5 miles long and passes through a small Chaco village. As a result, hikers in Chaco can see a wide range of buildings and architectural styles. Allow about 45 minutes for the visit of the Casa Rinconada.
6. Hungo Pavi
Hungo Pavi is one of the first major stops when leaving the visitor center. Although it has not been excavated, it is an impressive and beautiful house that can be visited in the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park and gives a glimpse of what these structures looked like before excavations began.
The ruins contain an enclosed plaza, a large kiva and about 140 rooms. Moreover, the large house was probably three stories high and D-shaped. Allow about 15 to 20 minutes for the visit to Hungo Pavi.
7. Una Vida en Fajada Gap Petroglyphs
The Visitor Center is the first stop for most visitors to the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park. Visitors can buy souvenirs, including guidebooks, for each visit inside. Just outside the centre is a 1.6km footpath to Una Vida, with several rock paintings.
Una Vida will not be dug up. But if this is your first stop, be prepared for what awaits you!
Una Vida and the shelter are located in the Fajad Gorge. One of the most remarkable elements to be seen along the route is the Fajada hill, which makes the landscape seem like it comes from another world.
Along with the Pueblo Bonito, Una Vida is one of the oldest large houses and the fifth largest with about 160 rooms. The largely intact section is irregularly D-shaped and contains four caves and one or two large burrows. The walk takes 45 minutes to 1 hour.
8. Bonus: Fajada Butte
Perhaps the most famous natural feature of Chaco Canyon is the Fayada Butte. In fact, for most visitors, this is the first thing they notice when they enter the park.
Fajada Butte dominates the landscape and welcomes visitors to Chaco Cultural National Historical Park.
For various reasons, visitors are not allowed to enter or even come close to the isolated hill. These include the fact that it is considered a sacred site by local tribes, that there is no maintained path to the top and that it is very fragile. There is also a series of spiral petroglyphs, known as the Sun Dagger, which make this one of the most special places in the park.
The Chacoans had a sophisticated knowledge of the planetary system and used the location of the solar dagger to integrate the spiritual and physical worlds, create ritual calendars, and plan agriculture. Specifically, the Chacoans used spiral petroglyphs to record the solstice and equinox and to track the 18.6-year lunar cycle.
Unfortunately, the Solar Dagger site no longer functions as it once did due to the shifting and erosion of the plate rock. That’s why it’s best to enjoy it from afar!
Accommodations near Chaco
While traveling on Route 66, we visited the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park. The closest overnight accommodations south of Route 66 are in Gallup and Grant, about 90 miles away. The closest options are usually to the north, in Bloomfield, about 60 miles from the park.
As you can see, Chaco is far away. In fact, many believe that the park would be one of the most popular in the country if it were not so difficult to access. For example, the last 30 km to the park (coming from the south) is on a winding road.
Even with all the obstacles, the park is still worth a visit. Below you can find the best accommodation options near Chaco.
Grants/Gallup (Route 66/I-40)
Budget: Comfort Suites (Comfortable)
Middle Class : El Rancho Hotel (the historic Route 66 hotel we stayed at!)
luxury: Fairfield Inn & Suites (pool and hot tub)
Bloomfield/Farmington (US Hwy 64)
Budget: Super 8 by Wyndham (Great staff)
Middle class: Best Western Plus Territorial Inn & Suites (pool and hot tub)
Luxury : Home2 Suites (fitness center and pool)
Finally, camping can be done at the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park. The Gallo Campground, located east of the Visitor Center, offers camping, tent and car sites.
The camp is located in the eastern part of the Chaco Cultural National Historical Park.
Below is a map of the Pueblo Alto route.
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frequently asked questions
What is Chaco Canyon famous for?
Chaco Canyon was the main center of the ancient Pueblo culture. Known for its spiritual buildings, extraordinary architecture, astronomy, and artistic achievements, it has served as a center of ceremony, commerce, and government for the Four Corners region as never before or since.
What was found in Chaco Canyon?
About 200,000 pieces of turquoise have been excavated from the Chaco Canyon ruins. These turquoise and argillite (red) inlay fragments were found in Pueblo Alto.
Is Chaco Canyon open during Covid?
It is scheduled to open in April 2021. Visit https://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm for updates. … Chaco was 850 n. Chr. to 1200 A.D. Chr. the center of the ancestral Pueblo culture.
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