There is a rough 21 mile road leading to Chaco, but we saw several fifth wheel and campers that were able to make the drive. Our camper van Humphrey shook a lot, but we have made the trip to Chaco a number of times without incident. Map showing route off Hwy 550
|The first 8 miles of the road is paved (CR 7900)|
|As you turn onto CR7950, the 13 mile dirt road becomes rougher|
|The washboard gets heavier as you progress toward the park|
|There is an arroyo that the Park Service suggests you do not|
drive through this wash if there is any standing water
|Looking up the arroyo as we crossed over|
|The final 4 1/2 miles are really rough and rutted, but passable with care.|
The park is designated a World Heritage Site and an International Dark Sky Park. There are wonderful hikes among ancient ruins, amazing geology and the best night sky viewing we have ever seen.
Gallo Campground (inside the park) is the only place to camp. It is on a reservation system through www.recreation.gov. You must make reservations at least three days prior to your visit. This is a campground where it is very wise to have reservations. You don't want to drive 21 miles EACH way on that rough road only to find out there are no campsites available (which is often the case, especially in the spring and fall). The campground cost is $15 per night or $105 for a week.
|Our campsite at Gallo Campground.|
|The campground had single-night spots on Friday, but was full on Saturday.|
There are a number of really cool hikes right from the campground. Within less than 100 feet of our campsite was an actual ancient home site and many petroglyphs are on the rock walls surrounding the campground.
|Ancient rock home adjacent to the campground|
|A stones throw from our campsite|
|Another petroglyph at the campground. Unfortunately, some of the best ones were |
vandalized early in the park's history. So frustrating and sad.
Chaco was a ceremonial and trading center for the region between 850 and 1150 AD. Even in ancient times, it was an unusual place with amazing star gazing. There are four major Chacoan roadways that all meet in the valley that is Chaco Canyon. The spirit and whispers of the past are everywhere. It is so easy to imagine the ancient gathering place. The major geologic feature in the canyon is Fajada Butte.
|Fajada Butte is still today a sacred place for the Pueblo, Navajo and Hopi.|
|Ancient wall with Fajada Butte in the background|
Our next hike was to the sacred site called Wijiji. This Chacoan Great House was occupied between 1100 and 1150 AD. We started the hike from the campground. It was approximately 3 miles round trip and basically a level hike along a canyon with multi-colored cliffs hugging the path. It was overcast and it rained and misted us several times. I would guess that in the middle of summer this would be a hot hike, but the temps were perfect for us in April!
|The architecture with alignments with the sun and stars especially for the |
solstice and equinox are awe inspiring and I find very magical.
|Look carefully as you hike - there are petroglyphs on many of the canyon walls|
|There are views of Fajada Butte from almost every direction|
|Overview of the campground from a mesa top.|
|See the dark brown sign to the left of me? That is the trail sign and I am|
actually on the beginning of the trail.
|Crevice entrance to the mesa top on the hike to New and Pueblo Alto|
|Kin Kletso Chacoan Great House from mesa top|
We have walked throughout Pueblo Bonito on many visits. But, I felt such awe
at the grandeur of this complex when viewed from high above on the mesa.
|Looking down at the parking lot (Humphrey is second car from the left)|
and Pueblo del Arroyo
|New Alto. The view beyond this pueblo is of the great roadway. When you|
stand at this site you can imagine ancient travelers heading to this magical gathering place
|Really? This is the way down?|
|Heading back down through the crevice|
Unfortunately, on this particular trip we didn't get the awesome sky views due to the cloud cover. But, the Ranger program was informative and fascinating! If we had been able to view the stars from the parks big telescopes - it would have been a show NOT to miss. Although this trip was overcast - the other times we have stayed at Chaco - we stayed up late into the night staring up at the blanket of stars in the dark, dark, inky black sky.
|Don't miss the ranger show!|