Chaco Culture National Historical Park

© Justin Sutton - www.redmountainphotography.comChaco Culture National Historical Park is known as one of America's richest and most fascinating cultural and historic areas. Between AD 850 and 1250, Chaco thrived and was a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture. Ceremonies, trade and administration for the Four Corners area went on at Chaco.

One of the most amazing things about Chaco is the immense size of the public and ceremonial buildings. It's easy to see why Chaco was the hub for everything going on in the four corners. Another extraordinary thing about Chaco is the architecture of the buildings. Not only did the people carefully pre-plan everything, they used astronomical alignments, landscaping and enhanced engineering to create the spectacular architecture we see today. The Chacoan had roads, dams, ramps and mounds along with all their buildings. Chaco remains today an amazing example of the ingenuity the Chacoans had and the knowledge of their surroundings, such as the stars. Chaco today remains an isolated place with just one campground and the visitors center.

Chaco is open all year long from surise to sunset. The Visitor Center is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Memorial Day through Labor Day, and the rest of the year 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is closed on Christmas Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday and President's Day but the park's trails and campground are open.

© Justin Sutton- When coming to Chaco, there are a few ways to travel. If you're driving to Chaco, the recommended route is from the north on Hwy 550. Turn off at County Rd 7900 which is 3 miles southeast of Nageezi. There is a large sign at the turn off and then signs all the way to the park. The road is 5 miles of paved road and then 16 miles of dirt.

If you're coming from the south you can get to park from Highway 9 by traveling to Pueblo Pintado, turn north on Navajo 46 (10 miles of rough dirt). Then you'll turn left on Country Road 7900 (7 miles of rough dirt). Next you'll turn left on County Road 7950 and travel for 16 miles to the park entrance. If you're planning on coming this direction, please call ahead to check the road conditions for Navajo 46 and Country Road 7900.

© Justin Sutton - www.redmountainphotography.comChaco Canyon sits at 6,200 feet in elevation. The weather in Chaco is very unpredictable and can also become extreme so make sure to be prepared for anything. During the summer the temperature ranges from the 80s to mid-90s. Thunderstorms do occur and can change the temperature drastically. Flash floods in some areas are a great possiblity so be careful. During the winter, the night temperatures will drop below freezing. Spring and Fall are the best times to visit because the temperatures are moderate but there is still the chance of the surprise storm.

If you plan on hiking while in Chaco, make sure to carry along extra clothes for rain, heat, wind and temperature changes. Wear hiking boots and sunscreen and make sure to bring water along. If you're not used to hiking in the high altitude, take your time.

Inside Chaco is a 9-mile paved loop which provides access to Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Casa Rinconada and two other sites. At each site, there is a parking area for vehicles and bicycles. Trail guides are available at the parking areas and the self-duided trails are all about 1/4 mile roundtrip. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to walk the 1/4 mile. There are backcountry hiking trails that will take visitors to more remote sites that have petroglyphs and panoramic vistas. These trail are moderately strenuous and require a free hiking permit from the visitor center. Please remember though, all trails and sites do close at sunset.


If you're planning on camping on your trip to Chaco, Gallo Campground is one mile east of the visitor center. There are 47 sites available and there are tables, fireplaces and toilets. There is no firewood in the park and drinking water is only available at the visitor center so make sure to get that before you get to the campground. Trailers must be less than 30 feet in length. Also, some of the campsites do not have shade so make sure to bring an umbrella or some kind of shade for the middle of the day.