Category Archives: Q&A

Tips, advice and suggestions.

How Much Time Does Chaco Take?

I really appreciate your take on Chaco. It’s been one of my “life goals” to visit it for years, and I plan on doing so in early June. I want to have enough time to appreciate it, but I’m traveling with my two teenagers, who are great in the outdoors but will tolerate only so much “down time.” In your opinion, what’s the ideal number of days to take to visit Chaco and whatever outliers are significant to appreciating it? – K

Someone in a hurry could visit each of the ruins along the loop road in Chaco in a few hours.

With an overnight stay in the campground, you could also plan on one or more of the “backcountry” ruins that involve some hiking (in the desert with no shade). Of those backcountry hikes, Wijiji near the campground may be the easiest (no climbing at all; perhaps a couple of miles each way).

With at least two nights in the campground, you might walk all the backcountry trails.

The longest backcountry hike is to Pueblo Peñasco. It is a magnificent ruin with famous pictographs on a spur trail, but the bulk of that hike is most likely to bore or exhaust some folks. It’s a long hot sandy hike.

If you were only going to do one backcountry hike, perhaps it should be north to Pueblo Alto; that involves scrambling up a rocky crack to get to the mesa, which in turn immediately gives you great views of several ruins in the canyon.

As for outliers beyond the canyon, Pueblo Pintado is the easiest to reach on your way in or out via one of the south roads. Some may see it as “more of the same,” but it helps us appreciate that these communities covered a lot of territory.

I have pictures on my outliers pages of some of the other outliers that are within a few hours of Chaco, but each is harder to find. It’s hard to know how much is enough for someone else.

Back to the original question, I think at least two nights at the campground give you lots of options.

Feel free to write again anytime. Let me know how the trip turns out. mjh

From Chaco to Cortez, CO via Blanding, UT

I am sure you get far too many of these to answer but if you have the time please reply.
We may be able to visit the West and I am thinking about (my wife has a class to attend in Norman, OK) going from Norman to Grants, Grants to Farmington with a stop at Chaco (yes it will be a short stop), Farmington to Blanding, UT going by the Four Corners, not planning a stay at Blanding, Blanding to Cortez, CO. Want to see some of the ruins near there and spend maybe two nights. Then back to Farmington and a two day drive back to Norman to see anything we may have blown by on the way.
I will have two small children and very little money. My daughter wants to see desert and she was more interested in ruins than zoos and such. Farmington and Cortez also have frisbee golf courses for a break from the educational and cultural.
This will be in June so I am sure it will be hot and crowded and I don’t like crowds. I will also be avoiding cities the best I can.
So what do you think of the plan and is there anything I really shouldn’t miss in the area?
Thank you,

Along with Chaco, you’ll probably want to visit Aztec National Monument, in Aztec, New Mexico, near Farmington; it has a restored Great Kiva.

In Farmington, there is also Salmon Ruins.

Out of Cortez, Mesa Verde is an obvious choice, but I highly recommend Hovenweep National Monument to the West. It probably won’t be crowded. It makes a great contrast to all the others because the ruins are much smaller, like single family dwellings, but just as interesting and in amazing condition.

North of Cortez a bit, is the Anasazi Heritage Museum (interesting as a stop on the way to something else, more than as a destination, in my opinion). Farther north, Lowery Pueblo has a very large kiva and is out in the middle of nowhere.

Blanding has Edge of the Cedars State Park which has a great collection of pots as well as interesting ruins.

Roughly southeast of Cortez is Chimney Rock National Monument, which is magnificent, though not really on the way to or from any place else. You’ll get to see a tremendous range of terrain from high desert at Chaco to forest near Chimney Rock.

Write back anytime. Let me know how the trip turns out. mjh

From Chaco to Moab, Utah

We are planning a trip to Chaco in Sept. We will be in Abg for 2 nites then want to spend 2 days/nites in the Chaco region, then head up to Moab. Any suggestions? – S

If you’re in the Chaco campground for a night, you may want to plan on one of the backcountry hikes, especially Pueblo Alto.

Heading out of Chaco towards Moab, you’ll pass near Aztec, New Mexico, and probably should stop to see Aztec National Monument. Its shady green riverside location is quite a contrast to Chaco. Its ruins have unique features and there is a restored great kiva.

North of Aztec/Farmington/Bloomfield, there are at least two very different choices. Ruins fans should head through Cortez, west to Hovenweep. The ruins there are smaller but in great shape and very interesting.

Then find your way over to Blanding, Utah, for Edge of the Cedars State Park. Between there and Moab are lots of side trips to canyons galore.

If we ignore that route and you aren’t after more ruins, then I’d go to Durango and north through Silverton and Ouray. That is amazing alpine country. Soak up some cool before Moab.

Write again anytime. Let me know how the trip turns out. mjh

Which are the Four Corners states?

Map of the Four Corners StatesQ: Which are the Four Corners states?

Clockwise from the southeast, they are New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Where these 4 states touch is, surely coincidentally, also not far from the center of the Anasazi world and Aztlan. The region is spectacularly beautiful. mjh

Q: Where is the Four Corners Monument?

Where the 4 states meet. Seriously, it is off of US 160 on part of the Navajo Reservation (Dinetah).

Many people delight in straddling the divisions between the states. I don’t recommend it as your destination in the area, but if you happen to pass it on the way to more interesting places, you may enjoy it (I didn’t). Close by are Hovenweep and Navajo National Monument, among many others. mjh

Four Corners National Monument

Chaco from Grants, New Mexico in a Day

Hi! I really enjoyed your sites. Could you comment on the relative insanity of driving from Grants (early), up the South route (Seven Lakes/ rt. 14) into Chaco (still open?), spending some time in Chaco, and leaving via the north road and staying at either the Post B&B or a little motel in Cuba. I’ll have an SUV. Thanks for any input and enjoy your travels. M.


I’m assuming Seven Lakes Rd is the old original South Road (aka 57); I drove it about a month ago and it was OK though rugged.

I think you can get in from Grants and out in a day and enjoy seeing the ruins. Look on the map for a route from Grants via Milan (may be 53/506) — that’s the most direct way up from Grants and a nice route. When you hit BIA/Navajo 9, turn left/west for about 10 miles or so to hit the south road.

I don’t know anything useful about the Post B&B. As for Cuba, you’d think there’d be some motels or B&B’s there, but I can’t remember ever noticing any.

Assuming you’re returning to Abq, you could start your trip up 550/44 via Cuba and go beyond Chaco to Aztec — various hotels & B&B’s there. Then you could see Aztec Ruins and Salmon Ruins. From Aztec you could go to Chaco via the north road and *out* via the south and down to Grants for the next night.

Not that I mean to rewrite your plans for you. mjh

Paving Part of The North Road

We’re planning a trip to Chaco and Canyon de Chelly, hopefully a side trip to Crownpoint this coming October. Heard that the first few miles into Chaco were being improved? What did you find? — GB


The north road from US 550 (formerly NM 44) around mile marker 112 is paved for about the first five miles (as 7900). That stretch dips and turns more than the rest of the road; the pavement is badly patched and potholed as I write this. When the road turns towards Chaco as 7950, the next 16 miles or so have been unpaved until right about now. At this time, the county is getting ready to pave one end for about 3 miles. I assume that will be done by the time you visit in October (good time of year, though it will be cold at night). I’ve heard the rest is less certain. At this time, expect a stretch of about 13 miles to still be dirt — dusty and washboardy, for sure, but not a problem for most cars unless it rains or snows around the time you drive.

peace, mjh

PS: There is some controversy over this paving; I have mixed feelings but mostly appreciate that Chaco isn’t easy to get to — it’s a sojourn; at least, the hard-core folks will still have the Old South Road to thrill us. If you feel strongly about this, or want learn more about why some people do, see

ABQjournal: County Paving the Way to Chaco By Leslie Linthicum, Journal Staff Writer [Wednesday, August 3, 2005]

Tucked into a massive transportation bill that cleared Congress last week and is headed to the president’s desk is $800,000 that will settle once and for all a popular New Mexico campfire debate:

Should the road to Chaco Canyon be paved or not?

The road money is set aside to put chip seal— a cheaper-than-asphalt paving option— on the 16 miles of dirt road that lead to Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

If you’ve ever visited the spectacular Anasazi ruins at Chaco Canyon, you know the road and probably either love it or hate it. …

Each year about 80,000 people make their way to the park to walk where pre-Puebloan Indians walked hundreds of years before. …

With federal funds on the way, the county will then begin to tackle the remaining 13 miles next year, according to San Juan County Public Works Administrator Dave Keck.

“If we get the green light from everybody,” Keck said, “we’ll begin to pave (the remaining stretch) next spring.”

Route from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Chaco Canyon


A friend and I are planning on coming to Chaco for the first time. We will be coming from Salt Lake City. I am wondering if you have any routes to get there and what I can expect this time of year. Also I have a little Volkswagen Golf and i am wondering if that will be good enough to cover the dirt roads. Any info you can give me will be very much appreciated.

Continue reading Route from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Chaco Canyon

Chaco in November

Hi Mjh,

We are planning a trip to Chaco, our first, and would love to learn the most recent info. What do you think of a trip in November?

Thank you mucho,

P.S. And astronomy in November?


November should be great in Chaco. It may be cold at night but warm in the day. There’s always a chance of rain/snow then, but probably not enough to ruin things. In fact, the ruins are even more amazing in a dusting of snow.

Chaco has an observatory and there are telescopes for anyone to use. See these entries: (official Chaco page — see the contact page)
also (The Albuquerque Astronomical Society)

Feel free to write again anytime. Let me know how your trip turns out. mjh