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.
I can imagine snow might be a problem somewhere between SLC and Chaco, though maybe less so this year.
If the roads are OK, I like 191 south from I-70, though you miss so many great parks and monuments to the west. That takes you through Green River and down via Moab and Arches National Park, which is well worth a side trip for a few hours. At Monticello, UT, you can go east into CO via 491. Consider a side trip out of Cortez, CO, west to Hovenweep (very cool) or east to Mesa Verde. This area is now known as Canyons of the Ancients National Monument; though it has no real “center,” it is full of smaller gems like Lowry Pueblo, the Anasazi Museum (near Dolores, CO), and Yellow Jacket ruins, Yucca House National Mountain and the Ute Mountain reservation (I’ve never been to those last 3).
I will say the drive from Cortez to Shiprock, NM, is pretty bleak (until Shiprock rises to view).
If you don’t have time/interest in the Colorado sidetrips, you could stay southbound on 191 from Monticello, UT, towards Blanding, where you should stop at Edge of the Cedars State Park, a tiny museum with a great pots collection. South of the border with Arizona, you would turn east at the intersection with 64.
You could make this a big loop, passing through all of the Four Corners states. By the way, I was disappointed by the Four Corners Monument itself.
Either way, you’re heading towards Shiprock, NM, and, from there, towards Farmington and Bloomfield, where you pick up US 550 (formerly NM 44). Just a little north of Bloomfield is Aztec Ruins National Monument, which is worth seeing; it has a restored great kiva. Closer to Farmington is Salmon Ruins, which is less restored.
About halfway from Bloomfield to Cuba, around Mile Marker 112, you’ll see signs and the turn-off to Chaco on 7900. After a few miles of pavement, you’ll hit dirt for about 21 miles.
Unless it is raining or snowing the day of or day before your arrival, I think you’re car will do fine on the north road. It’s wash-boardy but not as bad as stories indicate (except when wet).