Aztec Ruins National Monument

Artifacts of Ancestral Pueblo people

Aztec Ruins National Monument preserves structures and artifacts of Ancestral Pueblo people from the 1100s through 1200s. Anasazi associated with Chaco Canyon to the south built and used the structures, then Anasazi related to the Mesa Verde region to the north used the site in the 1200s. Aztec's reconstructed kiva is the largest structure of its kind in the Southwest.

General Information

Seasons / Hours

  • Open Daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Rest of the year, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • Closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day, December 25.

Rates & Fees

Daily entrance fee for adults - Admission is free for children 15 and under. The entrance pass is valid for seven days. Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Golden Access passports are honored.

Visitor Center

Information desk, exhibits, video programs. Southwest Parks and Monuments Association sells books, video tapes, calendars, postcards, slides, and other interpretive items.


Interpretive Programs: Rangers occasionally give talks during summer months. A 25- minute orientation video program is shown throughout the day in the visitor center. Children junior ranger program is available.

Educational Outreach: Educational and group tours should notify monument at least three weeks prior to visiting. Teacher activity guide, replica artifact trunk, loaner videos, and other resources are available to teachers

None in the monument. Restaurants, service stations, and grocery stores are available in local communities.
Visitor center, restrooms, and much of the trail are accessible to wheelchairs. Accessible parking, picnic table, and programs available.

Climate, Geography, Setting


Aztec Ruins National Monument is located in the Animas Valley of Northwest New Mexico in Aztec, just 75 miles east of the Four Corners.


Relatively mild winter days, occasional snow, evening temperatures sometimes drop below zero. Summer day temperatures upper 80s and low 90s, cool nights. Summer thundershowers. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes to suit the weather. Highest June through August, lowest December through February. Best time to visit is spring or fall..

Getting There

Approximately 1 mile north of US Hwy 550 on Ruins Road (County Road 2900) on the north edge of the city of Aztec. Ruins Road is the first street west of the Animas River bridge on Hwy 550 in Aztec.

Use personal vehicles, commercial bus tours, and Farmington airport 15 miles west of the monument where rental cars and taxis are available. Walking trails only within park.


Cultural History

Native Peoples

Archeologists believe that the village we call Aztec Ruins was constructed about 1100 as a satellite community of Chaco Canyon to the south. Aztec's Anasazi inhabitants were attracted to the valley because of its location and fertile, irrigatable soil.

Its location in the fertile Animas Valley along a large prehistoric road suggests the buildings comprised a ceremonial and trade center. The Mesa Verdeans who arrived 100 years later, built additional rooms, remodeled, older ones and used different a type of pottery.


By 1300, archeologists believe that population pressure, climate changes and shrinking natural resources forced the Anasazi to abandon Aztec, just as they abandoned other villages throughout the Southwest.


Exploration & Settlement

The earliest known reference to the ruins appears on a map of the Domingue-Escalante expedition of 1776-77, but it is doubtful they actually visited the area. In 1859, geologist John S. Newberry visited the site and in a later description he wrote that he found many well-preserved rooms and some walls still standing 25 feet high.

In 1876, permanent settlement European of the Animas Valley around the ruins began and from that time they were well known. The first scientific exploration was conducted by anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan in 1878. He made a floor plan of the ruins and noted that settlers had removed about 1/4 of the stones and looted rooms containing burials, baskets, pottery and clothing.

In 1916, the American Museum of Natural History began excavation under the direction of a young, local archeologist named Earl. H. Morris. Morris's career spanned the period when American archeology as a scientific discipline was coming of age in the Southwest.

During the next 7 years, he excavated the major portion of the Western Ruins and returned later to restore and re-roof the Great Kiva. Morris went on to conduct the most extensive and professional excavation program in de Chelly and del Muerto.

Park History

The American Museum of Natural History eventually purchased and donated the site to the federal government. Aztec National Monument was established by proclamation of Warren Harding January 23. Morris became its first custodian. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987. Subsequent additions to the site now give it a current size of 319 acres, containing 6 major archeological complexes and 8 smaller mounds. Only the West Ruin and the Hubbard site have been extensively excavated.

Things To Do

Allow at least one hour to visit the visitor center museum, watch the orientation video, walk the self-guided trail, attend ranger talks in summer, eat in the picnic area.

A self guided interpretive trail about 1/4 mile long winds through the West Ruin, a pueblo of 450 interconnected rooms built of stone and mud. Visitors walk through rooms with original roofs and a reconstructed Great Kiva -- a partially underground structure once used for community wide activities. Easy trail, but there are some stairs and low doorways. Guide booklets are available for purchase or loan.


Camping & Lodging

None available at the monument. There are hotels and motels in Farmington, NM with something for every taste and price range.

Resources & Nearby Attractions


Related Books & Gifts - Trading Post
The Anasazi of the Desert Southwest
Prehistoric Desert Peoples

Cities & Towns

  • Aztec, New Mexico: 1 miles south.
  • Bloomfield, New Mexico: 8 miles west.
  • Farmington, New Mexico: 15 miles west.
  • Cortez, Colorado: 80 miles north.
  • Durango, Colorado: 36 miles north.
  • Shiprock, New Mexico: 43 miles west.
  • Gallup, New Mexico: 134 miles south.

Parks & Monuments

Recreation & Wilderness Areas

  • Angel Peak Recreation Area: 35 miles southeast.
  • Bisti Badlands/DeNaZin Wilderness areas: 40 miles south.

Historic & Points of Interest

  • Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village: 125 N. Main, Aztec, 505-334-9829.
  • Farmington Museum: 302 N. Orchard, Farmington, 505-599-1174.
  • Salmon Ruin: Hwy 64, Bloomfield, 505-632-2013.
  • Navajo Reservation: 15 miles west.
  • Navajo Mine: West of Farmington.

Aztec Ruins National Monument
P.O. Box 640,
Aztec, NM 87410-0640.
505-334-6174, ext. 30


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