National Historical Park
Chaco Canyon lies near the center of the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico, which is near the southeastern edge of the much larger Colorado Plateau. This region has broad exposures of horizontal sedimentary layers that have eroded into plateaus, mesas, buttes, and canyons.
ROAD CLOSURE: Hwy 57 from Blanco Trading Post (on US 550) is permanently closed at the park's north boundary. Do not take Hwy 57. From US 550, go to mile 112.5 (3 miles SE mile of Nageezi) and turn onto CR 7900 and CR 7950. Follow signs to the park. Hwy 57 south is open from the park boundary to Hwy 9. There is 20 miles of rough dirt road. Not recommended for RVs.
From the north, turn off Hwy 44 (HWY 550)at County Road 7900--three miles southeast of Nageezi and approximately 50 miles west of Cuba (at mile 112.5). This route is clearly signed from Hwy 44/550 to the park boundary (21 miles). The route includes five miles of paved road (CR 7900) and 16 miles of dirt (CR 7950/7985).
From the south (I-40, at Thoreau), turn north on New Mexico 371 and proceed to Crownpoint. Four miles north of Crownpoint, turn right on Navajo 9. Continue east on Navajo 9 for 36 miles to the marked turnoff in the community of Pueblo Pintado. Turn north on Navajo 46 for 10 miles (dirt). Turn left on County Road 7900 for 15 miles (dirt). Turn left on County Road 7950 and follow the signs 16 miles (dirt) to the park entrance.
From the Grants area (I-40, at Milan) turn north on Hwy 605 for 13 miles, then north on Hwy 509 for 36 miles to Whitehorse. Turn east on Navajo 9 for 12 miles to the town of Pueblo Pintado, then Navajo 46, and CR 7900 to CR 7950/7985.
Both the northern and southern routes include 16 and 33 miles of dirt roads. Although these sections of road are generally maintained, they can become impassable during inclement weather. Call the park 505-786-7014 for current road conditions.
The weather in Chaco Canyon is inconsistent and unpredictable. Temperatures can fluctuate over 60 degrees during a twenty-four hour period. As with much of New Mexico, precipitation may be localized and one end of the canyon will experience a downpour while the sun blazes and rainbows appear five miles to the east. Due to this irregular weather pattern, reconstructing prehistoric climatic conditions or advising visitors about tomorrow's weather is difficult. Climatic data, such as the chart below, should only be used as a general guide.
The high desert environment of Chaco receives an average annual rainfall of around eight inches. The humidity is very low. Precipitation will frequently evaporate before striking the ground creating virga, the streamers that can be detected below rain clouds. Approximately 36% of the total annual precipitation falls in July, August and September when unstable tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico moves through the Southwest. This moist air produces cumulus clouds and dramatic thunderstorms, enriching the view while bringing much needed moisture to the plants and animals that live here. Throughout the remainder of the year, Pacific and Arctic airstreams dominate Chaco's weather. These systems bring cool temperatures and occasional snow storms.
Temperatures in Chaco rise and fall with the sun. In the summer, days are hot while the nights are cool due to the canyon's elevation of 4175 feet. Frost has appeared in every month except July although it usually occurs from October to May. The yearly variation of temperatures can be extreme with the record high of 106 degrees occurring in July of 1942 and the record low of -38 occurring in December of 1961.
If you are hiking in the canyon, be prepared for heat, rain, wind, and unexpected changes in temperature. Carry extra water, wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat, and if you are going to be out for any length of time, bring along a jacket or sweater. This will ensure your visit to the canyon will not be spoiled by an unpredictable change in weather.
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