National Historical Park
Hiking & Walking
Begin your sightseeing at the visitor center. The exhibits will help you understand Chaco and its people. Rangers will answer your questions and help you make the most of your time.
The best way to see the sites is to go on a ranger-conducted walk. Information about these tours and the evening campfire programs is available at the visitor center. Groups desiring special services should schedule them in advance with the superintendent.
Una Vida Pueblo
The great house closest to the visitor center, Una Vida, exists today in a near-natural state of preservation, free from major vandalism, and with only minor excavations and preservation repairs. Time and the forces of nature have collapsed the roofs. Walls have fallen. Centuries of blowing sand have covered the rooms with a protective blanket of sand and native vegetation. The architecture appears much the same as it has for the last thousand years.
Una Vida trail is 1-mile roundtrip (including petroglyphs). Portions are rocky, steep, and slippery when wet. Take water..
Pueblo Bonito is the most celebrated and most thoroughly investigated site in Chaco Canyon. Constructed in stages over a thousand years ago, Pueblo Bonito epitomizes the great pueblo architecture found here exhibiting all of the characteristic elements of great house construction.
The trail through Pueblo Bonito is 0.6 mile long. The gravel trail that goes along the southeast corner of the ruin is wheelchair accessible but assistance is recommended. To reach this alternate route, follow the south wall past Stop 18 to the plaza entrance.
The trail through the small house sites and Casa Rinconada is 0.5 mile long. This trail is steep in places with loose gravel on the slopes, and when it is wet, it is slippery. The trail leads to the trailheads for Tsin Kletzin and the South Mesa Loop. These are back-country hiking trails that require permits, which can be obtained at the visitor center or from a park ranger.
The trail through Chetro Ketl is 0.6 mile long. This is a gravel trail with some short steep portions. Assistance is recommended for those in wheelchairs. Before reaching the first stop, the trail goes through an unexcavated portion of the site and crosses a side trail leading to a kiva. The masonry walls of this kiva have a deep red cast to them because they were burnt. The fire which discolored them took place before Chetro Ketl fell into disuse.
Hungo Pavi is one of 12 structures in the canyon designated as a "great house." These large sites are easily identified from other prehistoric architecture by the excellent masonry, massive scale, preplanned design, and geometrical qualities they exhibit. Hungo Pavi contains approximately 150 rooms, some of which used to rise three stories
The trail will fork as you approach the site. Go to the right and stand at the top of the knoll for an overview into the building. From this vantage point, the ground plan can be seen along with an excellent view of Fajada Butte.
Pueblo del Arroyo
The trail through Pueblo del Arroyo is 0.25 mile long. It is a gravel trail and assistance is recommended for those in wheelchairs. This trail leads to the trailhead for the South Mesa Trail, which backcountry hiking requires a permit. Permits can be obtained at the visitor center or from a park ranger. The South Mesa Trail is not wheelchair accessible.Pueblo del Arroyo is a Spanish name that means "Town of the Gully." The Navajo name for this structure translates as "Home Beside Water's Edge."
Backcountry Hiking Trails
Hiking permits are required for these trails. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
Distance: Loop Trail -- 5.4 mi.
Pueblo Alto -- 3.2 mi.
Pueblo Bonito Overlook -- 1.6 mi.
Elevation Gain: 350'
Time Required For Total Loop: 4-5 hours
Trailhead Access -- Pueblo del Arroyo Parking Area
Please Note; For your safety and that of others, Do Not Park Along the Road.)
Leading to the prehistoric structures of Pueblo Alto and New Alto, (pictured above) this trail provides excellent panoramic views of the canyon floor and surrounding mesas. The route also includes outstanding overlooks of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl, as well as views of Jackson staircase and prehistoric farming terraces. Several prehistoric roads converge at Pueblo Alto and sections of them are discernible by slight variations in the vegetation.
Penasco Blanco Trail
Distance: 6.4 mi.
Elevation Gain: 150'
Time Required -- 4-5 hours
Trailhead ACCESS -- Pueblo del Arroyo Parking Area
This trail leads to one of the earliest pueblos in the canyon. Construction at Penasco Blanco, Pueblo Bonito and Una Vida began around the middle of the 9th century. From the trail, a large concentration of petroglyphs can be seen along the canyon wall. The route also includes a spur trail to the "Supernova Pictograph" site.
Distance: 3.0 mi. round trip
Elevation Gain: Insignificant
Time Required -- 2-3 hours
Trailhead Access -- Wijiji Parking Area
This trail leads to the prehistoric pueblo of Wijiji, which was built around A.D. 1100. Wijiji differs from sites like Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl in that it appears to have been built in one construction sequence rather than several. Evidence of this single sequence can be seen in the exceptional symmetry of the building plan and the uniformity of the masonry. To the northeast of the structure along the canyon wall there is a small rock art panel.
South Mesa Trail
Distance: To Tsin Kletzin -- 3.0 mi.
Total Loop -- 4.1 mi.
Elevation Gain -- 450'
Time Required -- 2-3 hours for Tsin Kletzin
3-4 hours for Full Loop
Trailhead Access -- Casa Rinconada Trail or from behind Pueblo del Arroyo
This route provides several excellent vistas of South Gap and leads the hiker l00' higher than any other point along the canyon trails. In the spring and summer, an abundant array of wildflowers enhances the beauty of the landscape. Tsin Kletzin dates from the early A.D. 1100's. The view from this building includes Pueblo Alto, Penasco Blanco, Kin Klizhin and Kin Ya'a.
Bicycling at Chaco is limited, however, you are welcome to ride on the canyon roads that are open to other visitor vehicles. Be very careful while biking, watch out for hikers, wildlife, and cars. Do not ride off the developed roads and trails. Be sure to carry plenty of water (especially on hot days). Bike stands are located at all trail and ruin parking lots. Bicycles are prohibited within any ruins and on the trails not designated for biking. There are only two backcountry trails open to bicycling.
("Greasewood,"diwozhii, one of several Navajo names for this building.) Built around .D 1115. Do not hike or bike beyond the ruin.
Trailhead: Approximately 100 yards east of Gallo Campground entrance.
Distance: 3 miles round-trip.
Time: 30 minutes to an hour roundtrip.
The trail to Wijiji follows the old Sargent Ranch road up the north side of Chaco Wash. About 1720, descendants of mixed heritage, Pueblo and Navajo, migrated along the wash herding sheep and farming. Depredations by other native groups led them to build "pueblitos", fortified stone structures.
In 1898 a wealthy Chama sheepman, Edward Sargent, brought large herds of sheep into the canyon for winter grazing. This eventually caused conflict between the two groups and records indicate intrigue, murder, livestock rustling, and other violence.
Because the ruins of Wijiji are within former Navajo homelands, their legends include this greathouse. One oral account maintains that a Pueblo woman living near Wijiji taught the Navajo how to weave. Navajos continued to live on the mesa above and in the canyon until 1948.
("Blackhouse" in Navajo) built around AD 1087.
Trailhead: From the Visitor Center, go south on U.S. Highway 57.
Distance: From the Visitor Center - 23.8 miles roundtrip.
Time:4 to 5+ hours round-trip.
This road is occasionally used by vehicles. Please give them the right-of-way. Remember, from park boundary to park boundary along this route is Navajo Tribal land and should be respected as private property.
Kin Klizhin is one of the "outliers" of the Chaco Anasazi. Tied both visually and physically to Chaco Canyon, it can be seen from Tsin Kletsin on South Mesa, and has a prehistoric road feature. The prehistoric road leads from South Cap in the canyon and continues past Kin Bineola, another "outlier." Also associated with Kin Klizhin are dams and irrigation canals. Remember that "outliers" are an important source of untapped information that may answer some of the questions about Chacoan culture.
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