Last Updated on June 1, 2021

Visiting Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico is an adventure unto itself. Because of the effort to get here many people choose to camp within the park and we suggest you do the same. Get the most out of your Chaco Canyon camping experience and follow our complete guide featuring information on camping, hiking, driving directions and possible road conditions.

Sign for Chaco Culture Historical Park set in sandstone bricks.

Having camped here multiple times before, we’ll share with you our favourite campsite and we’ll tell you which campsite to avoid! Chaco Canyon has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park and we have information on experiencing a presentation highlighting this distinction.

See the Dark in the Park Featured Programme section below and learn how to take advantage of the unique and free nocturnal astronomy presentation given by park rangers during your stay. This family fun event includes native folklore and stargazing through telescopes.

Watch Our Video and Learn More About New Mexico!


Beware of the Weather at Chaco Canyon

The number one influencing factor in driving, hiking and camping in Chaco Canyon is the weather. Before you undertake your trip, keep a very close eye on the weather forecast. Know before you go!

Dark grey storm clouds over Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Storm Clouds Gathering Over Chaco Canyon

Also, keep an eye on the weather for the immediate 3 or 4 days preceding your trip. Dry conditions are required to tackle the road and to complete at least one of the Chaco Canyon hikes on the Peñasco Blanco trail. See Hiking in Chaco Canyon below for more information.

Within each Tips section below, the weather and it’s ability to drastically derail your plans tops the list each time. Most importantly, pay close attention to the weather while visiting Chaco Canyon. Thunderstorms, extreme heat or cold, snow and strong winds will ruin your time here.

Visiting Chaco Canyon

Directions: See Directions and a Breakdown of Road Conditions below – this includes directions from all points.


  • 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, May through October
  • 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, November through April
  • Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

Entrance Fees: The following fees are current as of October 21st 2018:

  • $25 per vehicle (non-commercial), providing access to the park for 7 days.
  • $20 per motorbike, providing access to the park for 7 days.
  • $15 per individual travelling on foot or bicycle, providing access to the park for 7 days.

In order to eliminate cash payments all National Parks are in the process of attempting to implement a no-cash policy; because of this we recommend credit or debit card payment for entrance fees.

Telephone: (505) 786-7014

Website: www.nps.gov

Camping at Chaco Canyon

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.

– George Carlin

A burgundy Volkswagen van and a green and blue tent at a Chaco Canyon camping site.
Come Prepared for Chaco Canyon Camping.


Gallo Campground (the campground at Chaco Canyon) has become an increasingly popular spot. During the Summer months and early Autumn it can be next to impossible to secure a campsite. There are very few non-reservable sites (only 8 in total). During this busy period we strongly recommended you book a site in advance. Go online to reserve a campsite at www.recreation.gov


RV or Tent Camping is $15 per night.

Online camping reservations must be made at least 3 days in advance. Without a reserved a spot online you will need exact cash for camping at Chaco Canyon – see update above. Camping fees must be paid at the visitor centre.

If the visitor centre is closed when you arrive, place any fees in the drop box at the entrance of the campground. The “iron ranger” (camping fee box) does not give change and the campground host will not handle payments.


Potable water taps are located by the visitor centre.


There are 2 blocks of plumbed toilets at the campground. In addition, pit toilets are located at each point of interest on the 9 mile loop drive through the park. All toilets are clean and well maintained, including the pit toilets. Plumbed toilets are also available by the visitor centre.

Gallo Campground Sites

There are a total of 49 sites and 2 group sites.

Reservable Sites:

For Tents or RVs: 25 Total

  • Campsite #2, 3, 5 – 11, 18, 19, 20 – 28, 30 – 32, 34, 35

Tents Only: 12 Total

  • Campsite #36- 43, 45, 46, 48, 49

RVs Only: 4 Total

  • Campsite #13 -16

Group Campsites: 2 Total

Non-Reservable Sites: (i.e. First Come, First Served)

 Tents or RVs: 5 Total

  • Campsite #1, 4, 17, 29, 33

 Tents Only: 2 Total

  • Campsite #44, 47

RVs Only: 1 Total

  • Campsite #12
A map of Gallo Campground at Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico.
Gallo Campground Map

Each site at Gallo Campground comes equipped with a fire pit and a picnic bench, perfect for cooking and enjoying a meal after a long day of hiking. For that quintessential camping experience don’t forget to roast marshmallows over the campfire.

Chaco Canyon Camping Tips

  • Be weather aware. Tent sites have a small, sand filled platform to place your tent upon, but even a small amount of rain will result in a deluge of run-off from the surrounding cliffs.
  • Avoid campsite #4. All sites have their own wee trail (pardon the pun) to the bathroom, but for some reason campsite #4’s trail has become a shortcut/general all-purpose trail to the loo. Take it from our own first-hand experience during our stay at campsite #4. Fellow campers suddenly lost all sense of etiquette and traipsed through this site like a herd of lobotomized elk.
  • Consult the campground host. Even if the sign saying “Campground Full” is is displayed check with the host anyway. Several first come, first served sites are available and you may be lucky enough to find one of these open (hopefully not site #4), but hey, beggars can’t be choosy.
  • Bring firewood. You cannot gather firewood at Chaco Canyon. Also, be aware of fire restrictions, especially in the Summer months. Consider a camp stove – these may be permitted during burn bans at Chaco Canyon.
  • Come fully prepared. The nearest major shop for stocking your camp kitchen is almost 80 miles away in Farmington.
  • Bring extra blankets and warm clothes. It gets very cold here at night, even in the Summertime.
  • No refunds for leaving early. Things change – weather and/or vehicle issues may cause you to break camp.
  • Get up early. The gate to the loop road opens at 7:00 am. You may see herds of elk grazing, especially at dawn and dusk, though they may be seen throughout the park during the day.
  • Campsite #44 is the pick of the campground. This is a tent site only and is non-reservable. Also, this campsite is one of the more private within Gallo Campground and includes a nice cave-like area behind it.
A man setting up a green tent next to rock wall at a small Chaco Canyon camping site.
#44 – The Best Chaco Canyon Camping Site.

Chaco Canyon Camping Overview:

If you are looking for privacy, it is non-existent at this campground. Sites are close together with neither natural nor man-made barriers between them apart from perhaps a few scrub bushes. As a result of this, sites at Gallo Campground provide no shade.

This is a rather peaceful campground with quiet time being between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. So if you are looking to rage it up and party while camping at Chaco Canyon, this is not the place for you.

Hiking in Chaco Canyon

Chaco Culture National Historical Park sits at an elevation of 6,200 feet. Acclimitise yourself to this coming from lower elevations, especially sea level.

There are 4 backcountry trails as well as the Una Vida trail, which is a short jaunt from the visitor centre. Hiking the backcountry trails takes effort and time however they are definitely worth it. These trails give access to even more ruins and each trail offers it’s own unique, stunning views. Give yourself plenty of time to complete any of these hikes.

Each backcountry trail requires you to fill in a backcountry trail permit/slip. These free permits are located at the start of each trail. Simply fill out the slip before setting out on your hike. One copy (green slip) is displayed in the windscreen of your vehicle, one copy (pink slip) comes with you and the original page (white slip) goes in the box at the beginning of the trail.

Una Vida Trail

A view from the Una Vida hiking trail in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico.
View From Una Vida

Trailhead Location: Accessed from beside the visitor centre

Ease/Difficulty: Relatively flat and easy

Distance: 1 mile round trip

Notable Features: Keep your eyes peeled for the petroglyphs on this trail. In order to see them be prepared to do a little climbing, nothing too strenuous but perhaps a little panting involved.

These petroglyphs are some of the clearest in the park. Beneath the petroglyphs is a large flat boulder offering a perfect vantage point to comfortably admire the cliff etchings and surrounding scenery.

Pueblo Alto Trail

Chetro Ketl ruins from the overlook located on a hiking trail in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico.
Chetro Ketl Overlook

Trailhead Location: Access Pueblo Alto trailhead from the Pueblo del Arroyo parking lot. Your ascent to the ridge above starts behind the Kin Kletso ruins.

Ease/Difficulty: This is a relatively easy hike. The most difficult portion of the hike is the climb up onto the ridge (bench) but it is really not that tricky. Climbing up onto the ridge requires squeezing through a slotted canyon.

Elevation Gain: 350 feet

Distance: Pueblo Alto trail consists of 3 optional routes.

  • Entire Loop – 5.1 miles
  • Pueblo Alto Complex Route – 3.2 miles
  • Pueblo Bonito Overlook Route – 2.0 miles

Notable Features: Pueblo Alto trail is possibly the most popular backcountry trail. You don’t have to complete the entire loop to seize the optimal Instagrammable snaps of the 2 mega-stars of Chaco Canyon – Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl.

Even if you’re visiting Chaco Canyon on a day trip you can grab some snaps and be back to your car in no time. The overlooks of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl are located on the ridge above, accessed from the slotted canyon behind the ruins of Kin Kletso.

Pueblo Bonito ruins in Chaco Canyon from the overlook on the hiking trail above it.
Pueblo Bonito Overlook

The trail begins in earnest atop the ridge with a fine view of Kin Kletso in the valley below. Pause here for a moment to catch your breath, only to have it taken away again by the views of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl just ahead on the trail.

A view of Kin Kletso in Chaco Canyon from the overlook directly above it.
Kin Kletso Overlook

Keep your eyes peeled for shrimp burrows, evidence of ancient sea life forever memorialised in the sandstone of the region. These are everywhere.

Ancient shrimp burrows in the sandstone at Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico.
Shrimp Burros Are Everywhere!

From this vantage point are fine views of South Gap. During the heyday of Chacoan Culture this was where multiple roads converged and entered the canyon. Exotic trade goods from as far as Mesoamerica made it to the region over these roads.

A view of the South Gap of Chaco Canyon against a clear blue sky.
The South Gap, Chaco Canyon

At the start of the loop trail you are treated to an overlook of Chetro Ketl, yet another great Chacoan House with multiple kivas, which were used during religious ceremonies. This loop route features another very narrow slotted canyon to conquer.

Another striking feature to look for on the loop trail is Jackson Stairway. Named after a photographer with the U.S. Geological Survey in 1877, these steep stairs are certainly not for the feint of heart. Hopefully back in the day there were at least some kind of handrails to grasp onto. Naturally the park service does not want anyone trying the stairway these days.

Weathered stairs carved into the side of a rock cliff in Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico.
Jackson Stairway, Chaco Canyon

Pueblo Alto is situated at 6,440 feet in elevation. Both the loop trail and the Pueblo Alto Complex trails encompass the collection of ruins known as Pueblo Alto. The complex has panoramic views of the surrounding landscape; this commanding presence was intentionally chosen to communicate with other great houses far away, also located on natural elevated features.

Peñasco Blanco Trail

Penasco Blanco Ruins in Chaco Canyon against a clear blur sky.
Penasco Blanco Ruins, Chaco Canyon

Trailhead Location: The Peñasco Blanco trailhead is also accessed from the Pueblo del Arroyo parking lot.

Ease/Difficulty: The Peñasco Blanco trail is relatively easy and flat with a few minor ups and downs until you cross Chaco Wash. The terrain of the trail is a mixture of dirt and sand.

If you plan on crossing the wash during this hike make sure the weather has been dry for at least 3 days preceding your trip. Chaco Wash fills quickly to a depth of 4 feet or more with slick mud on the bottom so use extreme caution when crossing. Also, never attempt crossing Chaco Wash when flowing water is present.

Once you cross the wash the trail briefly climbs to the Supernova Pictograph and climbs again as you continue to the ruins of Peñasco Blanco.

Elevation Gain: 200 feet


  • At 7.2 miles round trip, this is the longest trail in the park if you cross Chaco Wash and continue to the ruins of Peñasco Blanco
  • Hiking to the petroglyphs (see below) is 4.0 miles.

Notable Features: The first feature you encounter on the trail are the ruins of Casa Chiquita about 1 mile in.

The ruins of Casa Chiquita on the Penasco Blanco Trail in Chaco Canyon.
Casa Chiquita, Penasco Blanco Trail

This trail features an extensive section of petroglyphs along the cliffs. These are well signed and if you have invested in the booklet – the Backcountry Trail Guide (available at the visitor centre) – you’re privy to detailed information on where exactly to look and what it is you are looking at. The petroglyphs are a combination of Pueblo, Navajo and European-American etchings.

Human figures - petroglyph at Chaco Canyon

Once across the wash you are rewarded with a view of the Supernova pictograph (rock painting). Depicted are a star, crescent moon and a human hand. You’ll also find a concentric circle painted in red and yellow. Allegedly, the pictograph represents a stellar explosion in 1054 A.D.

Supernova Pictograph Penasco Blanco Trail
Supernova Pictograph, Penasco Blanco Trail

The ruins at Peñasco Blanco provide more incredible views of the surrounding landscape. Enjoy those views knowing you’ll almost certainly have the Peñasco Blanco ruins to yourself – this section is the least utilized Chaco Canyon hiking trail.

South Mesa Trail

A view of the South Mesa from a Chaco Canyon hiking trail.

Trailhead Location: Access South Mesa trailhead from the Casa Rinconada interpretive trail.

Ease/Difficulty: The slight elevation gain on this trail isn’t difficult or technical. This well-marked trail is comprised of dirt, loose stones and sand.

Elevation Gain: 450 feet


  • Entire Loop – 3.6 miles round trip
  • Tsin Kletzin – 2.6 miles round trip

Notable Features: This was our favourite Chaco Canyon hiking trail, followed closely by the Pueblo Alto hike. The views are fantastic during this hike and the walk back through the South Gap is beautiful.

Wijiji Trail

Pictographs of a hand and several human and animal figures from a hiking trail in Chaco Canyon.

Trailhead Location: Wijiji trailhead is located 1.25 miles east of the visitor centre.

Ease/Difficulty: Lovely easy hike

Elevation Gain: Level

Distance: 3.0 miles round trip

Notable Features: Not far from the Wijiji ruins is a short trail which leads to a pictograph of two red animal images and some negative handprints. It’s very likely you’ll have this entire site (and hike) all to yourself.

We hiked in after a brief shower of rain. The photo below provides insight into how mucky these trails may become in a very short period of time. That thick mud made for a rather tough hike due to the extra added weight on our boots.

A woman wearing green pants lifting her right foot to reveal caked mud on the outer sole of her hiking boot.

Wijiji Trail is easily accessed from Gallo Campground via a short 5 minute walk. This easy trail makes for an ideal early morning or evening hike. Take advantage of the ease and proximity of this trail when camping at Chaco Canyon.

Tips for Hiking in Chaco Canyon

  • Know the weather forecast before your hike. The visitor centre provides projected weekly weather conditions, along with daily updates. Hiking in a light shower can be o.k. but this is not the place to get caught in a thunderstorm, especially if you are up on the ridges (benches). Ensure you have at least 3 or 4 days of dry weather before your planned hikes to allow the ground and the wash to dry out.
  • Use an app. We recommend AllTrails which is free to download and highlights over 50,000 trails worldwide. What’s more, the AllTrails app even works offline. Simply add any trail as a favorite and the app guides you along using GPS.
  • Invest in the Backcountry Trail Guide. These are available at the visitor centre and are indispensable while hiking in Chaco Canyon. The Backcountry Trail Guide thoroughly explains many interesting features within the park, both natural and man-made.

A Chaco Canyon Backcountry Trail Guide sitting on top of a road atlas.

  • Charge your devices. Imagine your disappointment when you go to take a photo, only to see the drained battery symbol.
  • Stay hydrated. Carry plenty of water as well as a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, binoculars and snacks during all hikes.
  • Have proper footwear. Although these hikes aren’t technical, sturdy comfortable hiking boots or trail shoes make all the difference.
  • Take your time. Hiking at an elevation of over 6,000 feet in the high desert environment is grueling.
  • Leave the trail as you find it. Do not take anything from the trails – pottery, plants etc. You are being watched from afar by rangers with binoculars! You will almost certainly get caught.
  • Cairns are strategically placed as markers almost everywhere. Where cairns don’t exist, the trail is rather obvious or is marked by water bars/pans. In general, the trails here are very well-marked.

The Road to Ruins: Driving to Chaco Canyon

The reputation of this road precedes it. Although the road to Chaco Canyon is formidable, with a little planning and some slow, cautious driving you will conquer it. Having a high clearance vehicle makes sense however compact cars make the trip easily, also.

A badly rutted dirt road stretching into the horizon.

At this point you are likely wondering why the road to Chaco Canyon isn’t completely paved. Similar to countless others before me I posed that question to park rangers, likely exasperated by this common query. The reality is the roads to Chaco Canyon pass through private land and it’s a contentious dispute yet to be hammered out in the form of a smooth paved road.

Directions to Chaco Canyon and a Break-Down of Road Conditions

Chaco Canyon National Historical Park is reached via two very different routes: an east route via US Highway 550 and a south route via Navajo Service Route 9, also listed as NM Route 57 on many maps. However, which route you take depends on where you are coming from.

Each route, along with potential road conditions, is detailed below. The east route is best approached from Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos and points east, while the south route is best approached from Gallup, Grants and points south of these cities as well as Farmington.

East Route Directions to Chaco Canyon and Road Conditions:

Coming from north or south on U.S. Highway 550, follow signs indicating the turn for Chaco Canyon National Historical Park; this turn puts you on county road 7900. Continue on this paved road for 5 miles, then turn right on county road 7950.

This paved road continues for about 4 miles before transitioning to gravel. County Road 7950 then deteriorates rather quickly for the next 8 miles. Above all, stay alert and take it very slow.

A San Miguel County Road Sign for route 7950 in New Mexico.

A sign (see above) indicates the end of county maintenance and from here the road condition increasingly worsens. For the next 4 miles expect very deep ruts during the drive and, after heavy rains, washed-out sections. To sum it up, expect the worst during this drive and be prepared for it.

A badly flooded road with a white truck attempting to pass.

The last 2.5 miles of this road is mercifully paved before reaching the entrance of Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. Overall, it is 21 miles from U.S. Highway 550 to the last 2.5 miles of paved road into the park.

South Route Directions to Chaco Canyon and Road Conditions:

Coming from east or west on Navajo Service Route 9, confusingly shown as NM Route 57 on some maps; follow signs indicating the turn for Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. This turn puts you on Navajo Service Route 14, also shown as NM Route 57 on some maps. Continue 22 miles to the park entrance.

No matter the name, this dirt road is most noteworthy for being both a direct route to the park entrance and lightly traveled compared to the east route mentioned above. Expect washboard surfaces, plenty of dust and a few rough, rocky patches during this drive.

Tips for Driving to Chaco Canyon

  • Keep an eye on the weather. It doesn’t take much rainfall to wash out public access roads to Chaco Canyon. Your vehicle can easily become stuck in the mud/ruts and flash floods are a reality. Use common sense during your drive and realistically know your vehicle’s limitations.
  • No 4×4 needed. A high clearance vehicle is advantageous but not necessary during the drive to Chaco Canyon.
  • Have a spare tyre. Also, know how to change a flat if you need to.
  • Give yourself time. Allow 1 to possibly 2 hours to tackle this drive, depending on your vehicle’s constitution and the condition of the road.
  • Watch out for livestock. Up to the point you enter the park, be aware of open range on both sides of the road. Open range is fairly self-explanatory – livestock is not fenced in and therefore may be present on the road. You will be responsible for the value of any animal you hit!
  • See tip #1 again!

The Dark in the Park Featured Programme

Every Friday and Saturday evening from April through October the park features a programme highlighting the night sky at Chaco Canyon; depending on staffing this Dark in the Park talk may also be held on Tuesday evenings.

The visitor centre has a list of other available walks, talks and audio visual programmes on offer for the foreseeable week. Naturally, due to the increase/decrease in daylight hours, the Dark in the Park talk time changes on a weekly basis so check with the visitor centre for current times.

This very informative and entertaining talk comes with a strong Drifter’s recommendation. Park Ranger J.B.gives the presentation and he pioneered the astronomy programme in the park – he’s a wealth of knowledge on the night sky at Chaco Canyon.

Participants get to look through several telescopes including one in the observatory. Rangers guide you and your eyes on a galactic journey through the lens of each telescope, so allow up to two hours for the presentation and the hands-on telescope time.

If you prefer a dark sky and optimal viewing of the stars and the milky way, avoid camping here when the moon is full; this provides it’s own natural form of light pollution. The dark sky in New Mexico is incredible at night!

Chaco Canyon is the fourth darkest park in the U.S. Go online to find out where you’ll find the top 10 darkest skies in the US, or internationally. Should your preference be a lovely moonlit stroll, you couldn’t pick a better place than Chaco Canyon for a romantic ramble.

The Allure of Visiting Chaco Canyon

Hopefully the information and tips we’ve provided set you up for a successful and memorable Chaco Canyon camping trip. We also hope this has inspired you to hit the trails. Come fully prepared to experience Chaco Canyon and you’ll be planning to return before you even leave the park.

Pueblo ruins in Chaco Canyon against a sheer yellow sandstone cliff and blue sky.
Pueblo Bonito. Worth the Drive!

Visiting Chaco Canyon is an amazing experience which subtly lures visitors with it’s mystical ruins and peaceful solitude. Add to this the shifting colours of the sandstone cliffs as the sunlight strengthens and wanes and you’ll soon see why this setting has attracted folk for centuries.

Throw in the rather fantastical and whimsical rock formations whipped, gouged, cajoled and caressed through millions of years of wind/rain erosion, and you have a captivating landscape begging to be explored. New Mexico is full of enchanting locations like this waiting for you.

Pin Me Now!

Red crescent moon, red star and red handprint on a yellow wall, with ancient ruins and Fajada Butte at Chaco Canyon.



yellow sandstone ruins against a deep blue sky.

ancient ruins and pictograph of human figurines.


  1. Hi! I am from NM and have been to Chaco Canyon twice in my life. The first was when I was a middle-schooler and my folks took us on a 7 day trip to Chaco during Spring Break. First of all, the road did not faze us. We had driven over much worse and longer dirt roads on our family adventures. The road was dirt from Highway 500 on in to Chaco in the early 70’s. We went to all the sites and took our time. My Dad, who felt incumbent to teach us things, had all kinds of information. We hiked all over the place and had a ton of fun. I also went when I was in college with some friend over a long weekend. I don’t remember the road being all that bad then, either. I guess it is my perspective. I take a regular sedan places most people would only take a high clearance vehicle. It is knowing how to drive on NM dirt roads.

    Chaco is an amazing place. I suggest anyone who likes Chaco to go the Solstice Project website: https://solsticeproject.org/ Also they have a film out called The Mystery of Chaco Canyon, which is about the Chacoan peoples’ use of Sun cycles (Solstices and Equinoxes) and Lunar cycles (Max and Min on the horizon) to align their buildings. It is amazing. And it has to do with other sites in the 4 corners area, too. Also the roads. One of the things the Project does is consult with indigenous peoples in the area (Pueblo and Navajo) about Chaco. I appreciate their perspective deeply.

    Thank you for such a balanced travel blog.

    • Hi Margaret.
      Indeed, those used to driving on unpaved roads likely wouldn’t be fazed by the two different access roads to Chaco Canyon. For this article we felt the most important factor to consider when planning any trip to Chaco (either driving, camping or hiking) would be the weather, especially during or after heavy rains. The road off US Highway 550 features a brief paved section which can and does become completely covered with flowing water after heavy rains. This portion was indeed flooded and even partially collapsed on our last visit – we include a photo of this in our article to prepare visitors for that possibility as this is not something to be taken lightly.
      With caution, a sedan could make it over either of the access roads to Chaco Canyon – hopefully those reading this article who do not have a high clearance vehicle will see our mention of this and will be encouraged to carefully get here on the road to the ruins. Despite our gingerly driving on one of the unpaved roads to Chaco, we experienced some minor structural damage to our van – we were much luckier than the few broke down vehicles we saw along the way.
      Thank you for the information from the Solstice Project! We especially find ancient road systems to be fascinating yet largely unsung attractions. We’ve found it difficult to find portions of Mayan sacbes on our travels to Mexico and Central America. We just left Peru a few days ago and are in Ecuador for a brief time – we return to Peru in a few weeks and look forward to seeing some intact portions of ancient Incan roads during our next visit there.
      Again, we appreciate the info on the Chacoan roads from the Solstice Project – your link could be of interest to others as well.

      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  2. Donna Scott

    Jerry & Fiona. We love reading your posts and comments from your followers. Your photos and images of all the beauty your adventures capture. Please continue to posts more photos in the future
    While in New Mexico. Love, Mom& Dad

    • Thank you! We promise to share more photos of our travels, in New Mexico and beyond!

      Also, we thank you for your continuous support of everything we do – it means so much to us!

      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  3. Fiona and Jerry,

    I’ve been to Chaco four times since 2011. It was April in 2011 and the wind was ferocious. The road coming in from the East is even more so. It was not fun. Speed limit signs up to 25 mph, I drove at 10 mph. I knew there was a southern route but didn’t consider it until about three or so years ago. It appears to be graded as there are ranches in the area, and my teeth didn’t rattle. I love the area, hiked to Wijiji. Unusual ruins. Watch out for rattlesnakes, although I saw only one basking in the shade of a small bush. I have a bad habit of always looking down, good thing I did this time. He may have been very annoyed at how close I was. I did get a couple of neat pictures. That last night on the it rained, and rained. I was staying in the campground and wondered if I could get out. I did see cars coming in. People at the visitor center assured me it was reported the road was in good condition. I can’t tell you where it is, it’s very prominent, but there’s a cement something, wide on the road, a little deep. It’s to water to flow through and not wash out the road. No problem getting through. That was my last trip on the east road. I went south the next time. And I want to hike to the northern ruins. It’s quite a hike but mostly on flat.

    Those paintings you call pictographs sure look like carvings, petroglyphs. Of course I could be wrong, you photograph misses some of that detail.

    Thank you for this wonderful article. When I finally out of here post Covid, I’m heading south, or west, or southwest (I live in northern Colorado). It’s hard to decide. So much to see, so little time.

    • Hi Darlene,
      Thank you so much for the lovely comment!

      Yes, springtime winds in much of New Mexico can be quite robust! The east road in can be a challenge to some vehicles, ours included! It rained once during a particular camping trip of ours as well, so we know how much of a challenge that can be. We know of the concrete “bridge” you are talking about and, on the particular trip of ours where it rained, we had to take our time traversing it on the way out of the park as the water was rushing fast. We hope your next trip to Chaco Canyon includes all the hikes you can do! The paintings of the hand and the moon are indeed pictographs and not petroglyphs.

      Thank you again for the comment and we hope you make it back to Chaco Canyon soon!

      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  4. Al & Loreen Hofer - Pawcatuck, CT

    Thank you for providing this information. Sure brought back some fond memories. We were out at Chaco in July 1989 & 1999. At that time, you didn’t need reservations for a campsite because there weren’t many people crazy enough to make the trip out there yet. All you had to do was show up and pick out a spot that wasn’t already occupied.I think there was only one rest room at that time but it really wasn’t an issue. We made the hike out to Penasco Blanco and South Mesa and what stands out in my mind were those pesty gnatts that would constantly try to get in your ears and behind your glasses. Also the thunderstorms that moved in around dinner time and stayed throughout the night. The force of the wind flattened our tent and broke one of the fiberglass tent supports, then there was the stream of water that came through the floor of the tent. All in all, we wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience. Was the only place I’ve ever been where I could see stars right down to ground level!

    • Al & Loreen,

      It doesn’t sound like too much has changed over the years, right down to the occasional flooded tent! As you know, the South Mesa Trail was our favorite hike – we’ve done that trail in both directions and it gets better each time. Are you planning a trip there? I know they are closed now, but we hope you have a visit in the future planned. There’s another road to the the park – it’s handy if you’re arriving from the Gallup/Grants area and, although it’s still rutted and gnarly, we think it’s in better condition than other one!

      Do check out the free night sky programme when you make it back. Yes, the dark sky is incredible there! Thanks for the great comment!

      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry.

  5. Cindy Charest

    Love this post! I had the chance to visit Chaco a couple years ago and just loved it. Did not make the Penasco Blanco Trail, but did manage the entire Pueblo Alto and South Mesa loops. Sea fossils are amazing on the Pueblo Alto trail, including cool impressions of mollusks, along with the worm trails. Jackson Stairway – definitely not possible! In fact, the handholds (prior to the “steps”) were specifically designed so that if intruders tried to climb the wall, not knowing the exact order of which hand or foot to put there, would get to the top, not know how to proceed, and fall down. Eek! Per a ranger’s suggestion, I did the South Mesa Trail “backwards,” and thought it worked nicely. The protected spots along the way, just above the South Gap. looked to me like prehistoric campsites. I remember seeing lines in the rock from sharpening of tools. Maybe there was some info in the Backcountry Trails book. (I should have gotten it!) Loved the view of Shiprock (waaaay in the distance, faint on the horizon) from Tsin Kletzin.

    Thanks for all the info; I feel as if I had another visit there. 🙂

    • Cindy,
      You make it seem like you were there just the other day, along with us! You taught us something about the Jackson Staircase; that information was not in our backcountry guide, so thanks for that! We certainly recall seeing some of the little things you mention, like the score marks in the rocks where tools were sharpened. We are both so happy you enjoyed Chaco Canyon as much as we did; we could have spent weeks there re-hiking all those trails and taking in all of the views along the way. When were you there?
      Thanks again so much for reading this post and sharing your experience of Chaco Canyon.
      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

      • Cindy Charest

        Hi guys! I’m sorry I never got back to you! I was at Chaco in the spring of 2015. Recently came back from hiking to Keet Seel at Navajo National Monument and already planning to get to Horseshoe Canyon (part of Canyonlands) and Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef. The Southwest is endlessly fascinating!

        • Cindy,

          It sounds like you enjoy hiking in the Southwest as much as we do. We have some more recommendations for hiking around Albuquerque on our blog, too. Let us know how your other hikes go.

          Your Drifters,
          Fiona and Jerry

  6. Hi Fi and Jerry,

    Thankyou for sharing great photos of stunning scenery.

    Keep safe,
    D and Susie

    • Thanks D and Susie for your support. Tomorrow (Oct. 30th) we finally cross the border into Mexico and we can’t wait. Hopefully there’ll be even better photos to follow. Finally the kayak will see some water! You get some strange looks driving through the desert with a kayak!
      Your Drifters,
      Fi and Jerry

  7. Donna J Scott

    Fiona, what a fascinating and informative post. This was very informative and gives you a feel for how remote the Chaco Canyon is . I also was amazed by the photography. Fiona, being you are an Archaeologist this is a dream come true for you, I know Jerry loves this as much as you.
    Safe travels you two drifters.

    • Donna,
      They say getting there is half the fun! It is certainly true. I have always wanted to visit this place, but it never happened when we lived here in New Mexico. We are both so happy to have the time to do it now. The hikes were amazing and so was the scenery along the way. I am glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks again for following and sharing!
      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  8. Wow. Just wow. Fascinating and informative! Love the muddy boot details. Your stories are really fun guys.

    • Dave,
      As you can see, you must keep an eye on the weather at Chaco Canyon. It really is a beautiful place and one of the less visited corners of the state, for some rather jolting reasons! Thanks again Dave for reading and enjoying our posts. Hello and Love to everyone at PWM!
      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  9. Fiona,
    Thank you for taking us on this journey. Sean and I will add it to the list of “Need to see places”. Maybe if I’m lucky, I will get to Ireland first, so that we can roam the land of my ancestors.

    I continue to wish you and Jerry well, and hope to read more soon
    Travel safely.
    Best regards,
    Kerry and Sean

    • Kerry and Sean,
      We hope you make it to Chaco Canyon next time you both are out west. Just be prepared! You will love Ireland…it is only a 6 hour flight from the east coast. If you need any tips on Ireland, just give us a shout! Thanks again for following our blog. We really do appreciate it!
      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  10. Fiona, what an extensive post about Chaco Canyon. Until now I was unaware of it. Dark night skies are something to behold. Two of my favorites…Oil Creek Campground out of Titusville Pa and Lake Kipawa in Quebec (fishing trip). Even though none of the pics in your post showed the Griswold umbrellas, I bet you aired them out a time or two. Nice work on the van Jerry. Love. DAD

    • David,
      Thanks for hanging in there and reading such a lengthy piece. The hikes (and the night skies) were indeed worth every struggle to get there! Next time we are in Pennsylvania you will have to show me your favourite night-time sky. We have yet to use the umbrellas and hope the only use they get is for sun-shade on the beaches of Baja! Jerry was quite proud to have fixed the van…he learned from the best.
      Your Drifters,
      Fiona and Jerry

  11. Buddy, I haven’t seen you in probably a quarter of a century, but I wish you guys nothing but the best, and safe journeys. I anticipate your posts now, and hopefully we will see one another again 🙂

    • Brad,
      It has been about a quarter of a century. How does the time slip by so quickly? Reading your comment made me think of all the trouble we got into as kids and all the adventures we went on. Those adventures stuck with me, and I am so fortunate to be able to continue the adventure with Fiona. I hope to see you when I am back in the Shenango Valley. We both thank you for looking at the blog and following along as we go. You made my day by getting in touch, and I thank you for all of our past adventures together as we were growing up.
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

  12. I am always impressed at the variety of food you have access to in your travels. As someone who has spent almost all of his life having to eat in what are called “South of the Border” restaurants, your pictures of different foods wants me to sue them for false advertising. Keep the pictures coming. I can always drool! Lily & I caught you as you were backing out to leave on your latest adventure Thurs morning. She will miss your kindness. Bill

    • Bill,
      We hate saying goodbye just as much as you do. Pulling out of the driveway that morning and waving to you and Lily was all we could do to prevent us from turning into a bunch of sobbing individuals! Fiona and I certainly enjoyed being your neighbor for 14 years, and we thank you for everything. Please keep reading, for we hope to continue to wow you with more and more food photos. So, we wish you and Vicki a fond farewell, and give Lily and Jess all the hugs and kisses you can from us. We will miss you all.
      Lots of love,
      Your Drifters,
      Jerry and Fiona

      • http://digg.com/video/longest-drivable-distance-on-earth

        Thought you might want to take this trip :). Bill

        • Bill,
          Thanks for the video. You know us; we are just crazy enough to take any route and the urge to seek out this journey is quite compelling! Is this a future challenge in the making?!?! Something tells us you would have done a journey like this back in the day, for you are someone who likes an adventure as well. We hope to see you on that road one day! Thanks for your support and keep on following us on our blog. Give our love to Vicki and the pups.
          Your Drifters,
          Jerry and Fiona

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *