Visiting Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Say that ten times fast 😛

Okay, so I had researched Chaco CNHP, but not enough because I was blown away when I got there (was it from the wonderment that met me or drifting off the washboard road or the high speed winds or all three?)! Well, it was definitely from everything I got to see, but I feel like I would be cruel if I didn’t mention the road to get there. This place just kept on giving! Every time I thought “that’s probably the last one”, lo and behold, I would see more up ahead. Chaco CNHP is a bit out of the way, but definitely worth it!

Getting to Chaco CNHP:

Chaco Cultural National Historical Park – Check ahead for any park alerts
Address: 1808 County Road 7950, Nageezi, NM 87037
Fees: $25.00 per vehicle (Annual Pass covers this)
NPS Website

There’s an 11 mile stretch (some say 13, I lost track watching the speedometer because it took so long) of rough dirt road. The roughness of this road probably varies depending on the weather, but I will tell you that in mid April when I visited, this was the worst washboard road I have ever driven on. That’s not an exaggeration. There were small cars driving by us at crazy speeds, I mean did their cars make it okay? In one piece?! I was seriously concerned. In my sister’s Jeep Wrangler, in a large part of the stretch, if we went over 6 MPH, our backend started to drift left and shift the entire vehicle’s position. It was a weird sensation. Not to mention it literally felt like the vehicle was going to fall apart with how hard it was shaking. So yeah, 11 miles, some of it going 6 MPH, you can see it took us a very long time to get through this road. Over an hour. 4 Wheel made a zero bit of difference.
I will say this slow torture was 100% worth what we saw at Chaco CNHP, but I do want to warn others that this road could be a full on terror for you, too.

We parked at the visitor’s center and grabbed the available pamphlet at the table set up outside the doors (seriously, I’m so over COVID for so many things). We hit the trail to the right of the visitor’s center and saw our first bit of ruins. We then went quite steep up (but short) and were able to see some petroglyphs and pictographs. These ones are in very good shape.

There are a few more up there, as well. This was the biggest panel.

Originally, I didn’t know that there were multiple stops along this place and so I was very surprised as I read through the pamphlet. When we began driving the one way loop and I could spot the crumbling structures in the distance, it was so cool!

As you drive along, there will be parking lots you can stop in. I recommend stopping at all of them and exploring everything offered. Though the last stop around the loop said permits/guides were required. It was tempting not to just go up because nobody was there to stop us… but we’re so straight-laced with this stuff that we question the actual trail when it doesn’t look enough like a trail. We really don’t want to ruin any of the environment!

Here’s a photo dump of some of the awesomeness that Chaco has to offer! (click to see them larger!)

You get to go inside of some of these, just be very mindful of which ones you’re allowed to venture into and do pay attention to what is roped off so these can be preserved and enjoyed for many years to come! I would say we spent about two hours here. You could easily spend so much more time here and even picnic, as there are picnic tables at the visitor center parking lot. You can access that lot both before and after making the canyon loop.

Though it might be a bit out of the way, and we had to endure quite the washboard road to get there, I am so glad that we went and it was so worth the trip out.

What was your favorite part of Chaco Culture National Historical Park?

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