“see the center of an ancient world!”
For all the wild beauty of Chaco Canyon's high-desert landscape, its long winters, short growing seasons, and marginal rainfall create an unlikely place for a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture to take root and flourish. Yet this valley was the center of a thriving culture a thousand years ago. The monumental scale of its architecture, the complexity of its community life, the high level of its community social organization, and its far-reaching commerce created a cultural vision unlike any other seen before or since. In addition to its spectacular archaeological resources, the park is naturally significant as one of the few protected areas in the San Juan Basin. It is an island of biodiversity, home to plants and wildlife that have been significantly affected by grazing, mineral extraction, and other land-use activities in the surrounding area.
The key to the long, bumpy, dirt road is to drive the suggested speed limit. On our way in, we drove slowly (10MPH) and it took forever and shook us up. On our way out we drove between 25 and 30MPH and low and behold, it was far smoother of an experience! In the park, we rode our bikes on the 9mile loop of the ruins. It was a great way to make tons of easy stops and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Make sure to check out the petroglyph trail and the small graveyard. We camped the night and the campground even had a small ruin site. Such a cool park that not many have heard of!
The directions say you'll go 2.6 miles on Road 7950. That's the PAVED part. Then you've got about 16 miles of the most bone-jarring, teeth-rattling washboard road to cover. The ruins are great when you get there; just be prepared to take the road verrrrry slowly.
I still remember this as a totally incredible site from a family road trip in my childhood (I was in middle school at the time). Once we got there, I was obsessed. It was definitely hot. It's secluded so you get to explore in peace. The circular walls are so cool that you don't even need a guide, you can just look and imagine and be impressed. I don't remember the apparently rough drive--mostly I just remember being wow'd.
It really IS a cool park in one sense, but in reality it is HOT! Take plenty of water, then take more. This park is an amazing experience, but I would suggest going in cool weather. You have to really look for it, too, unless they've improved the signage since I was there. Also, I think you need a permit to camp overnight. And take more water. More. And more photographs...
The ruins are very great and interesting. The park does a good job of informing guests of the significance. Great place for camping and stargazing. North road is terribly bumpy but I'm told it's preferable to the south road. If raining or just rained both are going to be very slick. We thought we might slide off the road at one point. If a monsoon has just come through you have to be prepared of flash floods blocking access to the road. I wish the park would do a better job however of warning about the roads with signs or the park radio station AM 1610. Have water available while exploring and it's a good idea to have a hat and sunscreen. Visitors center has bathrooms and drinkable water.
Individual sites are $15/night. Senior and Access passes apply. Group sites are a flat rate of $60/night. Visit www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.
Open All Year.
Gallo Campground, located one mile east of the Visitor Center, is open year-round. Tucked among the fallen boulders and cliffs of Gallo Wash, the campground offers camping in a rugged environment, surrounded by petroglyphs, a cliff dwelling, inscriptions, and a high desert landscape. There is no shade.
The campsites are available by reservation. Camping is limited to 14 days. Each campsite costs $15.00 per night. Interagency Senior and Access pass holders pay $7.50 per site, per night. There is a limit of six people, two tents, and two vehicles at each campsite. Check-out time is 11:00 AM.
Each site has a picnic table and fire grate (with a grill). Bring your own firewood or charcoal. Gathering wood is prohibited and no firewood is available in the park. Most sites include a tent pad. Pets are permitted, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Do not approach or feed the wildlife. The campground has water (non-potable) and restrooms with flush toilets. The restrooms are closed from the day after Veterans Day through the end of February. Porta Pottys are available during this time.
Site #11 and both restrooms are handicap accessible. There are no showers or hook-ups. Drinking water is available 24 hours a day in the Visitor Center parking area. There is no gasoline, auto repair, food, or ice available in the park. To make the most of your visit, please plan ahead and come prepared.
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Chaco Culture National Historic Park
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