Chaco Culture National Historical Park can be a big park to swallow on a day trip, but if time allows, a hike off the beaten path is really worthwhile. If there is only time for one hike beyond the obvious stops on the loop road, then the trail up to Pueblo Alto should be given strong consideration. The two small ruins at the top aren’t that impressive compared to Pueblo Bonito and some others, but the overall hike has a lot of great features.
From the parking area at Pueblo del Arroyo, at the extreme west end of the loop road, the trail to Pueblo Alto first passes by the small ruin of Kin KIetso and then climbs steeply up the canyon wall to the rim. This short stretch is fairly difficult, involving some rock hopping and navigating a narrow slot that is intimidating to some. Once at the top, the trail follows the rim with excellent views culminating with the overlook above Pueblo Bonito. Along the way the view through South Gap is stunning and really reinforces how remote Chaco Canyon really is. From the Pueblo Bonito overlook, the trail climbs north and passes remnants of a Chaco road and a set of ancient steps. Of the two small ruin sites at the top, New Pueblo is a bit more intact and interesting than Pueblo Alto.
This trail can be extended to make a 5-mile loop with a nice overlook of Chetro Ketl and more views from the canyon rim.