Share:

Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico

08.06.18

Start Exploring
Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico

Share:

Advertisement
  • Pueblo Bonita from the Pueblo Alto Trail in Chaco Canyon.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Gallo Campground in Chaco Canyon.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Pueblo Alto Trail, Chaco Canyon.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • The great kiva at Chetro Ketl.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Petroglyphs at Una Vida, Chaco Canyon.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • The "great wall" of Una Vida, Chaco Canyon.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • These doorways at Pueblo Bonito are perfectly aligned with each other.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • The Pueblo Bonito ruins are located along the side of a canyon wall.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Wall of Hungo Pavi ruin in Chaco Canyon.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • The interior of the restored kiva at Aztec Ruins.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Detail of the construction at Aztec Ruins National Monument.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Walls of the Kuaua Ruins at Coronado Historic Site.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Ladder to the painted kiva at Coronado Historic Site.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • The first ladder encountered on the trail at Tsankawi Ruins in Bandelier National Monument.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • There is a lot of rock art on the cliffs in Bandelier, but it takes a keen eye to find it.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Hikers can climb into the cliff dwellings in Bandelier.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Mission ruin at Pecos National Historical Park.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Kiva ladder at Pecos National Monument.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Black Canyon Campground is a wonderful option near Santa Fe.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
  • Typical developed site.- Exploring the Puebloan Ruins and Rock Art of Northern New Mexico
Article
Pro Contributor

Archeological records show that humans have inhabited the American southwest for at least 11,000 years. The earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers who lived in pit houses dug in the ground and were at least partially nomadic. Between 700 and 900 A.D., people began to build stone rectangular structures either against cliffs or free-standing. These pueblos became permanent dwellings and ceremonial spaces that flourished for hundreds of years. When the Spanish explorers arrived around 1600, many of these communities had been abandoned, but others were thriving. Today there are 21 federally recognized pueblos in the southwest, mostly in New Mexico, and some of the descendants of the ancestral puebloans still live in the original structures.

Northern New Mexico has an abundance of ancestral puebloan ruins and contains 19 of the modern pueblo communities. An ideal immersion into the history of Puebloan culture includes exploring the ruins of now-abandoned dwellings as well as visits to active pueblos that allow visitors. Many of the best puebloan sites can be visited from three hub cities: Albuquerque, Farmington and Santa Fe. Two days in each will give any visitor a good introduction to key Puebloan sites.

Albuquerque is a great place to begin exploring with the excellent Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. After getting some background at the museum, nearby sites include the Coronado State Historical Site, Petroglyph National Monument and the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. A bit longer drive will take in the Acoma Pueblo, a living community that claims to be the longest continuously-inhabited community in North America. Guided tours are the only way to visit this site. A good place to camp near Albuquerque is the Coronado Campground just north of the city.

The most important and impressive park for Puebloan history is Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The park is a challenging 2-hour, 30-minute drive each way from Albuquerque, and the park itself can easily consume a day to see it’s key sites. It is possible to visit Chaco as a day trip from Albuquerque, but better options would be to camp at the park’s Gallo Campground for a night or to spend a night in Farmington and visit the excellent, but small, Aztec Ruins National Monument before visiting Chaco. However it is done, Chaco Canyon is a must for anyone interested in Puebloan culture and history. Chaco contains sites like Pueblo Bonito, Hungo Pavi, Una Vida, Pueblo Alto and Chetro Ketl that are as fine as any in the southwest.

Finally, Santa Fe makes an excellent destination for further exploring Puebloan sites like Bandelier National Monument, Pecos National Monument and the living community of Taos Pueblo. Santa Fe is an easy drive from Albuquerque, but it is worth spending a few days here, either staying in town or camping at the nearby Black Canyon Forest Service campground.

The pueblo country of northern New Mexico spans 200 miles from Farmington to Taos, and it is a daunting task to thoroughly explore the richness of ancient and modern puebloan history and culture in a short trip. The rewards, however, are immense: scenic beauty, an evocative history, and an appreciation for the ability of resourceful people to thrive in a hostile land over hundreds of years.

#AdventureLikeYouGiveADamn

We believe good things come from people spending time outside. It’s about more than standing on the mountain top. It’s about nourishment and learning. It’s about protecting what sustains us. It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. LEARN MORE and share the pledge to Adventure Like You Give A Damn.

Advertisement
Published By

Published by

Pro Contributor
619 Adventures Explored
550 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info