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Old 05-13-2018, 09:14 PM
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Bill Bill is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: The mountains of Scottsdale, AZ, and the beaches of Maine
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Default Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

In this thread
the idea of visiting Chaco Canyon, New Mexico was briefly discussed. Since Chaco is not readily accessible or often visited, the discussion didn't get very deep, but here is some new info.

My wife and I are now making our annual trip from Arizona to Maine. We decided to make a long-postponed visit to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. This is the site of an ancient pueblo civilization, and the canyon contains hundreds of well-preserved structures. In years past, we have visited most of the pueblo ruins in the west, and with the exception of one or two cliff dwellings, Chaco Canyon was by far the most impressive. It reminds me of Bandolier National Monument, but on a much larger and more spectacular scale. Anyone who enjoys ancient civilizations and structures would enjoy a visit.

Strangely enough, the National Park Service seems to want to minimize the number of visitors to the site. The web site has very confusing driving directions, including some route number errors. It also has dire-sounding warnings about the difficulty of access, the dangerous conditions of the roads, and so forth. For that reason, we were a little timid about the undertaking, but found these warnings to be highly overblown. Because of these warnings, we elected to stay at the KOA campground in Grants, New Mexico, for two nights, and drive in to Chaco during the day between.

It takes about 2 hours to drive to Chaco from Grants. Most of it is good asphalt road, but the last 20 miles is unpaved. This road is well graded and can be handled easily by any sedan. Four wheel drive and high clearance are not required. Most of it can be taken at 30-35 mph, but there are some washboard sections where you need to slow down. The only iffy time would be the two or three days after a heavy rain.

When planning a visit to Chaco, the primary inconvenience is the distance from any easily accessible campgrounds. There is a nice, though dry, campground in the canyon itself near the Visitor Center, but NPS suggests tent camping only, and discourages RVs and trailers because of the roads. However, when we drove into the campground, more than half the spaces were occupied by trailers or big RVs. I’m not sure I would recommend bringing in your TM, though. Things would shake loose on the washboarded sections of the road, and I suspect there would be a lot of dust infiltration.

I would be glad to provide more detail to anyone thinking of going to Chaco Canyon. Just PM me.
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