A visit to the Chimney Rock National Monument after my San Juans trip.
Located at the northern and eastern-most part of what is called the Four Corners region, Chimney Rock is the home of 800+ year old Pueblo dwellings, is a major astronomical center and is also the furthest extent of the Chacoan culture. Over the years, my interest in the ancesteral Puebloan culture has increased. Many of my trips have involved a mixture of culture, history and the striking beauty of this region.
When someone and I went to Hovenweep back in March of this past year, we drove right by the monument. Alas, the monument is only open, in full, from May through October.
Being in the area, I did not want to pass up the chance to see it.
Joining me for this trip would be my friend Suzie. Suzie is a friend from back when we were both active in a Boulder outdoor group. She has since moved on to the Durango, CO area. The other connection we share is that Suzie grew up in Wrightwood, CA just off the PCT. Her father was nice enough to take me in for a day or two when I hiked this long trail.
After my San Juans trip, I started driving to Suzie’s home. As I drove from the mountains, the Rockies receded. At some point, about ten miles past Pagosa Springs, the Rockies gave way to the desert southwest. Red rocks appeared. Juniper, pinyon and sagebrush were more noticeable. I had crossed an unmarked border from the Rockies to the Four Corners region. And Chimney Rock is at the edge of it.
Suzie was gracious enough to let me take a quick shower. After getting rid of five days of trail grime, we drove up to the monument.
The monument is, more or less, divided into two areas. The old Pueblo area and the Chimney Rock area. The remnants of the Pueblo dwelling are interesting enough, but it is the Chimney Rock area itself that is unique.
The guided tour made its way up the somewhat steep and sheer cliff to Chimney Rock itself.
Far in the distance, the guide pointed out where Chaco Canyon was located. Ninety-miles way as the crow flies, there is evidence that signal fires were lit at the summit of the rock area to communicate with Chaco! Rather cool.
It is thought that Chimney Rock contributed lumber, game animals such elk and material such as sand stone for religious ceremonies. Additionally, Chimney Rock was an important religious and astronomical site for the Chacoan culture itself.
The rather large kiva and the Great House prominently situated up high , gives further evidence of this religious and cultural importance of Chimney Rock.
Actually walking to Chimney and Companion Rocks is now closed to the general public, but it is easy to see why the site was so prominent in the area.
During the Equinox, and certain Lunar cycles, the importance of this area as an ancient observatory is also obvious.
We headed down to join the Pueblo tour, but took one last view to the valley below.
After the Pueblo tour, the sky started darkening. Clouds came. The weather cooled. And the last Chimney Rock tour was canceled due to lightning. We timed it right! 🙂
All in all, well worth the half day visit.
After our visit, Suzie and I enjoyed a nice burger and beer in nearby Pagosa and continued to catch up.
After dinner, thanked my friend for her hospitality and then headed back to Boulder.
A great trip before starting a new job at a different company.
If you should go…
- Check out this website for directions, hour and such
- The Pueblo area is free and can done as a self guided tour
- The only way to see the Chimney Rock area itself is through a $12 per person tour. Worth the money as the guides are very knowledgeable. The money also helps preserve this area.
- You can only snack in the car. Due to the time of the year, bring some water and sunscreen however.
- The small visitor’s center at the base of the road that goes to the top has a small amount of souvenirs.
- Plan perhaps a half day total here. Worth the quick side trip esp if you have been to Chaco or other ancient Puebloan areas.
- Nearby Pagosa Springs has plenty of places for post-trip noshing.