The Heart of the Colorado Plateau – Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon is one of those places that I always seem to return.

What makes Chaco Canyon so intriguing?

Is it the remoteness? Being in the middle of a vast canyon? The history and being able to explore the site of a civilization 1000 years old?  Again being at one of the most famous archeoastronomy sites in the world? Or seeing the night sky that is among the darkest in the United States? Perhaps knowing the center of the Colorado Plateau is where I am standing? 

All I know Chaco is one of those special places. Where every time I go, I seem to discover more. And want to return yet again.

Joan and I made plans to visit Chaco over the Thanksgiving holiday. My traditional way of spending the holiday: Somewhere outside and camping for multiple days.

Unlike past trips, no camping is available over Thanksgiving in Chaco.  We had to find an alternative area for camping on Thursday.

Luckily we found an area about an hour north on BLM land not far from where I’ve been earlier. A perfect place for a layover day.

Memorable scenery, not many people, and enough places to stretch the legs for an afternoon.

Our view from camp did not disappoint, either.

The following morning we made our way down the bumpy road to Chaco Canyon proper, found a suitable camp spot for the next few days, and started our exploring in earnest.

We soon reached one of the most well-known archeoastronomy site: The Supernova Pictograph.

We then made the easy hike up and reached the top of the mesa and looked into Chaco Canyon proper from Penasco Blanco.

We made our way back to camp and hiked a trail just in time to catch the setting sun by Fajada Butte.

The following morning we hiked to Tsin Kletsin overlooking the canyon and by the South Road.

We finished our hike just in time get some later afternoon photos of Pueblo Bonito. Architecturally the most impressive building in the canyon, the late afternoon light of winter always seems to bring out the best photo ops.

We enjoyed one last sunset from the valley floor that evening.

One last day at Chaco before we headed out. Time to explore the canyon above Pueblo Bonito and hiking to Pueblo Alto that is near the edge of the publicly accessible land in the park.

An old service road leads both out of the canyon and is the path that the Puebloans followed.

And we saw the small herd of elk that currently populates Chaco, too.

We saw one last ranger talk at Pueblo Bonito. The ranger posed questions that made us think about our most recent Chaco experience and how people lived here generations ago.

An excellent way to end our more recent trip to Chaco.

One visit is not enough to see everything there. Or even three. We’ll be back again.

All the photos

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2 Replies to “The Heart of the Colorado Plateau – Chaco Canyon”

  1. Camping over Thanksgiving is highly underrated and honestly, I hope it stays that way because I don’t want campgrounds more crowded than they already are. Chris and I started a semi-regular tradition of Thanksgiving camping when were newlyweds living in FL and it has carried on all of these years. It’s the best!

    Glad you two got to enjoy a great holiday! Tell Joan I miss her writing. 😉

    • At some point, I need to visit Mom in Florida and also get some camping down in your neck of the world. Seems like a great time of the year to be camping in Florida. Big Cypress is still a place I need to check out for backpacking, too!

      Joan is sitting right across from me as I am drinking my coffee. She loved, and appreciated, your comment. And she says “Hello!” 🙂

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