Category: Pueblo Alto Trail, Chaco Culture NHP

Hike Pueblo Alto, Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Our goal was to hike Pueblo Alto Loop Trail, which is about 5.5 miles on top of the north mesa to another settlement, Pueblo Alto. Continuing across the mesa and around the rim with views of the valley, Pueblo Bonita, Chetro Ketl and Chaco Canyon. 

People have been here for thousands of years, but in the mid-800’s they began to build on a grand scale for 300 years, and it is incredible what they did. It became the hub of trade for settlements throughout the southwest and Mesoamerica, bringing chocolate here. They built roads to connect settlements, irrigated fields, stored water and foods and had ceremonies in their great, round kivas. Many Native Americans feel this was where they came from, and it holds great spiritual value to them. To build such a structured society, there had to be strong leadership and organization. 

The trail starts behind Kin Kletso, one of seven major “great houses”. It quickly climbs up the mesa through a very narrow slot in the canyon wall. Once on top, it is mostly level with wonderful views of the settlements and the large valley. A mile around the rim, we had a great overlook of Pueblo Bonito. It is like a highway on the solid rock of the rim, the trail well-marked by cairns (rock piles). In Canada they are called Inunchucks, the Inuit name for their way of marking sites or trails on the ice.

It was a beautiful morning, beginning at 65 degrees. I almost wore a second shirt, but knew I would soon warm up. It was overcast, a blessing in July in New Mexico. Martha and I rate this the best hike we have taken. It was a perfect day for hiking; we never saw anyone else; the history is amazing, comparable to Machu Picchu; there are many unique features: solid rock canyon rim extending for miles like a highway, slot canyons, canyon steps carved 1,000 years ago, the views, “buckets” holding water, iron deposits. There were very few boring steps. Wonderful hike, and it was the ranger’s second favorite! I think her favorite was the Petroglyphs Trail, but the wash was running too hard to cross.

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