North & East Tour
Chaco Culture National Historic Park: The Center of Chacoan Culture
For all the wild beauty of Chaco Canyon’s high-desert landscape, its long winters, short growing seasons, and marginal rainfall create an unlikely place for a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture to take root and flourish. Yet this valley was the center of a thriving culture a thousand years ago. The monumental scale of its architecture, the complexity of its community life, the high level of its community social organization, and its far-reaching commerce created a cultural vision unlike any other seen before or since.
The cultural flowering of the Chacoan people began in the mid-800s and lasted more than 300 years. We can see it clearly in the grand scale of the architecture. Using masonry techniques unique for their time, they constructed massive stone buildings (Great Houses) of multiple stories containing hundreds of rooms much larger than any they had previously built. The buildings were planned from the start, in contrast to the usual practiced of adding rooms to existing structures as needed. Constructions on some of these buildings spanned decades and even centuries. Although each is unique, all great houses share architectural features that make them recognizable as Chacoan.
More info: www.nps.gov/chcu
Red Rock Park
Red Rock Park, with elevation from 6,600 to 7,000 feet and encompassing 640 acres, has large campground equipped with electrical and water hookups, picnic areas, restrooms and showers.
The spectacular red cliffs which frame the Park on three sides began formation 205 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, sometimes referred to as the Age of the Dinosaurs.
Several archeological sites in the Park record the presence of the Anasazi, a prehistoric farming culture which developed and persisted in the area from A.D. 300 to 1200. From 1700 to the present, the region has been sparsely inhabited by the Navajo Indians.
More info: www.gallupnm.gov/index.aspx?NID=207
Canyon de Chelly National Monument: The place called Tseyi’
Millions of years of land uplifts and stream cutting created the colorful sheer cliff walls of Canyon de Chelly. Natural water sources and rich soil provided a variety of resources, including plants and animals that have sustained families for thousands of years. The Ancient Puebloans found the canyons an ideal place to plant crops and raise families. The first settlers built pit houses that were then replaced with more sophisticated homes as more families migrated to the area. More homes were built in alcoves to take advantage of the sunlight and natural protection. People thrived until the mid-1300’s when the Puebloans left the canyons to seek better farmlands.
Descendants of the Puebloans, the Hopi migrated into the canyons to plant fields of corn and orchards of peaches. Although the Hopi permanently settled on the mesa tops, the Hopi still hold on to many of their traditions that are evident from their homes and kivas. Related to the Athabaskan people of Northern Canada and Alaska, the Navajo settled the Southwest between the four sacred mountains. The Navajo, or Dine’ as they call themselves, continue to raise families and plant crops just as the “Ancient Ones” had. The farms, livestock and hogans of the Dine’ are visible from the canyon rims.
More info: www.nps.gov/cach
Hubbell Trading Post
John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased the trading post in 1878, ten years after Navajos were allowed to return to their homeland from their terrible exile at Bosque Redondo, Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. During the four years spent at Bosque Redondo, Navajos were introduced to many new items. Traders like Hubbell supplied those items once they returned home.
Hubbell had an enduring influence on Navajo rug weaving and silversmithing, for he consistently demanded and promoted excellence in craftsmanship. He built a trading empire that included stage and freight lines as well as several trading posts. At various times, he and his two sons, together or separately, owned 24 trading posts, a wholesale house in Winslow, and other business and ranch properties. Beyond question, he was the foremost Navajo trader of his time.
More info: www.nps.gov/hutr
Window Rock and the Navajo Nation
The Navajo Nation extends into the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, covering over 27,000 square miles of unparalleled beauty. The Navajo Reservation is home to more than a dozen national monuments, tribal parks and historical sites, and is peppered with a dozen lakes and ponds – Lake Powell alone has 186 miles of Navajoland shoreline.
Here, you can step back in time and see how the ancient ones – the Anasazi people – lived thousands of years ago. The Navajo Nation has an array of ancient ruins, including the world renowned Navajo National Monument and the tranquil Chaco Culture National Historical Park. From the towering formations of Monument Valley to the majestic red sandstone walls and lush green valley floor of Canyon de Chelly, this is a land of great contrasts. We invite you to Discover Navajo.
More info: https://navajonationparks.org/
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary
Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing permanent, safe sanctuary for abused and abandoned captive-bred wolves and wolf-dogs. The Sanctuary houses over sixty captive-bred wolves and wolf-dogs, most of whom were rescued from abusive or neglectful situations. Since the animals were raised in a captive situation, they do not possess the skills necessary to survive in the wild and cannot be released.
The Sanctuary creates the best environment possible for its animals, where it is located in the high-desert mountains of western New Mexico, providing plenty of trees and hills for the wolves and wolf-dogs to explore in enclosures ranging from 5,000 square feet to one acre.
More info: www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org
El Malpais National Monument
The primeval black basalt terrain of El Malpais was created by volcanic forces over the past million years. Molten lava spread out over the high desert from dozens of eruptions to create cinder cones, shield volcanos, collapses, trenches, caves, and other eerie formations. This stark landscape preserves one of the best continuous geologic records of volcanism on the planet.
The area around El Malpais was used for resources, settlement, and travel by Oasisamerica cultures, Native Americans, and Spanish colonial and pioneer exploration.
El Malpais has many lava tube caves open to explore (unguided) with a free caving permit, available at NPS-staffed facilities. There are currently four caves accessible by permit: Junction and Xenolith caves in the El Caldron area, and Big Skylight and Giant Ice caves in the Big Tubes area.
More info: www.nps.gov/elma
For centuries people have lived around and sometimes in the lava country. Ancient Indian civilizations crossed the lava flows with trail cairns and related to the landscape with stories and ceremony. Spanish empire builders detoured around it and gave it the name used today. Homesteaders settled along its edges and tried to make the desert bloom. The stories of all these people are preserved in the trail cairns, petroglyphs, wall remnants, and other fragments that remain in the backcountry.
The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners Region. Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. The weathering of the sandstone forms hoodoos – weathered rock in the form of pinnacles, spires, cap rocks, and other unusual forms. Fossils occur in this sedimentary landform. Translated from the Navajo language, Bisti (Bis-tie) means “a large area of shale hills.” De-Na-Zin (Deh-nah-zin) takes its name from the Navajo words for “cranes.”
El Morro National Monument and Inscription Rock
Over the centuries, those who traveled this trail stopped to camp at the shaded oasis beneath these cliffs. They left the carved evidence of their passing — symbols, names, dates, and fragments of their stories that register the cultures and history intermingled on the rock.
The remains of a mesa top pueblo are atop the promontory where between about 1275 to 1350 AD, up to 1500 people lived in this 875 room pueblo. The Spaniard explorers called it El Morro (The Headland). The Zuni Indians call it “A’ts’ina” (Place of writings on the rock). Anglo-Americans called it Inscription Rock.
More info: www.nps.gov/elmo
Zuni Pueblo is the largest of the nineteen New Mexican Pueblos, covering more than 700 square miles and with a population of over 10,000.
It is considered the most traditional of all the New Mexico Pueblos, with a unique language, culture, and history that resulted in part from the Zuni’s geographic isolation. With perhaps 80% of the Zuni workforce involved in making arts, it is indeed an “artist colony.” The main industry is the production of arts, including inlay silverwork, stone fetish carving, pottery, and others of which are world famous.
More info: www.zunitourism.com
Ancient Way Arts Trail
Discover the diversity of arts, culture, heritage and scenic beauty along the Ancient Way Arts Trail in northwest New Mexico — the state’s first multi-arts trail as well as the southern link of the Trail of the Ancients Byway! Cultures as varied as Navajo, Zuni, Hispanic, Anglo and Mormon reveal the rich, complex character of this special place through artistry as recent as today or as ancient as history itself. Over twenty-seven participating arts sites represent more than six hundred and fifty superior artists. Many thousands of other active regional artists and possibly hundreds of arts businesses and trading posts lie within easy reach of the Arts Trail.