Chaco Culture National Historic Park was a nice surprise. Having never heard of it before, we did a search on places to hike that also had archaeological sites and the government park site suggested this place. We did not figure it into our original itinerary, but by day 2 of our trip we were already visiting parks we did not plan to stop at and this park seemed to be on the way (somewhat) from point A to point B. So why not?
This little park has a lot of unique programs and interesting sites. One thing we wish we had done different is to show up on a night when they did the Night Sky programs. Call ahead to get the schedule if you are interested. The have telescopes like you would not believe. Some photos from their site can me seen here: NIght Sky Photos. That is just really cool.
Many visitors come for the daytime activities, though. There are several large archaeological sites you can visit from a paved loop road. This pavement is luxurious because the road to the park certainly was not. The sites range in age from about 800s to the 1100s. The size of the structures is certainly impressive and the masonry styles are beautiful.
More than just ruins were left behind by the people who used to live here. Several ancient stairways exist. These are horizontal steps cut into cliff walls and are very clearly seen on some of the hikes. Bits of pottery still exist on the ground for all to view and imagine its past, but it is important to leave the pottery fragments where you found them.
On the cave walls and overhangs remain petroglyphs, pictographs, and some historic graffiti. Several trails have petroglyphs, one of which is very close to the Visitor's Center. Unfortunately we missed that trail during our visit. There is a lot to do and one day was simply not enough. The campground was full which was unusual so we had to keep moving.