Trail of the Ancients


The ruins at Chetro Ketl in Chaco Culture National Historical Park, along the Trail of the Ancients
The ruins at Chetro Ketl in Chaco Culture National Historical Park, along the Trail of the Ancients
Bisti-DeNaZin Wilderness

The designated route of Trail of the Ancients in New Mexico encompasses some 662 miles, a lot of it back roads across the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. The centerpiece of the route is Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

From most sections of the Trail of the Ancients, Shiprock (an ancient volcanic plug outside the town of the same name) is also visible. But this is the Four Corners region: an large area filled with red rock wonders, wilderness areas and traditions that go back thousands of years. Most of this area is now part of the Navajo Nation but the Navajos are relative newcomers, having migrated south from the Athabascan tribal areas in northwestern Canada only about 500 years ago. Most of the prehistoric architecture and artifacts in the area are from the Ancestral Puebloans who were already in decline before the Navajos arrived. The Zuni, Hopi and Rio Grande Puebloans all trace their ancestries back to the Ancestral Puebloans.

In addition to all the archaeological stories in this area are the geological stories: the red rocks, the sandstone arches, the wild and crazy wilderness areas. You'll find places along this route like Bisti/DeNaZin Wilderness, El Malpais National Monument, West Malpais and Cebolla Wildernesses, El Morro National Monument and Red Rock Park (a former state park located in Church Rock, just east of Gallup).

Aztec Ruins National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Shiprock
Shiprock
Looking over a lava field at El Malpais National Monument
Looking over a lava field at El Malpais National Monument
Top photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Upper left and bottom photos courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management
Other photos courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License