Chaco Cultural National Historical Park is located in New Mexico far from any metropolitan area. It’s completely worth all the logistics you have to work out in order to visit for more than just one afternoon. Camping in the park is the best option, but not always the easiest. First of all it is a 21 mile road from state highway 550 with about 13 miles of it being dirt and rather rough. Gallo Campground is the only place to camp in the park. Only 49 spaces mostly restricted to rigs 20 feet or less and a handful that will accompany 35′ rigs. However, we drove the dirt road for 3 days in and out in the jeep. Prior to our visit, there had been rain and the Escavada Wash was still pushing water and mud in the roadway. The road was wash-boarded and ruts were very deep. It wasn’t a road we were willing to take a motorhome over, at least on this trip. Boondocks spots are available at the entrance to road 7900 and Hwy 500 and also there is a large dirt space that could fit 4 large rigs at the junction of road 7900 and 7950. In the past, the Gallo Campground was on first come first served, but now you can reserve your space using www.recreation.gov . That will save you from driving all those miles only to find the campground full; and the park does not allow boondock parking. Some alternative camping spots can be found here http://www.nps.gov/chcu/planyourvisit/upload/2010-Alternative-Campsites.pdf
Chetro Ketl is estimated to have 500 rooms and 16 kivas.
Pueblo Bonito is the largest of all the dwellings here.
Chaco has the largest, best preserved and architecturally advanced of all ancient Southwestern villages; with equal importance to Mesa Verde in Colorado. It is so worth the trouble to get to this distant and quiet place. Try to make time to spend numerous days here. We couldn’t camp in the park but we drove 50 miles each day from our base camp to hike the many trails. Each of the back country trails requires that you will out a pass that is free, and available at each trail head. At least if you have trouble on these back trails the rangers will know you are still out there based on the information on the pass.
The trail to the Pueblo Alto Complex, atop the mesa crosses several prehistoric roads.
The beginning of this trail (about 5 miles) is a 250 foot climb to the mesa above. It’s a worthwhile challenge with rewards of the best view of the dwellings below.
Penasco Blanco can be reached from the central canyon and you can include the Petroglyph trail on this hike.
We will likely return to this historical location as we didnʻt have time to complete the trail to Casa Rinconada or Tsin Kletsin