Overview: Pueblo Pintado, meaning Painted Town, was the first of the Chacoan Ruins spotted by Anglos. Because it lays outside Chaco Canyon proper, it is also the first Chacoan outlier ever discovered. It gives the nearby Navajo settlement its name. The Mexican Indian guide for Simpson's expedition into the Chaco region had proposed several names that he claimed the locals used, including Pueblo de Los Ratones, which means Town of the Rats. Perhaps apt.
Warning: Pueblo Pintado ruins are very isolated, despite having a settlement nearby. There is no gas or food available in Pueblo Pintado or Whitehorse. The nearest reliable gas is at Nageezi. In addition, some of the local youth at Pueblo Pintado don't like the Park or tourists. There is extensive vandalism both at the ruins and in Pueblo Pintado. Don't travel alone, lock your car, and don't let it get out of your sight.
History: Pueblo Pintado was first sighted by Lt. James Simpson's 1849 military expedition against the Navajo. Traveling west from Santa Fe, his party sighted the impressive ruins on a hill overlooking the wash. The expedition spent several hours examining the ruins before moving down the canyon, eventually discovering most of the major ruins within Chaco Canyon, some 18 miles down the wash.
Pueblo Pintado itself was begun in the late 1060's, based on limited tree ring data. By the end of the 1000's, Pueblo Pintado had at least 135 rooms, with up to three stories along the back wall. The north and west walls form a L shape, while the two far points of the L are connected by a curved wall, enclosing a plaza. There is at least one Great Kiva, located southeast of the plaza wall. There is also an addition built onto the southern tip of the core of Pueblo Pintado. Two prehistoric roads ran through the area. The Chaco-Pintado (or East Road) started in Chaco Canyon north of Pueblo Alto and ran east into the west wall of Pueblo Pintado. It can still be seen faintly on the ground, but is one of the best documented roads within the San Juan Basin. It can be traced via aerial photography all the way back to Chaco Canyon. It is especially noticeable when it cuts through ridges. A second road ran to the northeast. This road is almost impossible to detect either on the ground or from aerial photography.
Hike: The hike starts from the parking area. You cross through a hiker's maze, where you'll find a visitor log filled with profanity and angry rants from locals, as well as a vandalized sign describing the pueblo and what it may have looked like during the occupation. Heading south along the west wall you will pass a sign that points out the Chacoan road. You can then go into the plaza and explore the room blocks, before heading to the Great Kiva and then back around the northern wall and back to your vehicle. Or go the opposite way - there is no bad way to see the ruin. It is massive even today.
Water Sources: None. Bring your own.
Camping: Only at Gallo Campground, back in the main portion of Chaco Culture National Historic Park.
To hike It is NOT recommended to access this site from the north, via Nageezi and Navajo Route 7900. This road is exceptionally rough. While it is passable, the number of chugholes and the size and frequency of washboards makes this route unpleasant. A better way to get to Pueblo Pintado is to drive south from the Visitor's Center in Chaco Canyon on NM57 to Route 9. Turn left on Route 9, and follow this paved road to the settlement of Pueblo Pintado. Immediately before the two large water towers there is a dirt road to the left. You can see the ruins on a knoll overlooking the wash at this point. Turn onto the dirt road by the water towers, and follow that road to the parking area for Pueblo Pintado.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
A campfire must be extinguished by drowning it with water, stirring with a shovel, and repeating that process until the campfire is cold to the touch. A campfire is still a danger if it has any trace of heat, and must not be left or abandoned. Wildfires can begin by abandoned campfires that rebuild heat on windy days and then blowing embers ignite surrounding grasses and brush.