Neat petroglyphs in Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon is an amazing place in northern New Mexico where the ancient pueblo culture of the area, the Chaco Branch of the Anasazi, comes to life. Today's modern New Mexico Pueblos, like Acoma, Zuni, and the Rio Grande Pueblos, as well as the Hopi, are all descended from the Anasazi who roamed across the southwest hundreds of years ago.
The Petroglyph Trail starts just past the trail marker number 2 on the Pueblo Bonito Trail. You can take a trail guide from the parking lot for Pueblo Bonito/Cherto Ketl, and I recommend doing so. It contains lots of good information about the inscriptions on the cliff face, with numbered signs to point out items of interest.
The trail follows the cliff face between the Chacoan great houses of Pueblo Bonito and Cherto Ketl. Along the cliff there are various types of petroglyphs. Close to the Bonito side of things, there are some inscriptions from the early Anglo explorers to Chaco Canyon. What may be considered rude graffiti today was simply part of documenting a site in the late 1800's, when not very much was known about prehistoric sites.
To the south of the trail between Bonito and Cherto Ketl lays a series of low stone and rubble covered hills. They may not look like much today, but around 1100, this section of Chaco Canyon was under construction. This area was being prepared as a foundation for a large structure that would have connected Pueblo Bonito with Cherto Ketl - imagine the size of the resulting building! For reasons unknown to us today, building this was never finished, even though people lived in Chaco for some time after.
Keep your eyes moving across the cliff. There are 'glyphs both up high and down low. Some of the higher 'glyphs probably required ladders, or standing on roofs that no longer exist. There are still some beam holes along the wall that mark where the heavy roof beams would have anchored into the cliff.
Petroglyphs and pictographs are hard to decipher, even with the aid of modern science and the input of living Native Americans, related to the Anasazi. At stop 9, a Zuni kachina figure can be seen, faintly painted on the wall. We know it is a kachina from Zuni, because we know that Zuni tribesmen worked on the excavation of Bonito in the 1920's, and some were known to be artists. What some of the more esoteric figures mean, we can only guess.
The trail eventually ends at Cherto Ketl, another of the core Chacoan Great Houses. Hiking along the path through Cherto Ketl is also informative and fun, as it contains several features not found at Bonito or any other core Chaco buildings. Either continue back to the car from Cherto Ketl, or take the hike around Cherto Ketl before returning to the cars.
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This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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.
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