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Pueblo Alto Loop, NM

Guide 14 Triplogs  2 Topics
  5 of 5 
309 14 2
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 5.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,109 feet
Elevation Gain 20 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.2
Interest Ruins & Historic
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2018-05-20 trekkin_gecko
15  2018-05-20 johnlp
138  2012-06-28
Chaco Culture National Historical Park Trails
24  2011-06-20 PaleoRob
12  2011-06-20 squatpuke
40  2011-06-18
Chaco Culture National Historical Park Trails
20  2008-06-22 PaleoRob
14  2007-07-25 Crzy4AZ
Page 1,  2
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 168
Routes 225
Photos 5,981
Trips 1,093 map ( 2,433 miles )
Age 40 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, May → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:15am - 7:21pm
Official Route
0 Alternative

Climb onto a mesa to view Anasazi ruins.
by PaleoRob

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The core of Chaco Canyon offers many short hiking experiences, allowing the visitor to see the Chacoan Great Houses that typify Chaco Branch Anasazi architecture with little effort. For the more interested visitor, however, it is worth the trek to take a back country hike to one of the more remote Anasazi ruins that litter the park.

The trail to Pueblo Alto is one such hike. Starting from the Pueblo del Arroyo parking lot, follow the trail/old service road .3 miles to the newer Chacoan ruin of Kin Kletso. This pueblo was constructed by Anasazi refugees from the northern San Juan Basin after the 1100 abandonment of Chaco Canyon. This can be seen by the differences in style and layout, as well as masonry work forming the walls. While the Penasco Blanco trail heads further down canyon, the Pueblo Alto trail branches at this point, heading towards the cliff face behind Kin Kletso.

The section from Kin Kletso to the mesa top is the most difficult stretch of the trail. Large blocks of sandstone from the mesa have begun exfoliating, forming a cleft in the cliff that stretches up to the top of the mesa. This is also the coolest part of the trail, as it is always in the shade. It is a scramble and narrow in parts, so be sure of your hand and foot holds.

Once on the top of the mesa, the trail continues along the rim. About a mile from the trailhead, there is a great overlook down onto Pueblo Bonito which really shows the layout of that large Chacoan building.

You continue along the rim, winding around the heads of small drainages, until reaching the overlook for Chetro Ketl, the Chacoan Great House that is just upcanyon from Pueblo Bonito. At this point the trail follows the small side canyon behind Chetro Ketl, and veers away from Chaco Canyon itself. Be sure to stop near the head of the side canyon to look at the Jackson Staircase, a series of large steps carved into the cliff, forming a portion of one of the famous Chacoan roads.

From the Jackson Staircase, the trail heads overland, crossing low sage-covered hummocks, and climbing up another tier of rock, until reaching the top of the mesa. The views along Chaco Mesa, and north across the San Juan Basin are amazing. To your northwest lays a long, low mound. This is Pueblo Alto, which means High Town in Spanish. The trail passes a large midden before reaching Pueblo Alto itself. Be sure not to climb or otherwise disturb the midden.

Many trails branch across and through Pueblo Alto. Take care to tread only where others have, and do not step, sit, or stand on any walls. Pueblo Alto is large, one of the larger Great Houses in Chaco Canyon in terms of area, though it was only a single story when it was whole. The Chacoan Great North Road began on the west side of Pueblo Alto, and stretched across the desert to the north, cutting through a gap in a low wall. Both the wall can the road can be faintly seen.

Pueblo Alto's layout is fairly typical of Chacoan Great House construction, with core-and-veneer masonry, and a D-shaped layout. Several kiva depressions can be seen throughout the northern section of the ruin.

Despite its large size, it is estimated that very few people actually lived at Pueblo Alto, or any of the other Chacoan Great Houses. Despite this, a tremendous quantity of broken pottery has been found at Pueblo Alto. This has lead to speculation about it being a ritual center, a pilgrimage site, or a city of priests. No one can say for certain which, if any, of these interpretations are correct.

To the west of Pueblo Alto, across the Great North Road, lays New Alto. Built around the same time as Kin Kletso, New Alto is a smaller "new" Great House. A side trail leads to it. Note the same massive, square building stones, more typical of Mesa Verde construction, used both here and in Kin Kletso.

From New Alto, the trail follows the old Great North Road back towards the rim of Chaco Canyon, and in several spots the road is easily visible. The trail connects back at the Pueblo Bonito overlook - make your way back to the car from here.

There is no water along this trail, and in the summer the temperature can reach well over 100 degrees. Fill up your water bottles back at the visitor's center.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2007-12-22 PaleoRob
    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.

    Permit $$

    Chaco Canyon HP National Park
    $8 per vehicle good for 7 days Entrance Fee

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From Grants, NM, drive north on NM Route 605 until reaching NM Route 509. Turn left onto NM Route 509. Follow Route 509 north until reaching Navajo Route 9. Turn left onto Navajo Route 9. Proceed on Route 9 until reaching NM Route 57. All of these turns are marked with signs for Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

    WARNING! NM Route 57 is a very poor road, with bad washboards, washouts, and chug-holes when it is dry. It is impassable to anything by 4x4 vehicles when wet, and sometimes even not then. Travel at your own risk. Passenger cars can and do make the drive regularly when the weather is good, but be prepared to turn around or get stuck if you attempt to drive to the park in wet weather.

    Once Route 57 reaches the park boundary, it becomes paved. Proceed to the visitor center and pay the fee, as well as get your free back country hiking permit for Pueblo Alto. Then drive along the Chaco Canyon loop road. Before the road crosses Chaco Wash, past Pueblo Bonito, there is a turn off for Pueblo del Arroyo. Turn and park your vehicle there.
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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