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Casa Rinconada, NM

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Guide 9 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Northwest
3.8 of 5 by 5
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 0.75 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,138 feet
Elevation Gain 50 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 0.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 1
Interest Ruins
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
138  2012-06-28
Chaco Culture National Historical Park Trails
7  2011-06-21 squatpuke
12  2011-06-19
Kin Bineola
8  2010-06-21 PaleoRob
60  2010-06-18
Chaco Culture National Historical Park Trails
9  2008-06-22 PaleoRob
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, May → Any
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  5:59am - 6:10pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Culture Nearby
The sun will come up tomorrow...
by PaleoRob

Chaco Canyon is full of remarkable features, most notably its Great Houses which dot the northern edge of the canyon and the high points on its rims. While the great houses are certainly impressive, they do not make up the majority of sites in Chaco Canyon. Literally hundreds of small ruins dot the canyon, primarily along the southern walls. Some of these ruins date from Basketmaker times. Many others, however, are of the same age as the Great Houses. These small, generally crudely constructed dwellings differ greatly from their Great House companions in size, masonry style, and layout. The trail at Casa Rinconada explores one of these typical "Hosta Butte Phase" communities, along with one glaring anomaly in their midst.

The trail begins at the signed pull-out along the Chaco loop road, just past the Chaco Wash bridge. There is a pit toilet but no water - make sure your water bottles are filled back at the visitor's center. Also be sure to get a trail guide from the kiosk at the parking area; it will help explain some of the sights in detail. It costs 50 cents, or free if you return it after your hike.

The trail leaves the parking area and slowly begins to rise up a low hill to the southwest, where a large masonry structure can be seen. As you climb this hill, you will be walking over and around a couple of the Hosta Butte Phase sites. Low wall alignments can be discerned sticking out of the greasewood and scrub brush. These sites are interesting in that they show generally what these small sites look like prior to excavation, but a better idea of what these habitations looked like is available further down the trail. For the time being, continue on up towards the masonry structure at the top of the hill.

The structure is the Great Kiva of Casa Rinconada. Aligned almost perfectly with the four cardinal directions, it sits directly due south of Pueblo Bonito's dividing wall, through an alignment with its central wall, the gap in the trash mounds in front of Bonito, and Casa Rinconada's northern antechamber. During the summer solstice a beam of light will enter the window to the east of the northern antechamber, and as the sun rises that beam of light will come to rest in a low niche on the western side of the kiva wall; both the window and the niche have been reconstructed in the past, so it is not known how accurate this solar alignment is, but it is striking regardless.

The floorplan of the Great Kiva is fairly standard, with one exception; a tunnel that leads from the northern antechamber to the center of the kiva floor. This may have allowed priests or dancers to appear unseen in the center of the kiva during ceremonies. The tunnel was likely covered with wood and plaster with a reed and wood hatchway at its end.

Casa Rinconada certainly exemplifies the great feats of architecture that the Chacoans could, and routinely did, go to. The next stops along the trail showcase the fact that just because they could build impressive public architecture, they didn't do so all the time.

The next several ruins are some of the BC# small sites. Called Hosta Butte Phase after the prominent butte of the same name to the south of Chaco, where this type was first recognized. These small sites are far more typical of Anasazi dwellings across the Colorado Plateau, with several storage rooms, a couple living rooms, and a kiva or two all within one complex. Usually these consisted of just a single story, though two stories in places were not unusual. These Hosta Butte sites are generally clustered around Great Houses, and likely acted as the support mechanism that allowed the Great Houses to keep doing whatever it was that there were doing. The trail book guides your through some of the pertinent features of several of these sites.

The loop then brings you back to your car. This is the last hike available on the Chaco Loop Road before returning to the Visitor's Center, but don't miss out on the prehistoric staircase just a couple dozen yards down the road. You can't hike to it or climb it, but be sure to stop and look at it just the same. It is a real neat example of Chacoan road engineering.

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2008-07-01 PaleoRob
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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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Casa Rinconada
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Well, this was it....Casa Rinconada at Solstice...6:10 a.m., June 21.

I had traveled over 8 hours (2 extra) while enduring an ill-fated Google-map conundrum, PageRob's grotesque midnight snoring, and worse of all, the defection of my daughter to Randall's camp cooking.

Yet here I stood in amazement (along w/250 others) at the possibility that sunlight shining thorough a hole in a side wall and into an opposite wall's cubby could mean that ancient Anasazi had grasped the knowledge of astronomy. Do I think it's true?? If I may quote "GB"...."well sure, why not?"

It was a great trip with great memories and great peeps...

Chaco is wonderful, and I'm sure I'll be back....
Casa Rinconada
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Something hit the hood of my truck, startling me out of me slumber. I sat upright, opened my eyes, and saw Randal walking down the dirt path towards the restroom in the predawn light. Predawn light? Crap! It was the solstice, and our plan was to see the sunrise at Casa Rinconada! I quickly grabbed my clothes for the day and tossed them on. Climbing out of my truck, I saw that Randy was back. "Crap, we've only got 10 minutes until they open the gate," I mumbled while I headed towards the bathroom. He agreed. While washing my hands, I heard a truck fire up outside. It was Randy's red Ford - he and Mike were all ready to hit the road. We piled in and made our way down the road. A line snaked from the gate blocking access to the loop road past the Visitor's Center, tail lights glowing like cigarettes in the not-quite-shadow of the cliff. Someone was unfastening the gate as we rolled to a stop, and soon the line began sluggishly moving forward. We passed the major canyon bottom ruins, made the corner at Bonito, and pulled into the Casa Rinconada parking lot behind a large bus labeled "Chasing the Sun Tours". I naturally assumed that the occupants would be French tourists, so I got out ahead of them to where ranger GB Cornucopia was standing. I thought that Mike and Randy were right behind me, but it turned out that I thought wrong. After GB made a brief introduction we headed up the trail to the Great Kiva. Everyone was lining up along the eastern wall, and there was a unique collection of characters. Some were archaeologists, some were retirees, some were New Agers in home-made clothing, and some of us were just Anasaziphiles, intent on the show. Ranger Cornucopia spoke again, explaining the solstice and the issues with interpreting the alignment at the kiva. The window where the light entered the kiva and the niche where the sunbeam actually alighted have both been reconstructed. In addition, a beam supporting the roof of the kiva would have blocked the shaft of sun (maybe - new evidence suggests that the post would have been small enough to let the light past and also would have improved the alignment with the niche.
We had about 20 minutes until the sun poked through the window, and I got to spend 15 of those minutes next to a constant whiner. She alternately complained and yelled at people across the kiva to move because she didn't want them to be in her picture. But when her friend came to tell her about another view on the other side of the kiva, she didn't hesitate to block the sunbeam while walking, or to stand opposite everyone else while looking into the kiva. I thought about using her words against her, but decided to not spoil the solstice with such pettiness. Or something along those lines.
Eventually Randy and Mike made their way over to me - they'd been standing on the other side of the crowd. One of the archaeologists talked about the difficulties of archaeoastronomy with his tour group while Randy and I muttered about the crazies around us. Finally the sunlight dropped into the niche. No one applauded, but another year had begun - the sun was going to head south again. It could go no further. We headed down the slope, back into the truck. Our immediate destination was the nearby staircase (washed out in the morning light), then breakfast. It would also mark the start of a trip where I'd see more Anasazi ruins than any other day previously...
Next - Una Vida:
Casa Rinconada
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Chaco Canyon and Bisti Wilderness Experience 2010

4 months in the making
4 days
3 nights
18 hiking trails
30 Caguama Cerveza
345 photos
1135.2 miles
Chaco Culture National Historical Park Gallo Campground as base camp

Having endured 4 months of "watchful waiting" (bad pun) with left eye surgery completed on 4/28 and right eye surgery completed on 5/19, I've had June 18th circled on the calendar since February. That was the date for medical clearance to get back into REAL HIKING again! For motivation I posted a 4 day weekend in Chaco Canyon incorporating the Summer Solstice plus a side trip into Bisti Wilderness on the HAZ Forum Board. There was plenty of interest, but few takers. Here's what they missed...

Day 1 - Friday June 18th - Our planned 7am departure from Chez Schulhauser's in Ahwatukee went without a hitch as Mike Mattes and my Ford F-150 trundled along AZ87 towards Payson. A coffee and gas stop in Heber and we were soon headed towards Holbrook and the I-40.

With the radio on seek to find some driving tunes; we had a wide selection of Country and Western, Country and Western, or Country and Western. We're introduced to "I'm Still a Guy" by Brad Paisley;

"When you see a deer, you see Bambi
And I see antlers on the wall...
...But I don't highlight my hair, I still have a pair
Yeah honey, I'm still a guy
Oh my eyebrows ain't plucked, there's a gun in my truck
Oh thank God, I'm still a guy"

Needless to say this became our theme song for CHACO EXPERIENCE 2010! We pulled into Gallup NM at 11:30am to grab a couple of lunch time subs and continued along the I-40 towards the Continental Divide. At Thoreau, we turn onto NM371 towards Crownpoint. Having made great time, we consult our Chaco Culture Outlier Map (see viewtopic.php?f=4&t=5111&p=55955#p56070 ) and notice Kin Ya'a marked just east of Crownpoint.

Hike #1 - Kin Ya'a Chaco Culture Outlier Ruin (1.05 miles, 1 hr) - Navajo for "Tall House", we turn at the Ikard-Newson Propane site and pass through the south gate. There's a maze-like network of crisscrossing double-tracks heading to the east. As we crest the ridge we make out the distinctive spire of the 4-story kiva... (see ... index.html ) We bounce along in my F-150 towards the site avoiding the intermittent "sand traps". It's before 2pm and we're at our first Chacoan Great House - great way to start the 4-day weekend!

After having our fill of Kin Ya'a, we head back to NM371 north towards IR-9. I'm pleasantly surprised that IR-9 is paved as we travel 13.4 miles east looking for the abandoned trading post and derelict oil wells marking the intersection of NM57. NM57 is 19.3 miles of bone-rattling washboard that mostly parallels an ancient Chacoan Road towards the southern entry into Chaco Canyon near Fajada Butte. At the Visitor Center we have our first encounter with "Ranger Unhelpful" (aptly dubbed by PageRob). He doubts that there are any camp sites available in the Gallo Campground with this being the Summer Solstice with Zuni dancers and all, but wants to collect our $8 entry fee and $30 camp fees anyways. I pull out my annual NPS pass to get our $8 entry fee waived, but "Ranger Unhelpful" charges us anyways. He's a little annoyed when Mike points this out and I ask for a refund...

As we slowly wind our way through Gallo Campground we get a little concerned as it begins to look like every camp site is occupied. Mike spots an open one, then another, and another. Of the 49 sites in Gallo, only 6 are open at about 3pm on a Friday afternoon. We settle on Site#28 and declare it "HAZ CAMP CHACO 2010". I'm able to text a message from this location to PageRob letting him know our camp site.

Mike and I quickly assemble our tents, pop open an adult beverage and grab a seat in our camp chairs while waving to our new neighbours. We discuss a world of possibilities and decide that we'll BBQ dinner once the sun sets and try to get in a hike (or two) before then. Too bad we have such a tight schedule - NOT! (use your best Borat imitation here...).

Hike #2 - Wijijii Chacoan Great House and Petroglyph Trail (4.45 miles, 2 hr 15 min) - From the western edge of Gallo Campgrounds you pick up the trail weaving towards Chaco Wash. You're walking on a non-descript flat service road towards the ruins. Nothing of note until you arrive at the site. Barriers and the ever present "Keep Out" signs keep you away from close examination of the great house ruin. A father and son pass us heading back from the petroglyph trail. We enquire about the glyphs and they indicate that they didn't see any. Mike and I head that way and start examining what look like prospective panels. Again barriers and the ever present "Keep Out" signs keep you a "head scratching" distance away from anything of interest. Mike walks by the entire site not spotting any hint of rock art. My new found sight begins to discern some pictographs and then some glyphs. The changing light begins to amplify multiple examples of rock art.

Back at CAMP CHACO I whip up the evening grub - BBQ buffalo burgers, corn-on-the-cob, sweet gherkins, and some choice English beers. With a crackling campfire providing background "music" and stars beginning to appear in the evening sky, plus some good "eats", good beer, good company - what's not to like?

Hike #3 - Gallo to Visitor Center Stroll (3.49 miles, 2 hrs 15min) - Having received multiple tips that an Evening Ranger Lecture would be held back at the Visitor Center Observatory and in need of an after dinner "leg stretcher", Mike and I head down the road to join the rest of the campers...

Day 1 total mileage = 8.99 miles

Day 2 - Saturday June 19th - Gallo Campgrounds is buzzing with pre-dawn activity rushing off to catch the Zuni Solstice Dancers. I'm confused; summer solstice is on Monday 21st. Oh well, don't let facts get in the way of a good show... Mike is on breakfast duty grilling sausages and eggs with our traditional morning "eye-opener" - prickly pear vodka and orange juice. We soon pack the F-150 with some hiking supplies for our trek to Bisti and a couple of outliers. Our stop at the Ranger Station is a complete 180 from our Friday experience. Rangers are tripping over each other trying to help us. One heads off to the office to make copies of a new, updated map of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness while another talks about his plan to visit the same wilderness on Sunday. Yet another Ranger joins the conversation and answers my questions about the "lost" Fajada Butte Sun Dagger ... agger.html and why it remains off limits. We'll dub these the "3 Most-Helpful Rangers"...

Hike #4 - Kin Klizhin Chaco Culture Outlier Ruin (1.49 miles, 1 hr 15min) - Navajo for "Black House", we bounce along the double-track skirting the south side of the Chaco mesas (see ... etrail.htm and ... n-klizhin/ ). This is another tower kiva ruins very similar to Kin Ya'a. We continue west in my truck and see a nearby ruin that seems to incorporate some more recent times construction. A Navajo corral perhaps? The landscape becomes a series of sand dunes about 3 miles west of Kin Klizhin. The road begins to look impassable, especially as we can see evidence of makeshift "come-alongs" used by previous stuck vehicles. We decide to turnaround since my F-150 is only 2WD without offroad extrawide tires. Head south on NM57 to IR9 only to see a tragic rollover with EMS personnel scrambling to do what they can. NM371 takes us north towards Lake Valley Chapter House where we exit onto CR7059...

Hike #5 - Kin Bineola Chaco Culture Outlier Ruin (1.35 miles, 1 hr 30min) - Navajo for "Whirlwind House", only one word to say => WOW! This was the high-light of the trip... See ... index.html and ... 202005.pdf

Hike #6 - Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (5.83 miles, 3 hr 15min) - Navajo for "Cranes" in reference to the petroglyphs containing these bird images. See
We access the wilderness from the CR7500 trail head. The colours are reminiscent of Coal Mine Canyon or the Black Forest in PEFO, the mushroom rocks are reminiscent of the Paria, but the petrified wood was totally unexpected. The trek was hot, sweaty, and dusty, but the Caguama ( ) filling the cooler took care of that!

Hike #7 - Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (0.32 miles, 30min) - Access from the west off NM371. See

With my gas gauge now indicating half a tank and not having passed a gas station all day, we decide that continuing 40 miles north to Farmington was our safest bet.

Hike #8 - Angel Peak Wilderness (0.28 miles, 20min) - Off NM550 about 15 miles south of Bloomfield on CR7175. See ... _Peak.html

Back at CAMP CHACO waiting for PageRob to arrive, we meet some of our new camp neighbours. Rob arrives in the waning light. It's now time for BBQ New York Strips, corn-on-the-cob, sweet gherkins, and some choice English beers (or Caguama if you're slumming it). PageRob adds to choice beers with selections from Oak Creek and Grand Canyon Breweries. From our camp chairs we have a stellar light show. We pick out all the constellations we know and conclude that Orion's Belt must be below the horizon. After midnight, the moon sets below the horizon allowing the Milky Way to be exposed. With my new found sight, I've never seen anything like it...

Day 2 total mileage = 9.27 miles

Day 3 - Sunday June 20th - Once again Gallo Campgrounds is buzzing with pre-dawn activity, this time not to catch the Zuni Solstice Dancers (they packed up and left on Saturday), but to catch the sunrise Solstice light captured by the 7th niche in Casa Rinconada (see ). We're up before 5am and decide the morning light at Pueblo Bonito will have our attention on this day...

Hike #9 - Pueblo Bonito (1.73 miles, 1 hr 15 min) - What can you say, the Chaco Grand House of Grand Houses all to ourselves. See ... onito.html

Rob and I are back at CAMP CHACO where Mike has prepared his specialty for breakfast - chocolate chip pancakes, grilled ham, and our traditional eye-opener - prickly pear vodka and orange juice...

Hike #10 - South Mesa Loop (5.60 miles, 3 hr 30 min) - From the Casa Rinconada trail head, we climb up South Mesa making a clockwise loop towards Tsin Kletzin (Navajo for "Charcoal Place"). See ... anyon.html The trail has a "feel" to it like Grand Gulch/Cedar Mesa. At the Great House we have commanding 360 degree views. Our cell phones work and with it being Father's Day, make the call home to Dad. We make a side trek to view Weritos Rincon, remnants of a Chacoan dam...

We're back at the Casa Rinconada trail head at noon. A refreshing blast from the F-150's A/C and a minor debate about afternoon plans. Pueblo Alto Loop was on the list, but our stomachs are talking to us and there's Buffalo Burgers in the ice chest back at CAMP CHACO. Back at camp we BBQ those burgers and drain a couple of turtles (aka Caguamas).

Hike #11 - Pueblo Pintado Chaco Culture Outlier Ruin (1 mile, 1 hr 30 min) - A squalid and depressing Chapter House (quite the contrast from Lake Valley and others) with an interesting Great House Ruin. To me the high light is midden after midden containing multiple examples of large pottery sherds, Rob seemed to win his argument with the turtle (or was one of the Buffalo Burgers slightly sushi style?) and was able to give us a lesson in Chacoan pottery styles.

We have plenty of daylight remaining when we return to CAMP CHACO. The winds are a little too much as well, so we grab our camp chairs and set up in the wind shadow and shade near the Gallo Alcove Ruins ... ve%20Ruins

As the sun sets, the winds die and with dual pyros Mike and Rob getting the camp fire going, I prepare some steak fajitas with corn-on-the-cob. Rob whips up an appetizer bowl of chilli and fritos. Plenty of unique beers to share. Life is good...

Day 3 total mileage = 8.33 miles

Day 4 - Monday June 21st - Once again Gallo Campgrounds is buzzing with pre-dawn activity and we're on the road about 10th in line waiting for the park gate to open at 5:30am sharp. Like a giant train, a procession of vehicles wind their way to the Casa Rinconada trail head to catch the sunrise Solstice light captured by the 7th niche.

Hike #12 - Casa Rinconada (0.5 miles, 1 hr) - It's a New Age event at the giant kiva waiting for the sunrise. ... m=00000622
Certainly an "interesting" cross-section of life standing along the edges of the giant kiva waiting for sun to rise. Striking up some conversations I find out that just about everyone is a teacher or archeologist. There's even a large group of teachers that arrived in a "Follow The Sun" Tour Bus. Seems they are all part of an NSF funded "teacher enrichment" program headed by some archeologists. Talk to some of teachers in this program and their plans to interweave some Chaco Canyon elements into their high school programs. The Head Ranger from Chaco (neglected to write his name down, but he's been there for many years) gives a lecture to the crowd about the alignment. He certainly creates an element of doubt in the crowd when he mentions that although the niches are restored in their original positions, the light entrance window is pure speculation as it is 100% reconstruction from the 1920's (and nobody had the original architectural drawings!). Much to our relief we aren't sucked into any New Age Vortex and we are able to make our way back to the trail head and climb into the F-150 back to CAMP CHACO.

Mike looks after breakfast - oatmeal with maple syrup, home made muffins, grilled ham, and our ritual eye-opener. We break camp packing up our gear into our respective vehicles - today is getaway day. Over to the visitor center and book store for another encounter with Ranger Unhelpful. Seems that all 3 of us settle on the same book; "The Architecture of Chaco Canyon" by Stephen H. Lekson. We decide on a Tourist Speed Loop of Chaco Canyon so Rob can get some "Cag Shots".

Hike #13 - Una Vida (0.25 miles, 10 min)

Hike #14 - Hungo Pavi (0.25 miles, 10 min)

Hike #15 - Chetro Ketl (0.10 miles, 5 min)

Hike #16 - Pueblo Bonito (0.10 miles, 5 min)

Hike #17 - Kin Kletso (0.10 miles, 5 min)

Hike #18 - Pueblo del Arroyo (0.10 miles, 5 min)

We wave good bye to Rob as Mike and I head towards the South Road and NM57 towards Phoenix. I've got a 6am flight to catch on Tuesday to MSP... :wrt:

Day 4 total mileage = 1.40 miles

Four Day Total Mileage = 27.99 miles
Casa Rinconada
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750 miles on the road in 2 1/2 days for less than 10 miles of hiking.
See the sequence here: - Pueblo Bonito - South Mesa Loop - Pueblo Pintado - Casa Rinconada - Una Vida
This triplog - going aroung for quick, cheap Cag shots at most of the major ruins. It was a hectic dash, but we finally all parted ways at the Pueblo del Arroyo parking lot. Until the next adventure, amigos. - Casamero Ruins - Kin Bineola

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. Follow the loop road past the turn-off for Pueblo del Arroyo. The next parking area (on the right) will be on the south side of the canyon for Casa Rinconada.
page created by PaleoRob on Jun 30 2008 10:24 pm
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