Top 5 Chaco Canyon Sites You Don't Want to Miss

What Not to Miss in North America's Pueblo Culture Site of Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon, the archaeological area within Chaco Culture National Historical Park, is probably the most popular and visited archaeological zone in the U.S. Southwest. Located in the arid and lovely Four Corners Region of New Mexico, Chaco Canyon is a must-see for anyone visiting the neighborhood. 

Here is my pick of the top five most famous and breathtaking Anasazi (also known as Ancestral Pueblo) sites in Chaco Canyon.

Updated by K. Kris Hirst

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Chetro Ketl, Great House Site in Chaco Canyon
Chetro Ketl, Great House Site in Chaco Canyon. Chris M. Morris

Chetro Ketl (pronounced "Chet-row Kettle") is the site with the largest surface area (ca. 250,000 square feet) in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. With its 400 multi-storied rooms, it has 200 rooms less than Pueblo Bonito. One of the most impressive spot of Chetro Ketl lies behind the site, in the canyon cliffs.  More »

Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon. © George H. H. Huey/CORBIS

Pueblo Bonito is the second largest, but probably the most famous Great House in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Constructed between the 9th and 12th century AD, it has more than 600 rooms and 35 kivas, the typical puebloan subterranean circular rooms. Pueblo Bonito was probably the political and ceremonial center of Chaco Canyon. The high density of luxury goods, such as turquoise, cacao, and tropical bird found at Pueblo Bonito underlines its wide connections with other Southwestern centers, and the tropical areas of Mexico. More »

Chaco Canyon Supernova Rock Art at Penasco Blanco
Chaco Canyon Supernova Rock Art at Penasco Blanco. Alex Marentes

Peñasco Blanco is the third largest Great House in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The site lies 3 miles west of Pueblo Bonito. Visitors at Peñasco Blanco don't want to miss the examples of rock paintings on the walls not far from the site. These represent a crescent moon, a ten-pointed star, and a hand. Just below these rock paintings, a spiral-shape sign, with a sort of flaming extension, has been intepreted as the record of the passage of the Halley's comet in AD 1066. More »

Pueblo del Arroyo, Chaco Canyon
Pueblo del Arroyo, Chaco Canyon. Greg Willis

Pueblo del Arroyo is the fourth largest site in Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It was constructed between the 11th and the 12th century A.D. not near the canyon cliff, as almost all the other Great Houses, but rather near the Canyon Wash, the stream that crosses the center of the canyon. Pueblo del Arroyo lacks a great kiva, but does include a unique feature of a regular kiva surrounded by three concentric walls. More »

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Una Vida

Petroglyphs at Una Vida, Chaco Canyon
Petroglyphs at Una Vida, Chaco Canyon. United States National Park Service

Una Vida is the fifth largest site in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The site lies about 3 miles east of Pueblo Bonito at the intersection of the Chaco Wash and the Fajada Wash, the main water sources of the area. Una Vida was constructed between the 9th and the 11th century AD. Una Vida is close to a series of Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) examples of rock art and a possible solar observation point, called Piedra del Sol (Sun Stone) used to observed the summer solstice.

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Maestri, Nicoletta. "Top 5 Chaco Canyon Sites You Don't Want to Miss." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/chaco-canyon-sites-not-to-miss-170358. Maestri, Nicoletta. (2016, August 9). Top 5 Chaco Canyon Sites You Don't Want to Miss. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/chaco-canyon-sites-not-to-miss-170358 Maestri, Nicoletta. "Top 5 Chaco Canyon Sites You Don't Want to Miss." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/chaco-canyon-sites-not-to-miss-170358 (accessed December 13, 2017).