Chaco Culture National Historical Park is located in Nageezi, New Mexico, on a canyon in the Colorado Plateau, in the San Juan Basin. The Chaco Culture served as a bustling urban center for American Indian culture, ceremonies, politics, and economy during the mid-9th through the mid-13th centuries. Located within the park are engineering and construction feats including massive great houses, roads, and tower kivas. There are more than 4,000 ancestral Puebloans, Paleo-Indian, Navajo, and Euro-American cultural sites located within the park. The Chaco Culture National Historical Park has received recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural and architectural significance and influence to the Four Corners Region.
Between 850 CE and 1250 CE, ancestral Puebloans used sandstone blocks and timber to build massive, multi-storied “great houses” that included hundreds of rooms, terraces, plazas, and kivas. The great house community served as a regional center for commerce, religion, administration, and trade. The Chaco Culture also built these structures along cardinal, solar, and lunar directions. Chaco Canyon's great houses were connected to more than 150 regional great houses via nearly 400 miles of roadways. This network of roads allowed Chacoans to maintain an extensive trade network with outlying communities such as Kin Ya'a, Pueblo Pintado, Kin Klizhin, and Kin Bineola, and cultures as far away as Mexico. The Chaco Canyon region continues to thrive as a sacred and cultural center for many Southwest Indian cultures. Descendants of the Chaco Culture include the Pueblos of New Mexico, the Navajo, and the Hopi.
Hiking trails within the park allow visitors to view the great houses of Pueblo Bonito, Una Vida, Penasco Blanco, Hungo Pavi, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo Alto, Casa Chiquita, Kin Kletso, Pueblo del Arroyo, Tsin Kletsin, Casa Rinconada, and Wijiji. Close to the visitor center is Una Vida, which consists of nearly 150 rooms and five kivas. Visitors can access pictographs and petroglyphs found on sandstone walls from a trail near Una Vida. Pueblo Bonita, the central great house, originally consisted of over 600 rooms, two plazas, 40 kivas, and was four to five stories tall. This massive structure served as a center for trade, administration, ceremonies, storage, communication, hospitality, burials, and astronomy. The hike through Pueblo Bonita is ½-mile long.