On the way to Chaco Culture National Historical Park from Taos, NM. We took the slightly longer route through the Carson National Forest. In Tierra Amarilla we crossed the El Vado Dam. The road across the dam was one lane and dirt. Cross with care.
left view right view
The El Vado dam lives inside the El Vado Lake State Park in the northern mountains of New Mexico. We didn’t stop, but if you felt so inclined the park offers fishing, boating, camping, hiking, winter cross-country skiing and snow shoeing. The El Vado Dam road is also where NM state road 112 turns into a dirt road for the next 16 miles.
For 16 miles you’re surrounded by desert shrubbery, scattered trees and varying mountain terrain. This turned out to be a really beautiful and relaxing surprise. The weather was dry and the road was solid, though strongly rutted from vehicles driving through on a previously muddy day. Not a big deal. We saw a couple of smaller sedans driving through. I would imagine its a whole different ball game after a heavy rain.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Just before we made the last turn to get to Chaco Canyon we saw signs for an AM station to tune into for park information. We were told there would be absolutely no cell service in the park, where potable water can be collected, flooding on roadways, campground updates, etc. After you turn off the main highway you’ll continue down a paved road for a couple of miles, at which point the asphalt turns into a pretty well maintained dirt road. Then there is about 8 miles of NON MAINTAINED dirt road. Heavy wash boarding, deep tire tracks from driving in the mud, large pot holes and overall a few spots of humps and dips. We were in the Wrangler, so whatever… but it was rough and slow going. We did see trucks with camper trailers, mini vans and some smaller sedans driving through. Just be aware these 8 miles will cost a little extra drive time. The park itself is paved and in great condition.
We spent the night in the tent only section of the Gallo Campground. Chaco Culture National Historic Park is an international dark sky park, so if its a clear night be prepared to see all the stars! I laid outside for a while before bed trying to take it all in. The temperature is very warm during the day and drops considerably at night, so make sure to pack accordingly. I know I said on Instagram I thought my Under Armor 3.0 was overkill but I’ve worn it often!
We are constantly shifting things in the Jeep. Packing and unpacking. Tearing it apart and putting the mess back together. We are getting good at it though. And when I saw we, I mean Grant. He’s constantly thinking he’s made more room in there. (HAHA) … he IS making more room, it just doesn’t last long because we just find some way to fill it back up.
Grant has also basically appointed himself as camp chef. No complaints here, he’s a great cook. He made himself a steak and me a piece of chicken on the grill for dinner with a box of Annie’s Organic Mac N Cheese. I did the hard work and put a bag of salad together. Meals always taste better when you’re camping or at the very least just eating outside. In my opinion anyway.
I woke up in the morning to bacon and eggs for breakfast. Spoiled.
The Chaco Culture NHP has thousands of sacred sites scattered around the land you can hike to. If you are traveling with a dog, they are not allowed in any of the sacred sites. We hiked the backcountry trail to Wijiji, a Chacoan Great House, but had to take turns waiting with the dog so we could go look around the site up close.
The landscape is beautiful. The Gallo Campground is open all year long with peak season March-November. The campground was full the night way stayed, but it was still pretty calm and quiet. If you want to stay the night, plan ahead and make a reservation, because there is a good chance you may not get a site. The park is a really cool spot. We enjoyed it so much! If you’re sensitive, the land is very high energy, especially Fajada Butte. The Chacoan people made a sundial at the top to keep track of the winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes. How they climbed up there so often… skills… I’m guessing.
Check it out!