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Old 05-11-2009, 08:19 PM   #1
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Chaco Canyon National Historic Park

We plan to boondock at the Gallo campground at Chaco Canyon in a couple of days. Everything I have read says that the 21 mile road getting there is extremely rough.

Has anyone taken their Airstream to Chaco Canyon? Was it still in one piece when you got there? I'm trying to decide if we should back out and stay somewhere else and drive the approx. 6 hours round trip.

Any quick reply would be much appreciated.

Ed
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Old 05-11-2009, 08:31 PM   #2
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Chaco Canyon National Historic Park

My wife and I drove (but not with our trailer) into Chaco Canyon a number of years ago and, prior to going, read in the guide books that it was an awful road. We flew into Albuquerque (out of Portland Oregon) and rented a 4WD truck anticipating a rough entry. We came in from the south and left out the north end. The road wasn't really that bad. There were folks in there with regular passenger cars. However, I will qualify that "awful" is a relative term. If one is used to paved roads and campgrounds, 21 miles of dirt or gravel can be tough and there is no question it will be rougher on the trailer. Condition of the road will vary depending on the time of the year and when the last time they graded it as well as the weather immediately preceding entry. Wet is not good. I have driven down a lot of BLM and Forest Service roads over the years and have found a great deal of variation depending on the trip.

Having said all of this, I would love to get back down to Chaco Canyon as it is an amazing place. I would really like to take my 23' Safari there. If I were considering a trip, I'd contact the park staff by phone or e-mail and ask them about the condition of the road and whether it is graded in the spring. Depending on time elapsed since the last grading, it could have serious washboarding. Also, I recall that access from the north had a shorter route on dirt than from the south.

Good Luck
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Old 05-11-2009, 09:01 PM   #3
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Washboard is ubiquitous. Resistance is futile. There is a campground on top of a mesa south of Bloomfield called Angel Peak which would be a good base camp for Chaco and also the Bisti Badlands.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:19 PM   #4
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Chaco is a very cool place. 21 miles of rough road helps keep out the timid. Visited last Oct. with my 19' AS. Yes it is a rough road because about 16 mi. of it is all washboard. The only way to do it is above 45mph (not recommended with trailer) or simply crawl at about 10mph and steer for the softest sandy spots. There is not a lot of traffic so you can use the whole road if you pay attention and watch for speeding native pickups.

I had to rejoin a drawer front and retighten some hinges after that drive, but I like going to remote places and having some time to enjoy and explore. Just secure everything and even tape drawers and fridge closed. It's a vibrator. There are acouple of nice hikes to remote ruins that are worth it and it sure is nice to not have to drive a hundred miles to go home. I like it better than Mesa Verde. They also have a very large telescope available (call ranger station for schedules of talks).

There is a nice little campground but only a couple of shady spots and no hookups. You can fill water jugs at the visitor center, there is a dump station and flush toilets.

It may take two hours in and out but that is shorter than 6 hours each way.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:36 PM   #5
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We went to Chaco last fall, and the road was absolutely awful. I'm very, very glad that we did not decide to take the Airstream in.

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Old 05-11-2009, 11:26 PM   #6
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It's a cool area; we were there with a Land Rover years ago; would never think to take Bess there.
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Old 05-11-2009, 11:35 PM   #7
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I have heard more than once the road is intentionally unpaved and not maintained to discourage high traffic volume through the Navajo Nation. Whether this is myth or fact it does keep the traffic down. Chaco would otherwise be a lot more overcrowded. I don't intend to take my AS in either, but if you look hard in the road dust you can see Wally's ghost.
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Old 05-12-2009, 01:12 AM   #8
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Check the Chaco NPS website. The campground is closing June 15 for several weeks for a rebuild of facilities, and no camping of any type will be available at Chaco proper.
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Old 05-12-2009, 08:58 AM   #9
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Thanks for the quick replies. I am still considering giving it a go. After all, going to difficult, remote places is what Airstreaming is all about. I have until tomorrow to decide for sure. If I go with the Airstream I'll report back on the trip.

Ed
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Old 07-19-2009, 08:34 AM   #10
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In May, we entered Chaco Canyon from the south and exited to the north with our '72 Safari. Go very slow. And then go slower. It was not a problem. In fact slowing down helped to prepare us for the Canyon. Campground was unprotected and windy but wonderful. The park telescope show at night was helpfull in understanding the area history. Starting walks at pre-dawn enhanced the experience.
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Old 07-19-2009, 08:50 AM   #11
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We were just at Chaco Canyon a few weeks ago. Terrible road, there wouldn't be a rivet left in your Airstream if you took it up that road, either one of them. The road from the south is 22 miles long, the one from the north is 30 miles, both awful. Park your Airstream somewhere and then go up there. The campground at Chaco is closed (in June) at any rate, nowhere to stay up there. I did see someone else with an Argosy up there but that is one of the last places in the world I would go with a trailer. We drove up in our 4 wheel drive pickup. Washboardy road with cattle guards that are sticking up, rocky places that are lilterally driving over boulders.

That said, it was a totally wonderful experience that I would not have missed. Chaco is a truly surreal experience.
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Old 07-19-2009, 11:09 AM   #12
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We've been to Chaco Canyon twice. The south road was muddy because of heavy rains a couple of years ago when we took my in-laws there. A woman's car was stuck in the mud and we took her up to the headquarters so she could get a tow truck out there. I don't remember much about the north road, so it must have been a better road. The north road is the most commonly used access. Both times we were there was without a trailer.

Chaco is well worth seeing. It appears to have been a cultural center and possibly a religious one. The ruins are still in fairly good condition considering how old they are. Ancient and remarkedly straight roads fanned out from Chaco connecting it to settlements in the 4 Corners area. Because it's isolated there are no crowds.

Dirt roads usually have some washboard. It's the nature of them. If they have been graded the day before you get there, it'll be a smooth trip. A few more days, washboard. I don't know if I'd take our trailer there, maybe because we've been there twice already.

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Old 07-19-2009, 11:15 AM   #13
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You know, statistics show that the vast bulk of visitors to NPs stay only briefly, and then only near the largest visitors center. I suspect, then, that even if the road into Chaco were paved, it would bump the traffic, but not that much.

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Old 07-19-2009, 11:35 AM   #14
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Mesa Verde is much better known than Chaco and will probably continue to attract most tourists. They are very different. There's also Hovenweep NM, which has several parts in SW Colorado and SE Utah, and also has dirt roads for access. If you explore the 4 Corners area with a 4WD, there are Anasazi ruins everywhere, often plundered and vandalized.

There's also evidence of the older Fremont culture. The "ghost" paintings on rock walls are amazing to see. The most famous is the Harvest Scene in the Maze District of Canyonlands NP. It takes quite a hike down a 600' high canyon and a lot of 4WD road to get there, but I've never been down there without seeing some other people on the way despite the remoteness. Barb and I spent part of our honeymoon down in the Maze. If you decide to go into the Maze, be very familar with maps, have plenty of water, a good compass. It's really easy to get lost—that's why it's called the Maze. South of the Needles District of CNP there are ruins in Ruins Park and Beef Basin, but no Airstream is going into that area unless you're crazy.

There are many amazing places in the SW where there's evidence of ancient cultures. We've enjoyed exploring these places over the years. Many are remote and need 4WD and wilderness camping skills. Sometimes the Airstream can't come. Chaco, by comparison, is easy to get to.

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