TABB - Chimney Rock National Monument

GPS Location: 37.174345, -107.294156 (Park entrance)

Miles from Chama: 68.66 Miles

Miles from Durango: 47.18 Miles

Chimney Rock at moon rise. By U.S. Department of Agriculture [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Ancestral Puebloan site, designated on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, was a community inhabited between Durango and Pagosa Springs about 1,000 years ago with about 200 rooms. Rooms in the buildings were used for living, work areas and ceremonial purposes. The site is located within the San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area on 4,726 acres of land. Between May 15 and September 30 the Visitor Center is open and guided walking tours are conducted daily.


Housing approximately 2,000 ancient Pueblo Indians between AD 925 and 1125, the settlement included a Great House Pueblo with round ceremonial rooms, known as kivas, and 36 ground-floor rooms. A grizzly bear jaw found in one of the rooms when excavated suggested a reverence for the animal, and modern Chaco oral history suggests that the Bear clan originated in the Chimney Rock area.


The Chaco culture which inhabited the Chimney Rock area was hierarchical, with a priest class overseeing the area's inhabitants. The construction of the Great House Pueblo at the top of the ridge, close to Chimney Rock and its neighbor Companion Rock, had a large ceremonial role in the later years of Chacoan presence. As the moon makes its lunar cycle across the sky over a period of 18.6 years, it appears in a lunar standstill between the two rocks for approximately 16 months.


Guided and self-guided tours begin at the small visitor center at the base of the monument today. The guided tour comes in two parts; a quarter mile paved pathway that winds through un-excavated sites and the Great Kiva and singular pit-house, and a third mile, more strenuous dirt and rock path that runs past the pit house complex, Rooms A-E, the Guardhouse, and Great House Pueblo. The tour lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours and gives detailed information of the inhabitants and their lives.