CO – Chimney Rock National Monument

The weather finally provided a window of opportunity to escape Durango, where I’d been graciously hosted by friends after a grand ski adventure (link to related post). As per my normal travel pattern, I had no itinerary nor destination in mind. I drove US-160 to CO-151 to where I found this sign. Well dang . . .

I decided to drive up the road for a better look anyway. As I stood there pondering the situation a volunteer arrived and said I could hike the road and view the exhibits. This Park is only open when it can be staffed by interpretative center volunteers between 5/15 and 9/30.  Lucky me!

That must be the chimney?

What is Chimney Rock?

This undiscovered gem is an intimate, off-the-beaten-path archaeological site located at the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains  in Southwestern Colorado. You’ll walk in the footsteps of the fascinating and enigmatic Ancestral Puebloans of the Chaco Canyon, following primitive pathways that haven’t changed for 1,000 years. Archaeological ruins and artifacts, abundant wildlife, and its setting in the breathtaking San Juan National Forest make Chimney Rock a must-see.

Chimney Rock covers seven square miles and preserves 200 ancient homes and ceremonial buildings, some of which have been excavated for viewing and exploration: a Great Kiva, a Pit House, a Multi-Family Dwelling, and a Chacoan-style Great House Pueblo. Chimney Rock is the highest in elevation of all the Chacoan sites, at about 7,000 feet above sea level.  Source: ChimneyRockCo.Org

On September 21, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed Chimney Rock a National Monument, making it the seventh national monument managed by the USDA Forest Service. The Chimney Rock a National Monument encompasses 4,726 acres of the San Juan National Forest between Durango and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The Chimney Rock Interpretive Program is managed and staffed by the U.S. Forest Service and volunteer Chimney Rock Interpretive Association.  Source: USFS

The construction details.

From the top you are awarded 360 views of Colorado and New Mexico.

Maybe it should be called Chimney ROCKS?

The pinnacles that give Chimney Rock its name frame multiple astronomical alignments. The Ancestral Puebloans incorporated their knowledge of astronomy into the design of their community. Today Chimney Rock is one of the best recognized archaeo-astronomical resources in North America, with alignments with the northern lunar standstill, summer solstice, equinoxes and Crab Nebula. Source: USFS

Hike Details:

  • Date: April 5, 2017
  • Miles: 7 miles round trip (because road was closed)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,300’/1,300′ 


  • This would be one of those places were you’d learn a ton through a tour, but when you can’t this looks like a great resource and one I wish I’d known about. 
  • Stop by the Ranger Station in Pagosa Springs for additional information and a visit with Smokey. 
  • While researching materials for this blog post, it appears the Pueblo Trail, where I took most of my photos is off limits to all except to those on guided tours. Obviously signage could be improved. 
  • Full moon tours are offered, and with the astrological significance of the area, this would be an awesome opportunity.



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