About the SiteThese ruins at Aztec represent over two centuries of planning and building by the Ancestral Puebloan people. They built a settlement that included a group of large public architecture and smaller buildings and ceremonial rooms. This community at Aztec rivaled the one found at Chaco Canyon, 55 miles to the south. Scientists believe the two settlements were related; perhaps early in Aztec's life it was dominated by the power of Chaco Canyon. Yet when Chaco fell apart around 1100, Aztec continued strong for another century or two. The building efforts at Aztec lasted over 200 years; the succeeding generations of people adhered to the master building plan laid down by the original settlers in the late 1000s A.D. Sometime around the late 1200s, the people left Aztec, as Ancestral Puebloans were doing in many places around the Four Corners area. Today many indigenous people living nearby are their descendants, and they still maintain strong cultural and spirital ties to the site.
What You're Going to SeeAztec Ruins is a small site; you won't get tired walking around the path. The ruins that surround the restored Great Kiva are, well, ruins. They're interesting enough in their way, especially if you think about trying to live as they did a thousand years ago. But what makes Aztec Ruins a step above your generic Ancestral Puebloan ruin site is the Great Kiva. Yes, it's been restored, but I don't have a problem with that. It's large and spacious, and when we went down inside there was a Park Ranger there, ready to answer whatever questions we had. The amount of work the inhabitants put in is really amazing. I can't imagine trying to convince my fellow residents to travel 20 miles thataway and haul back some trees whose trunks will support the roof over the kiva, much less telling them that we need huge stones to support the four pillars inside, and those stones are also found 20 miles away, in a different direction.
Personal ObservationsI liked Aztec Ruins. It was simple, laid out well, and the Great Kiva really surprised me. I was expecting only ruins; to see a reconstructed kiva, and as huge as it was, was pleasant. Now it was a warm summer day in norther New Mexico, and Michael and Lexi made a beeline for the air-conditioned visitors center and never moved. After a few minutes of walking around, Gina joined them. Stalwarts Katie, Nick and Luke accompanied me all through the ruins. It really only took perhaps 45 minutes to an hour to walk all around. So for those who chose comfort over learning, well, I just hope you can live with yourselves. Heh. All right, all right, it was our 6th or so National Park Site after five days on the road. Fine! I'll cut you some slack.
Getting ThereFrom Albuquerque, take I-84 north for 16 miles. Take State Highway 44/US 550 northwest for 151 miles to Bloomfield, and continue north on State Highway 544/US 550 for 9 miles to the town of Aztec. Once in Aztec, 544/550 becomes N. Main Avenue. Turn left (west) at the intersection with W. Aztec Blvd. (also Highway 516). Drive west for about one-half mile. As soon as you cross the river, look for a right turn onto Ruins Road. Turn right and follow Ruins Rd. for about 3/4 of a mile. The Monument is on your right.
Nearby AttractionsMesa Verde National Park is about 50 miles to the northwest. Yucca House National Monument is about 60 miles to the west northwest. Hovenweep National Monument is about 75 miles to the northwest. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is about 90 miles to the northwest. 100 mile to the southwest is Canyon de Chelly National Monument. 60 miles to the south is Chaco Canyon National Historic Park.