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  1. Default How bad are roads to Chaco Culture national park NM?

    Hello all
    I am planning on driving to Chaco culture national park from the south: Gila Cliff dwelling to El Norro national monument to Chaco Culture then on to Farmington to Aztec ruins 64 to Taos, on to Sante Fe then to Albuquerque

    Question: Bad road ? I have been reading about the road to Chaco ( I will be driving a compact rental car), How bad are the roads if the weather is dry? I don't want to damage the car. Will this work if I take it slow and easy?

    Can a regular passenger care handle the roads in and out of Chaco National monument, how long of a stretch are the bad roads? On both sides of park?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Hopefully someone with recent experience can help you, but my mom remembers that the road was pretty bad, once upon a time.

    Did you read this page from the Chaco website? It states that one road is rough, but suitable for passenger cars.

    I would definitely check with the rental car company. Explain where you are going. It is mapped road, but some rental companies will void the contract if you take the vehicle on certain roads.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    The site states that the roads are all dirt. This will not be allowed by the rental companies.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Albuquerque, New Mexico


    Quote Originally Posted by brian3222
    I am planning on driving to Chaco culture national park from the south . Question: Bad road ?
    Yes. At the beginning of NM Hwy. 57 there is a sign warning drivers that the road is rough and may be impassable.

    ^^ Junction of NM Hwy. 57 and Navajo Rt. 9 ^^

    I will be driving a compact rental car. How bad are the roads if the weather is dry.
    The roads can still be bad. I tried to drive up the south road in a compact car a few years ago, and I had to turn back after going about 3 miles ( a little ways past Ruby Ranch ). Once I got past the ranch, the road got rougher and was deeply rutted. There was no way I was going to make it. I have also tried to take NM Hwy. 57 south out of Chaco Canyon, but I didn’t get very far.

    The road that enters the park from the north ( from US Hwy. 550 ) is not so bad, although there is quite a bit of “washboard” that will bounce you around pretty good.

    For anyone driving to Chaco Canyon I would offer two pieces of advice:

    One - Always call ahead to check on road conditions.

    Two - Follow the directions given on the Chaco Canyon NPS website. They are correct and describe the roads well. I have seen other websites give directions that were either just plain wrong, or written so poorly that they could easily get somebody lost.
    Last edited by howard; 04-17-2014 at 12:06 AM. Reason: typo

  5. #5


    Same experience as a others above have reported. Did OK on North road, in a van. Coming out on South road, a few years ago, a hose to our cooling system shook lose. We were able to repair along the way to make it back to Tucson for reliable repair.
    Taking a rental car on either road would be a risk. It appears there is a commercial company that provides a tour, in their vehicles. We used a company out of Kanab, UT to tour the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at Tuweep/Toroweap because of road conditions. We were very glad we had them use their vehicles.

  6. Default

    thanks for the advice, Not sure If I will go there or not, would love to see it.

    Can one see allot of Chaco in 1 good day 10-12 hours?

    I plan to be driving up from the south from Gila and up to Grants city.

    Any alternative suggestions that are as good as Chaco?


  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by brian3222 View Post
    Any alternative suggestions that are as good as Chaco?
    At the risk of stating the obvious: Mesa Verde National Park (southwestern Colorado).

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default An amazing place

    Quote Originally Posted by John259 View Post
    At the risk of stating the obvious: Mesa Verde National Park (southwestern Colorado).
    I'll second that. Mesa Verda is an amazing park full of history of settlement and occupation going back well over 1000 years. It is essential to do the ranger tours if you want to get a full understanding of the place. It's a good idea to call a day or so before hand to book into a tour at your preferred time. You could easily spend a couple of days there.

    It is also close to many other majoy attractions in Colorado.


  9. #9


    We did Chaco last year - the road conditions are a day to day changing thing; the day we visited they were dry and passable, but you had to still go slow since they were not great....definitely better than Monument Valley, but still dusty and slow going. I'm not sure though I would do the road in a small compact car.

    I third the suggestion for Mesa Verde as a good alternative!

  10. Default

    Just a quick comment about the roads in Monument Valley for anyone who's unfamiliar with the area (and in no way intending to dispute what the previous poster said): US163 through Monument Valley is paved and suitable for all vehicles. It's the roads which branch off from US163 that are unpaved.

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