Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chaco Canyon Overlook Trail

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a 1.5 mile round trip to a lookout point overlooking the east end of Chaco Canyon National Monument in northwest New Mexico. The trail head is near the entrance to the Gallo Campground and isn't mentioned on the park map.

There is a sign at the trail head near the camp host and some parking in the tents only part of the campground.

The trail climbs immediately to the mesa top and follows along the rocky edge. The main point of interest in the east end of Chaco Canyon is Fajada Butte. Fajada means “banded” in Spanish. The Cliff House Sandstone forms the upper layers and the softer Menefee formation the lower. A narrow layer of lignite coal is between the two.

These same layers can also be viewed along the main park road at Mesa Verde National Park. Fajada Butte is a sacred place for Pueblo, Hopi, and Navajo People today. On top of Fajada Butte is a Sun Dagger site. Three boulders allow beams of light to fall on a spiral petroglyph that seems to mark the suns position on the summer and winter solstice and the equinoxes.

This short trail took me 0:45 minutes. The Gallo Campground also has two small alcove ruins to view and several petroglyph panels. Most visitors skip these sites that are along the road on the way to the Visitor Center and the huge ruins structures in the main part of the park.

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