I want to visit and explore the Chaco Canyon area in New Mexico and am looking for advice for a good base location for day trips. Somewhere with reasonable selection of lodging options, stores and restaurants.
I've actually been living in New Mexico this winter in the mountains outside of Albuquerque and have been making lots of day trips/weekend trip all around the state, so I thought I would share my insight. I love it here, and it's amazing how much variety there is in the landscapes and cultures.
I haven't yet made it to Chaco Canyon, but I have been looking into it. The ruins look amazing in pictures. If you were willing to camp, that would give you the most convenient access to the park, especially if you were planning on spending more than one day there. There is one camp ground in Chaco Culture National Historic Park called Gallo Campground.
Otherwise the nearest hotels/motels are 1.5 hours away! Most of the land in NM is owned by the government which means most of it is devoid of development. The nearest towns to look for accommodations are Bloomfield, Aztec, or Cuba. You may find a bit more selection a little farther in Farmington (New Mexico).
I also recommend looking at the NPS website which has a lot of good info you may find useful:
If I were you and wanted a single place to base day trips from, then I would probably stay in Gallup which is 2.5 hours to Chaco Canyon. I would also consider doing trips to Petrified Forest National Park and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. It's a lot of driving, but doable.
What I would actually do if I were doing it is stay in different places and use a combination of camping and motel stays. For instance if I were starting in Albuquerque I might do something like this:
But of course, it depends on what you had in mind to see.
I hope this helps, email me at TravelersToast@gmail.com if you need any more specific information.
Crystal, Traveler's Toast
Mentioned in this answer: