10Best Scouts the Southwest's Indian Pueblos and Ruins

Dig into thousands of years history at these famous sites

Family Travel Expert

Most people don't know that the Pueblo people, dating back over a thousand years, are indigenous to a certain region of the country, the Southwest states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.  Where their borders join is known as the Four Corners area, and here is where you can find tons of history and great day trips to take your family on an adventure back in time.  

Yes, even kids will be fascinated by the fact that what makes these ancient Native Americans different is they were the first to build apartment style living or multi dwellings, sometimes located in cliffs, even hundreds of feet off the desert floor - fascinating! 

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park — Photo courtesy of Ken Lund

Mesa Verde Park National Park, in Mesa Verde, Colorado, is one fine example, with 600 dwellings!  It is impossible to see all in one day, but the more famous ones, Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House have over 100 rooms.  Kids will love climbing down ladders into the underground kivas, or meeting rooms.  Paved paths make many of the sites easily accessible for all.  Some guided tours include climbing up ladders into the dwellings and crouching through small spaces.

Canyon de Chelly

Ruins at Canyon de Chelly, Arizona — Photo courtesy of H2Oman

In Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, people have lived uninterrupted here for nearly 5,000 years.  View this national monument from many of the overlooks on the north or south canyon drives (the south is more popular), hike down on the popular White House trail to see this famous site, or take a guided tour.  Kids can earn a badge and other fun items by completing activities and returning brochure to the park ranger.

Chaco Canyon

As with all sites, a stop at the Visitors Center is always a good idea to get a lay of the land and plan your tour. At Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico, you'll find a museum, gift shop, theatre and helpful staff at the information desk.  A 9-mile paved loop will take you to most of the self-guided trails, which are an easy hike, to see the dwellings.

Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon — Photo courtesy of Boonlong1

Encourage your kids to look for the petroglyphs (ancient drawings), which can be seen on the cliff walls - young eyes are good at spotting.  Notice that large logs were used in the building of the houses, dating back to 800.  There are no sizable trees in this area for miles.

Utah Options

Utah has its share of ancient Pueblo dwellings, at Hovensweep National Monument near Bluff, Utah and Anasazi State Park in Boulder Utah.

It is not known why the Puebloan people all abandoned their dwellings and moved away from this part of the country around 1300 - something to ponder for the young detectives on your next Southwest road trip.

About Jennifer Boren

Jennifer has enjoyed touring several of the sites mentioned, some with her son, including Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.   She suggests younger kids will probably enjoy exploring the most at Mesa Verde.

Read more about Jennifer Boren here.

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