TRAIL OF THE ANCIENTS SCENIC BYWAY

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is a mesmerizing mix of landscapes carved into shapes of every kind by wind and water. Pause and appreciate the long occupation by native communities, present over a time spectrum rarely intact elsewhere. Extending from Paleolithic society to ancestral Puebloans to nomadic Navajo, Apache and Ute tribes to the impact of European settlers, these native communities endure. Visitors find centuries-old traditions still honored, and new practices and art forms constantly evolving.

1. AZTEC RUINS NATIONAL MONUMENT

This ancestral Puebloan community was active in the 12th and 13th centuries. The UNESCO World Heritage site offers 500-plus rooms and North America’s only reconstructed Great Kiva. Watch the Video.
www.nps.gov/azru

2. SALMON RUINS

Enjoy 11th century Puebloan ruins and a Chacoan great house, plus replicas of a sweatlodge, hogan, tipi and pithouse. View artifacts and browse the gift shop for Native American art. Traveler tip: Ask about the extraordinary, off-site "pueblito" and rock-art tours hidden within Largo Canyon. www.salmonruins.com

3. CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

Formerly a major ceremonial and trade center, this UNESCO World Heritage site was active from 850-1250 A.D. Its world celebrity status is underscored in pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping and engineering. Watch the Video.
www.nps.gov/chcu

4. CROWNPOINT

Famous for its area weaver auctions of Navajo rugs. Auctions are usually held the second Friday of each month. Artisans also sell jewelry and pottery. www.crownpointrugauction.com.

Trail of the Ancients

5. GRANTS

Formerly a railroad coal station, Grants boomed when uranium was discovered in 1950. Visitors enjoy mined gems and a re-created uranium mine at the New Mexico Mining Museum.Town is a favorite stop along Route 66. www.grants.org

6. EL MALPAIS NATIONAL MONUMENT

El Malpais’ jagged, molten lava landscape of lava tubes, cinder cones, pressure ridges and ice cave formed more than a million years ago. www.nps.gov/elma

7. BANDERA VOLCANO AND ICE CAVE

One of the country’s finest examples of volcanic eruption, visitors also enjoy an ice cave where temperatures never rise above 31 degrees F. www.icecaves.com

8. EL MORRO NATIONAL MONUMENT

A vital waterhole at its base made El Morro a popular stop for ancestral Puebloans, Spanish explorers and early American travelers. Some 2,000 names, dates, messages and petroglyphs are etched into its sandstone bluff. www.nps.gov/elmo

9. ZUNI

The six original Zuni pueblos were the legendary "Cities of Gold" sought be Vasquez de Coronado. Settled in 1699, Zuni is the largest of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos and is celebrated for producing silver jewelry, stone fetishes and pottery. www.ashiwi.org

10. GALLUP

Gallup was a westward railroad stop, then later a Route 66 pass-through. Trading companies and pawn shops line Gallup's main streets, offering a wealth of Native American art and crafts. The annual Inter-Tribal Ceremonial in mid-August is a premier event with parades, dances, marketplace, contest powwow, rodeo and Native foods. www.ci.gallup.nm.us

11. TWO GREY HILLS TRADING POST (TOHATCHI)

Two Grey Hills Trading Post is an historic post on the Navajo Reservation. Constructed of original stone and adobe, it remains the primary source of authentic, "Two Grey Hills" style regional rugs, known around the world as the finest in Navajo weaving. Rugs are made of hand-spun yarn from the fleece of naturally colored, local churro sheep. www.twogreyhills.com

12. TOADLENA TRADING POST (NEWCOMB)

Toadlena supplies cash, services, and goods for approximately 1,500 Navajos that trade their hand-woven Native American rugs (available for purchase). www.toadlenatradingpost.com

13. SHIPROCK

This prominent landmark rises 1,800 feet above the desert plain on the Navajo Nation. A remnant of volcanic activity millions of years ago, Shiprock plays a significant role in Navajo religion, mythology, and tradition. It is a point of interest for photographers and several film productions and novels, including the newly released "The Lone Ranger." The rock formation is near the community of Shiprock, home to the Northern Navajo Fair, the oldest and most traditional of the Nation's fairs, held every October. www.discovernavajo.com

14. FARMINGTON

Farmington is surrounded by world-class cultural treasures, magnificent landscapes, and thrilling river sports. Local museums highlight everything from fish and game to developments in electrical history to children's activities. Farmington Museum and Visitors' Center at Gateway Park exhibits the city's history, oil and gas industry, a trading post reproduction and rotating art exhibitions. www.farmingtonnm.org

15. BISTI DE-NA-ZIN WILDERNESS

A federal wilderness area, the Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a desolate area of eroded badlands that offer some of the most unusual scenery in the Four Corners region. Time and nature have etched a world of fantastic rock formations that have become a favored wilderness experience. www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/wilderness/bisti.html

Explore other New Mexico Scenic Byways:

http://www.newmexico.org/scenicbyways/

See the Video

Trail of the Ancients Video