Four Corners itinerary tune-up

Jan 31st, 2006, 10:31 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 89
Four Corners itinerary tune-up

Hello everyone - I am planning a trip back to the Southwest, this time to explore the Puebloan ruins of the 4 corners area and do lots of hiking. I have 10 days off in mid-May and will fly into Albuquerque, getting there by early afternoon. My rough itinerary is as follows:

Day 1 - From ABQ, drive to Santa Fe (is it worth it to take Turquoise Trail?). Will stay in Santa Fe that night OR drive to Los Alamos to prepare for next day's activities.

Day 2 - Visit Bandelier NM for at least 1/2 day, then drive to Chaco Canyon. How far of a drive is Chaco from Bandelier? It seems like 4 hours on the map but I want to know how realistic this is considering the 20 miles of dirt road to get to Chaco from Nageezi. Should we stay in Los Alamos on night of Day 2 and then drive to Chaco early on Day 3?

Day 3 - Chaco Canyon (will camp)
Day 4 - Chaco Canyon, then either drive to Farmington (has anyone ever stayed at Kokopelli's Cave B&B?) OR drive to Cortez, CO. If possible, I would love to check out Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness area if we were to stay in Farmington, but have not found much information on it. Has anyone been and is it worth a detour?

Day 5 - Mesa Verde
Day 6 - Mesa Verde, then drive to Monument Valley, stay overnight (about roughly how long of a drive would this be?)
Day 7 - Drive to Canyon de Chelly
Day 8- Canyon de Chelly
Day 9 - drive back to ABQ, stay overnight
Day 10 - fly home

I can add a day if I need to, but I'm wondering if this itinerary has too much driving in it? I would love to hear suggestions or comments on any of the areas I've mentioned. Thank you!
carlyshells is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Just a note about Mesa Verde: you need reservations to climb to some of the cliff dwellings (like the palace) now.
sylvia3 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 08:36 PM
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The Turquoise Trail is a slower but scenic way to get to Santa Fe from Albuquerque. You'll drive through a couple of ghost towns along the way, and Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid) has some fun shops.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jan 31st, 2006, 08:51 PM
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My dad grew up in Madrid and worked the coal mines there back '30-'45. Wow, the story about that place that I heard while growing up I'll never forget. The local bar didn't even bother to close during prohibition. The owner just sold moonshine and homemade beer because there was no legal stuff to buy. The stories went on and on.

jamaltay is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 04:16 AM
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We did a Sept trip to Chaco/Bandelier/Mesa Verde and it was amazing! Especially Chaco. The road into Chaco is really no big deal at all unless it is wet. Pretty straight and smooth, actually. We have pictures of our trip - lots of them - at:

I have to get to work now, but I'll post later with some great suggestions on a few places to stay. We loved Jemez Springs (near Bandelier/Los Alamos area). Great little town and we stayed at a wonderful inn - very reasonable. Also hiked to a hot springs in a mountain meadow - what an amazing experience! If you have any questions, you can email us directly. Sharon
sharondi is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 04:54 AM
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Chaco Canyon is the crown jewel of the ancestral puebloan ruins that you will see on your trip. Having said that, I'd suggest that you devote at one full day to it at the very least. If you do Banelier (and you should) and then try to drive to Chaco, then you will have very little time to see anything at Chaco that day. In addition, the small campground fills quickly and early so, if you arrive late in the afternoon, you probably won't be able to get a site and then your only option is to drive over an hour back out that dirt road and another 45 inutes or so to Farmington or Grants for lodging.
I'd suggest adding the day you have available and maybe consider camping for two nights at Chaco. Trust me, you won't be sorry.
peterboy is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 05:01 AM
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By the way the pictures of Chaco Canyon that sharondi (my bride) linked you to start on page 21 of the gallery. I just tried the link and it takes you to the opening page of the gallery of the entire trip. Elsewhere in that gallery you'll find images of Bandelier and Mesa Verde if you care to poke about. I hope you have a high speed connection! Have a great trip...we sure did!
peterboy is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 09:36 AM
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Thanks everyone, for your responses and advice! I am really looking forward to this trip - I'm even taking a class on "Archeology of the Southwest" just so I can better appreciate the areas I'll be going to.

peterboy and sharondi: When I clicked on that link, it brought me to I even tried just, thinking that I would navigate to your photos from there and it still brought me to the Fox website.

I had never even considered Jemez Springs, but it looks really wonderful! I would love to get the name of the inn you guys stayed at. Is Santa Fe worth spending more than a couple of hours, if at all, there? I understand its historical significance and all, but am not really interested in seeing cities on this vacation.

Overall though, does my itinerary seem in any way ambitious for the amount of time I have? I was debating if I should skip Monument Valley, but I've never been through that area before and I'm not quite sure when I'll be back to the SW after this trip. Too many places to see in this world and not enough time (or money!)!
carlyshells is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 11:57 AM
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"Too many places to see in this world and not enough time (or money!)!"

Funny, we have the same problem!

That is very strange about the pbase glitch. try just typing

in your address line. That sould bring you to the page with all the galleries and then click on the "co and nm 05" gallery and Chaco should be on page 21 of the gallery. Mesa Verde pictures start on page 10 and Bandelier on page 50. we started in Denver and hit things in a different order than you will.

To prepare you for Chaco and all the sites I'd suggest that you get the book "Anasazi America" out of the library and read it. It is not too long and was written for regular people. It really enhances your visit if you have some idea what you're looking at and how it fits into the history of the region...especially at Chaco which pre-dated most of the rest of what you'll see on your journey.

I highly suggest (assuming that you have a full day at Chaco) that you hike the loop on top of the cliffs that takes you to Pueblo Alto and the Jackson Stairs. It is about 5 1/2 miles and isn't too hard if you are reasonable fit. Justbring lots of water along...there's not a speck ofshade up there. I'm sure sharondi will be back to this thread soon with info on the wonderful place we stayed in Jemez (pronounced Jamous...rhymes with famous..honest) Springs.

peterboy is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 12:08 PM
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If you are a member of the AAA may I suggest you pick up a copy of one of their maps. It is one of the Explore Series and is called "indian Country Guid Map" this is an excellect map for exploring the 4 corner area of the SouthWest, we have used it several times over the years while traveling in that area. It is much more than just a map, its also a guide to points of interest, recreation, annual events, rafting and backcountry outfitters and tribal information.
RedRock is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 12:16 PM
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We were enthralled with the Southwest in October. What a place! I've always had a special feeling for Shiprock, the lacy monument that stands in the middle of nowhere. We unfortunately decided not to drive too close, because of time. We stopped at the Four Corners monument and as we were leaving, a little way down the road, I happened to glance over my right shoulder out the window, and there it was! Spectacular!

There was a little gravel pulloff, and we stayed there a few minutes looking at it. I felt connected. Then, a man with several children came over and asked us for gas money. He was quite open and asked us where we were from, and when we said Washington, he asked wistfully what it was like there. It was at thta point that cultural differences really slapped me in the face. I tried very hard to pay more attention for the rest of our trip, and I think about that revelation often now, here in our nation's capital. Hope you get to see Shiprock, a princess in the wilderness.
Van_Ness is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 03:57 PM
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Actually, Jemez is pronounced HAY-mez by most people around here. Jemez Springs is a lovely place, and the hike up to Battleship Rock and the hot springs there is a bit strenuous but worthwhile.

Jamaltay, when the coal mines closed, the whole town eventually went up for sale. The hippies moved in in the early '70s, and Madrid still kind of has that vibe. I imagine there are stories from that era as well. ;-)

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Feb 1st, 2006, 04:33 PM
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On our Four Corners trip, we really enjoyed Bandalier (we arrived late after visiting several pueblos). We would have loved more time there but it was very interesting even for just the hour or so we had. We didn't make Chaco (pouring down rain, didn't plan enough time and travelling with a toddler). We loved Mesa Verde (a highlight for me), particularly Far View Lodge, Metate dining room and the ranger led tours. We also enjoyed Monument Valley. We stayed at Gouldings Lodge (not amazing but decent and convenient). Be sure to leave time for a guided tour (not just the self-guided drive). The Navajo tour we took out of Gouldings really got us up close to some of the more spectacular sights/sites. Also, be sure to try the Fry Bread. Yum!
POlson is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2006, 04:25 AM
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In Jemez Springs, we stayed at Canon del Rio - just google the name and you'll get their website. Its a beautiful 6 room inn on several acres right on the river. Lovely hot tub and courtyard. Very reasonably priced and they serve a nice breakfast. We also really enjoyed staying at the Far View lodge in Mesa Verde. Dining in the Metate Room was very good and being right in the park made it so nice for taking the ranger led walks in the morning. The Balcony House hike is great - you do have to sign up for the hikes at the visitors center but there are plenty of time slots to choose from. In Chaco, the hike up to Palo Alto along the rim was incredible! Seeing the Jackson Stairs - wow. Truly a special place. You do have to get there in the morning to ensure a camping spot though. I would definitely recommend 2 nights at Chaco. We wanted to check out Bisti/De Na Zin area as well but getting there is brutal. There is no good way to get there from Chaco so we skipped it. It's a hard area to get info on. You might consider this itinerary:
Day 1 Stay in Santa Fe
Day 2 Head to Bandelier, stay in Jemez Springs area; maybe a hike into one of the hot springs.
Day 3 off to Chaco, camp
Day 4 Chaco, camp
Day 5 head to Mesa Verde, Far View
Day 6 Mesa Verde, Far View
Day 7 head to Monument Valley (it's about a 3-4 hr drive) Overnight at Gouldings.
Day 8 head to Canyon De Chelley.
Day 9 Canyon De Chelley; head to ABQ
Day 10 home
If you want to do some hiking, you really need to spend a little more time in each of the parks, especially Chaco and Mesa Verde. You might consider just a stop at Monument Valley instead of an overnight. It's beautiful but not much to do there in my opinion. We've driven by it many times on the way to more interesting places. I'd drive through and stay somewhere else.
You will definitely go back to this area; I guarantee it. Your next trip will hopefully bring you to the parks in southern Utah and you can spend more time at Monument Valley then.
sharondi is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2006, 06:26 AM
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RedRocks advice about the "Indian Country" map is very good for the trip you're planning.

Your itinerary does set quite a pace. We too have a habit of "biting off more than we can chew" and have learned to slow down so we can spend more time out of the car. It looks as though your original iinerary only has the day at Canyon de Chelly as a non-driving day. That plan would give you a good overview of the region but won't give you the hike time you want.

If this is your first trip to the southwest then I suspect that this little taste will simply whet your appetite for another visit to explore and hike even more. Nothing wrong with that!
peterboy is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2006, 08:42 AM
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I was finally able to view those photos. Nice! I will definitely get the AAA map, thanks for the suggestion RedRock!

sharondi, I like your itinerary. I think I will follow along those lines, but I'm still up in the air about MV. I took a trip out to the parks of southern Utah last spring and absolutely loved it, but missed MV. I have been itching for more international adventures though, which is why I made that comment that I'm not sure when I'll be back to the SW again. Or at least, not anytime soon...

Okay, another question: should we stay in Jemez the first two nights and skip Santa Fe altogether? Or do what sharondi suggested, SF one night, Jemez the other? Hot springs, Bandelier, Battleship all sounds like a more appealing way to spend the very short amount of time we'll have in that area. Maybe I've just answered my own question!

POIson, I'm afraid that I'll enjoy the fry bread way too much!
carlyshells is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2006, 07:14 PM
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Never been to Santa Fe but people seem to really like it. We stayed in Taos for a few nights at the end of our fall trip and I didn't really like it. The Taos Pueblo is an amazing place though. I agree - I'd rather be experiencing hot springs, hiking and ruins than a city.
sharondi is offline  
Feb 4th, 2006, 07:38 PM
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I like Sharondi's itinerary but I would be sure to add time for one of the tours at Monument Valley, maybe the morning tour before driving to Canyon De Chelly. It really is an amazing place and unlike anywhere else I've been.
POlson is offline  

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