In southwest Colorado, people enter the San Juan Mountains for their breathtaking beauty and bounty of adventure options. Relatively little known within the range is its little monument hiding in plain sight.

The pinnacles that give Chimney Rock its name can be seen from the highway between Pagosa Springs and Durango. The archaeological site that President Barack Obama proclaimed in 2012 can be visited only during a two-hour tour from May through September. From the top of the mesa, the panoramic views stretching to New Mexico are tremendous. But the draw here is the Ancestral Puebloan history that awaits the touch of fingertips.

Chimney Rock National Monument. Photo Credit: Chimney Rock - OutThere Colorado.
A wall of the Great House at Chimney Rock National Monument. Photo Credit: Chimney Rock.

A great kiva, pit house and multi-family building are among stone structures that remain from the Native Americans who called this wilderness home 1,000 years ago. Chimney Rock represents one village of the greater community that was established out of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. The experience is an intimate, scenic stroll through pathways once used by some of the region’s earliest people.

Chimney Rock National Monument - US Department of Agriculture - Flickr
Chimney Rock National Monument. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture (flickr)

Activities: Guided tours, photography

Wildlife: Elk, mule deer, bobcats, black bears, red foxes spotted among mammals; Peregrine falcons, turkey vultures, hummingbirds, American goldfinches, Cassin’s finches, black-headed grosbeaks, mountain chickadees, downy woodpeckers, red crossbills, Steller’s jays, western tanagers among birds; snakes and lizards

Fun fact: Chimney Rock is believed to showcase the Ancestral Puebloans’ astronomical knowledge. The Great House Pueblo, for example, was found to have been built to perfectly view the moon between two rock pillars during the rare major lunar standstill phenomenon.

Address: 3179 Colorado 151, 81121

Directions: Head west on U.S. 160 before catching Colorado 151 west. After about 3 miles on the highway, turn right onto Chimney Rock Road and follow to the visitor cabin.

Leave a Reply

What We Believe

We are driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone - from all backgrounds and cultures - to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. Learn More