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Explore Ancient History While New Mexico Camping at Aztec Ruins National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument is rich in ancient history. Inhabited by the Pueblo people for over 200 years, these ruins offer insight into the past and present. Although the ruins at Aztec Ruins National Monument are named after the Aztecs, they were actually built by ancestral Pueblo people. Despite new knowledge on the true architects of the Aztec Ruins, the name has persisted. Many ancient artifacts were found during early excavations of the ruins in the early 1900’s, including food items, tools, jewelry, and pottery, offering a glimpse into the past. Many of the rooms were so well preserved that they are still held up by the original timber hauled in from distant lands hundreds of years ago. The Great Kiva room has been restored and is the largest Kiva room anywhere. It still invokes a mystical sense, hundreds of years later.
Established as a National Monument in 1928, it is a wonderful New Mexico camping destination that still invokes awe and wonder.
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Aztec Ruins National Monument is open year round, save for Christmas, Thanksgiving and January 1st. There is a $5 entrance fee for anyone over the age of 15, which is good for seven days. Children 15 and under are free. There is also an inter-agency pass that costs $80, is good for one full year, and will grant access into most national parks. Summer weather tends to be hot and dry, with highs in the 90’s. A few days even reach over 100 degrees. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in July and August. Fall tends to be very pleasant with warm days and cool nights. The end of November often brings snow, which continues through the rest of winter, although more than 6” is rare. Spring can be unpredictable as some days are cold, wet and windy while the next may be hot and dry.
A self-guided trail provides visitors a wonderful chance to explore the West Ruins of Aztec Ruins National Monument. The West Ruins is a great house which at one point housed over 500 masonry rooms. A 700 yard path takes you through the ruins, and along the way, you can see ancient rooms built by ancient people. Many of the support beams are original. An interpretive program is set up to enhance your experience, combing history and present day Native American perspectives’, along with history and archeological finds. The trail ends at the Great Kiva, which is the oldest and largest building of its kind. The Great Kiva was a religious and social center for this ancient complex, and after being reconstructed, it still inspires awe. Scheduled ranger lead talks throughout the summer allow for a deeper understanding of the rich history of the ruins and the ancient people who built it. Nestled in the Animas River Valley, Aztec Ruins National Monument is a beautiful New Mexico camping destination that has a lot to offer.
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