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Ancient Puebloans: Mesas, Monuments, Canyons and More

Program Number: 11010RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/16/2013 - 9/24/2013; 5/12/2016 - 5/20/2016; 5/28/2016 - 6/5/2016; 9/3/2016 - 9/11/2016; 10/15/2016 - 10/23/2016;
Duration: 8 nights
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Price starting at: $1,499.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: On the Road; National Parks; History & Culture; Native American Studies Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 23; 8 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, 8 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Canyon de Chelly, Aztec, and Chaco Canyon — investigate these large archaeological sites in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico to better understand the early Puebloan lifestyle in the Southwest.


• Accompanied by an archaeologist, address how regional climate, geology and agriculture influenced the lives of the Ancient Pueblo Indians.
• At each spectacular site, learn how these indigenous people faced the challenges which presented themselves in each region, study their unique connection to the land and learn about the development of Anasazi cultural groups.
• View the remains of an incredibly complex civilization and gain perspective on how Native Americans retain ancestral traditions while adapting to the present-day.

Activity Particulars

Hiking up to three miles at a time, over uneven, rocky terrain, with significant elevation gains. There are walks and hikes which involve cliffs, ladders and heights. Elevations up to 7,000 feet.

Date Specific Information


Program itinerary will be: Santa Fe, N.M., 2 nights; coach to Cortez, Colo., 2 nights; coach to Chinle, Ariz., 1 night; coach to Aztec, N.M., 2 nights; coach to Santa Fe, 1 night.

Itinerary Summary

Albuquerque, N.M., 2 nights; coach to Farmington, N.M., 1 night; coach to Cortez, Colo., 3 nights; coach to Chinle, Ariz., 1 night; coach to Albuquerque, N.M., 1 night.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

Santa Fe

A cosmopolitan city famous for its world-renowned opera, chamber and choral music and for its art and artists, Santa Fe is situated at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Nearby, eight historic, continuously occupied pueblos and small Hispanic villages divulge a heritage that is impeccably preserved in this multi-cultural state capital.


New Mexico's vast history, diversity, creativity, cuisine, beauty and art unite in this vibrant city, founded as a Spanish colonial outpost in 1706 and built in a traditional Spanish village configuration in which civic buildings surround a central plaza. “Old Town” is just one of New Mexico’s largest city’s many gems.


Located near the geographic center of the Navajo Nation, the largest tract of land reserved for American Indians in the United States, Chinle is a hub of the native Navajo community. Against a backdrop of ancient ruins at the mouth of the Canyon De Chelly National Monument, many Navajo still live in traditional hogans.


Aztec is a small city in the Four Corners region of New Mexico. Nearby is the Aztec Ruins National Monument, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that incorporates the most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. Ancient Pueblo People lived in the desert cliffs of this area beginning some time around the 12th century BCE.

Comfortable hotels and motels.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Lisa Wilder

Lisa Wilder is a former environmental field program leader at Antioch College and the University of California, as well as a wilderness skills instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School. In 2001, she moved to Guatemala to learn Spanish and began a fair trade beadwork business working with Mayan artisans. She currently lives in remote New Mexico, where she homesteads.
Richard Friedman

Richard Friedman is an archaeologist with decades of experience researching Chacoan culture, who has done extensive work using state-of-the-art technology for cultural and archeological resource documentation, management, and research. He has participated in projects with the National Park Service, the Navajo Nation, the Bureau of Land Management, NASA, the Solstice Project and the University of Colorado, and has co-authored several papers on Chacoan archaeology and the use of remote sensing technology.
Meals and Lodgings
   DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe
  Santa Fe, NM 2 nights
   Baymont Inn and Suites
  Cortez, CO 2 nights
   Sacred Canyon Lodge
  Chinle, AZ 1 night
   Step Back Inn
  Aztec, NM 2 nights
   DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe
  Santa Fe, NM 1 night
 DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: The hotel is designed to reflect the spirit and culture of Santa Fe. Six miles from downtown's Historic Plaza area, the hotel is near public transportation.
  Contact info: 4048 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, NM 87507 USA
phone: 505-473-4646
  Room amenities: Rooms feature Southwestern decor. You'll also find hair dryers, irons and ironing boards, dataports, refrigerators upon request, cable television, and more. Rooms feature luxurious Sweet Dreams by Double Tree Sleep Experience beds, in-room coffee maker with Wolfgang Puck coffee, in-room Wi-Fi, 37-inch HDTV, room service, and more.
  Facility amenities: Indoor-outdoor heated pool and spa surrounded by adobe-style patio, 24-hour business center, complimentary printing service, fax, Notary Public, photo copying service, automated teller (ATM), coin operated laundry, laundry/valet service, local area transportation, lounge, multi-lingual staff, news stand, room service, safety deposit box, snack shop, fitness room, on-site restaurant and more.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: best seasonal rates Arrange for pre- and post-stays directly with hotel at (505) 473-4646
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: best seasonal rates Arrange for pre- and post-stays directly with hotel at (505) 473-4646
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

 Baymont Inn and Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: This 100 percent non-smoking hotel is conveniently located off U.S. Highway 160, just minutes from Mesa Verde National Park, the Dolores River, the Anasazi Heritage Center Museum, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.
  Contact info: 2321 E. Main
Cortez, CO 81321 USA
phone: 866-348-6112
  Room amenities: Cable/satellite TV, free wireless high speed Internet access, hair dryers, in-room coffee maker, individual A/C and heat, iron and ironing board, pillow top mattresses, wake-up service
  Facility amenities: The facility offers Braille elevators, an exercise room, guest-use fax machine, guest laundry, indoor heated pool, indoor whirlpool/hot tub, news stand, a sun deck, and free wireless high speed Internet access.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Sacred Canyon Lodge
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Located in near Chinle, Arizona, the hotel features 73 modern rooms. The lodge’s pink adobe construction is reminiscent of ancient pueblos. Guests enjoy sitting in the shade of cottonwood trees planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
  Contact info: PO Box 548
Chinle, AZ 86503 USA
phone: 800-679-2473
  Room amenities: Private baths, air conditioning/central heating, telephones, color/cable television,
  Facility amenities: On-site cafeteria, charming guest rooms
  Smoking allowed: No

 Step Back Inn
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Located in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, the Step Back Inn is a charming family-owned hotel in Aztec.
  Contact info: 103 West Aztec Boulevard
Aztec, NM 87410 USA
phone: 505-334-1200
  Room amenities: Comfortable beds, antique-like furnishings, Victorian décor. Private baths offer hairdryers, shampoo and lotion. Iron and ironing boards available, cable television.
  Facility amenities: This modern hotel is decorated in Victorian style, and offers antique-style furnishings and very comfortable, welcoming surroundings. A dining room area is available for cards or conversation in the evenings. There are accommodations both upstairs and down; no elevator is available. If stairs are a problem for you, please let us know in advance so we can request a first-floor room for you.
  Smoking allowed: No

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check into hotel after 3:00 PM. Register with group leader between 4:00 and 5:30 PM. You will be staying at DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after breakfast between 7:00 & 9:00 AM; checkout by noon. You will be staying at DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. No special documents or waivers required.
  Parking availability:
Parking is free at the DoubleTree by Hilton
To Start of Program
  Location:  Santa Fe, NM
  Nearest city or town:  Albuquerque
  Nearest highway: I-25
  Nearest airport:  Albuquerque International Sunport and Santa Fe Airport (very small; commuter service from Denver only)
  From End of Program
  Location: Santa Fe, NM
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Santa Fe


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Sandia Shuttle Express
phone: 888-775-5696
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Approximately 70 minutes 




65 miles


Sandia Shuttle Express offers regular service between the Albuquerque Sunport (not the Santa Fe airport) and Santa Fe. Let shuttle service know, when you make reservations, the hotel at which you'd like to be dropped off in Santa Fe, and when you wish to return to Albuquerque. Reservations for the shuttles must be made at least 24 hours in advance of your travel date, or your place on the shuttle will not be guaranteed.


Santa Fe


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle


Travel Time:


5 to 10 minutes 


The Santa Fe airport is serviced by a limited number of flights and airlines. If you choose to fly into/out of Santa Fe, please call your hotel before the program starts for their recommendation regarding shuttle transportation from/to the airport.


Santa Fe


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Sandia Shuttle Express
phone: 888-775-5696
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


Approximately 70 minutes 




65 miles


From Santa Fe to Albuquerque Airport (Sunport), let shuttle service know which hotel you'll need to be picked up at in Santa Fe and when you'll be returning to Albuquerque.

Driving Directions
  Albuquerque International Sunport Exit the airport west onto Sunport Boulevard, which will take you to Interstate 25. Go north on I-25 to Santa Fe exit 278, Cerrillos Road (approximately 55-60 miles). Travel about 2.5 miles into Santa Fe; DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe is at the intersection of Airport/Rodeo Road and Cerrillos Road and will be on your RIGHT. There is a stoplight at that intersection; the DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe is about a block further.
  Interstate 25 From the north or south, take I-25 to Santa Fe exit 278, Cerrillos Road. Travel about 2.5 miles into Santa Fe; the DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe is at the intersection of Airport/Rodeo Road and Cerrillos Road and will be on your RIGHT. There is a stoplight at that intersection; the DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe is about a block further.
Elevation Note: The altitude of the sites visited on this program ranges from 5,500 ft. to 8,000 ft.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive in Santa Fe/Orientation and Introductions
(Monday, September 16)
 Arrive To: Arrive at Santa Fe hotel between 4:00 and 5:30 PM for check-in and registration with Road Scholar group leader.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel from 6:00 to 7:00 PM
 Evening: Program orientation and introductions in hotel meeting room from 7:00 to 8:30 PM
Accommodations: DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Puebloan Archeology and Anthropology/Guided Bus and Walking Trip through Santa Fe/Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/Archeoastronomy Discussion
(Tuesday, September 17)

Note: Walking trip in downtown Santa Fe will include introduction to many historic sites in Plaza area; bus trip will familiarize you with Santa Fe. Walking up to a few blocks and standing at museum.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Class on Puebloan Anthropology/Archaeology from 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM (with breaks each hour)
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel
 Afternoon: Bus departs at 1:15 PM for field trip to explore some special areas of Santa Fe. Part of the trip will be a guided walk through the most historic places in the downtown area and a visit to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.

Return to hotel at 5:00 PM.

 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: From 7:00 - 8:30 PM, there will be a discussion/lecture on Archeoastronomy and you'll learn how ancient peoples from Egypt to Peru to Chaco Canyon used Archeoastronomy to know when to plant and harvest crops, conduct seasonal celebrations and religious ceremonies, and to plan many other aspects of their lives.
Accommodations: DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Travel to Cortez, Colorado/Dinner at Nero's
(Wednesday, September 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Depart for Cortez, Colorado at 8:00 AM. Drive across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, with some stops for photo opportunities, as well as discussion on the way with your study guide about the archeological/anthropological significance of areas you'll travel through.
 Lunch: Box lunch while in transit
 Afternoon: Continue traveling to Cortez. Arrive at the Baymont Inn Cortez at approximately 4:00 PM for check-in.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant, Lotsa Pasta
 Evening: Free evening
Accommodations: Baymont Inn and Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Mesa Verde National Park/Exploration of Cliff Dwellings
(Thursday, September 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Depart at 8:00 AM for an exploration of Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde, Spanish for “green table,” offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural and physical landscape. The culture represented at Mesa Verde reflects more than 700 years of history. From approximately A.D. 600 through A.D. 1300 people lived and flourished in communities throughout the area, eventually building elaborate stone villages in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Today, most people call these sheltered villages “cliff dwellings.” The cliff dwellings represent the last 75 to 100 years of occupation at Mesa Verde. In the late 1200s, within the span of one or two generations, they left their homes and moved away. The archeological sites found in Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States, offering visitors a look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Twenty-four Native American tribes in the southwest have an ancestral affiliation with the sites at Mesa Verde.
 Lunch: Boxed picnic lunch
 Afternoon: Continue field trip at Mesa Verde National Park
 Dinner: Dinner at 5:30 PM at Nero's. Nero's is a well-known restaurant in Cortez, featuring Italian cuisine. You'll find other types of food available to you as well.
 Evening: Free evening
Accommodations: Baymont Inn and Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Hovenweep National Monument/Travel to Canyon de Chelly
(Friday, September 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel dining room from 7:00 to 8:00 AM
 Morning: Bus departs at 8:30 AM for Hovenweep, Utah. Hovenweep National Monument protects five prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages spread over a twenty-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. Multi-storied towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders lead visitors to marvel at the skill and motivation of their builders. Hovenweep is noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character. The Square Tower Group is the primary contact facility with a visitor center and interpretive trail. Human habitation at Hovenweep dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people used the area for centuries, following the seasonal weather patterns.
 Lunch: Box lunches from Cortez restaurant, Once Upon A Sandwich
 Afternoon: Bus continues on to Canyon de Chelly, arriving around 6:00 PM for check-in at the Sacred Canyon Lodge.
 Dinner: Dinner in the lodge cafeteria
Accommodations: Sacred Canyon Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Canyon de Chelly National Monument/Travel to Aztec, New Mexico
(Saturday, September 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast in the cafeteria
 Morning: Depart at 8:30 AM for a driving exploration of the north and south rims of Canyon de Chelly. At the base of sheer red cliffs and in canyon wall caves are ruins of Indian villages built between A.D. 350 and 1300. Canyon de Chelly National Monument offers visitors the chance to learn about Southwestern Indian history from the earliest basketmakers to the Navajo Indians who live and farm here.
 Lunch: Lunch in the cafeteria
 Afternoon: Bus departs at 2:00 PM for Aztec, New Mexico
 Dinner: Dinner at Three Rivers Eatery and Brewery in Farmington around 5:30 PM. A favorite of many locals, you'll find a wide variety of food choices.
 Evening: After dinner, the bus continues to Aztec, New Mexico for hotel check-in at the Step Back Inn.
Accommodations: Step Back Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Salmon Ruins/Aztec Ruins National Monument
(Sunday, September 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Sonya's Cookin' USA Restaurant
 Morning: Bus departs for Salmon Ruins, named for George Salmon who homesteaded the property in the late 1800s. The initial construction phase has been dated to A.D. 1080-1090 and the site is known as a Chacoan "outlier," meaning a Great House built in the Chacoan style of architecture and masonry. The original inhabitants of this site abandoned it about A.D. 1120, possibly moving to the new site being constructed at Aztec, N.M., about 10 milres to the north. The site was reoccupied about A.D. 1180, probably by local San Juan Basin people, leaving traces of their own northern ceramic and masonry styles. The final abandonment took place about A.D. 1285 during a major 40-year drought that caused a general abandonment of the entire region.
 Lunch: Lunch at Sonya's Cookin' USA
 Afternoon: Bus departs at 2:00 PM for a visit to Aztec Ruins. Aztec Ruins National Monument preserves structures and artifacts of Ancestral Pueblo people from the 1100s through the 1200s. It may have been seen as another Chacoan outlier, however, more recent research indicates it may have been the second Chacoan "capitol," established and occupied after the abandonment of Chaco Canyon in the 1150s. Aztec itself was abandoned about A.D. 1275 as a result of the 40-year drought. Some Southwestern archeologists believe the Chacoan "elites" then moved south and established Paquime, another immense site in northern Mexico. The Aztec monument was established in 1923 with the excavation and reconstruction of Aztec West by Earl Morris and designated a World Heritage Site in 1987. Bus returns to Step Back Inn at 4:30 PM.
 Dinner: Bus departs at 6:30 PM for dinner at selected restaurant. Return at around 8:00 PM.
 Evening: Free Time
Accommodations: Step Back Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Chaco Canyon/Cuba, New Mexico
(Monday, September 23)
 Breakfast: Check out and departure at 6:15 AM for breakfast at Sonya's Cookin' USA
 Morning: Bus departs Sonya's Cookin' USA at 7:30 AM for Chaco Canyon. Watch a film en route. Bus will be met in Nageezi by a school bus; the road into Chaco is rough and unpaved, and motor coaches are advised not to travel the road. A school bus company does most group transport into the Canyon. A bit bumpy, but it's the only way to get there! Arrive at Visitors' Center at 10:00 AM. Chaco Culture National Historical Park preserves one of America's most significant and fascinating cultural and historic areas. Chaco was a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture between A.D. 850 and 1150. It was a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area. It is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings, and its distinctive architecture. To construct the buildings, along with the associated Chacoan roads, ramps, dams and mounds required a great deal of well-organized and skillful planning, designing, resource gathering and construction. The Chacoan people combined pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture, one that amazes us a thousand years later.
 Lunch: Enjoy box lunches
 Afternoon: Your exploration of Chaco Canyon continues until 4:00 PM, when bus leaves for Cuba, New Mexico.
 Dinner: Dinner at El Bruno's restaurant at 5:30 PM. El Bruno's will offer you a chicken dish or a traditional northern New Mexican entree (which is really tasty!).
 Evening: Travel from Cuba back to hotel in Santa Fe. Arrive in Santa Fe about 9:00 PM.
Accommodations: DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Departure
(Tuesday, September 24)
 Depart From: Independent departures from the hotel. Checkout time is by 12:00 noon.
 Breakfast: Breakfast is served buffet style in hotel dining room from 6:00 AM until 10:00 AM; you may depart at any time in the morning. Check-out time from the hotel is 12:00 PM.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Santa Fe, NM General Overview
Museums and galleries, e.g., Palace of the Governors Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Art and Culture, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Spanish Colonial Museum, Laboratory of Anthropology, Rancho de los Golondrinas (recreation of a Spanish Colonial village), Gerald Peters Gallery, Nedra Matteucchi (Fenn) Gallery, Alan Houser Sculpture Garden, Houshang's Gallery, Alene Lapides Gallery, Laurel Seth Gallery and many more. Historic buildings and churches include Sena Plaza, El Santuario de Guadalupe, the Oldest House, San Miguel Mission, St. Francis Cathedral, the Chapel of Loretto (with its miraculous staircase!) and Cristo Rey Church. During late June, July and August, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Santa Fe Opera are in full swing and there are many theatre productions and concerts going on in the city year round. The Santa Fe Visitors' Guide provides seasonal listings of events, as does New Mexico Magazine. A link to Santa Fe's calendar of events, web sites and telephone numbers is listed below. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Those Who Came Before

Author: Robert H. Lister and Florence C. Lister

Canyon de Chelly

Author: Campbell Grant

People of Chaco

Author: Kendrick Frazier

New Light on Chaco Canyon

Author: David Grant Noble

Anasazi World

Author: Dewitt Jones and Linda Cordell

Digging in the Southwest

Author: Ann Axtell Morris

Anasazi: Ancient People of the Rock

Author: David Muench and Donald G. Pike

Earl Morris and Southwestern Archeology

Author: Florence C. Lister and Robert H. Lister

Book of the Hope

Author: Frank Waters

The Book of the Navajo

Author: Raymond Friday Locke

Archeoastronomy in the Americas

Author: Ray A. Williamson

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