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Ancient Puebloans: Mesas, Monuments, Canyons and More

Program Number: 11010RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/22/2014 - 9/30/2014; 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: $1,599.00 - 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.

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
   MCM Elegante Hotel
  Albuquerque 2 nights
   Hampton Inn
  Farmington, NM 1 night
   Far View Lodge
  Cortez, CO 2 nights
   Baymont Inn and Suites
  Cortez, CO 1 night
   Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly
  Chinle, AZ 1 night
   MCM Elegante Hotel
  Albuquerque 1 night
 MCM Elegante Hotel
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Large hotel with mid-town location and free parking.
  Contact info: 2020 Menaul NE
Albuquerque, NM 87107 USA
phone: 505-884-2511
  Room amenities: Data ports, irons, ironing boards, hairdryers, refrigerators upon request.
  Facility amenities: Heated pool, spa and exercise room, restaurant and lounge on premises.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: best seasonal rate Arrange for pre and post hotel nights directly with hotel at (505) 884-2511.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: best seasonal rate Arrange for pre and post hotel nights directly with hotel at (505) 884-2511.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

 Hampton Inn
Type: Hotel
  Contact info: 1500 Bloomfield Blvd.
Farmington, NM 87401 USA
phone: 505-564-3100
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Far View Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Contact info: 1 Navajo Hill
Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330 USA
phone: 800-449-2288
  Room amenities: Private balconies; no televisions
  Smoking allowed: No

 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

 Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly
Type: Hotel
  Description: Proximity to Canyon de Chelly
  Contact info: Bia Route 7-Garcia Trading Post
Chinle, AZ 86503 USA
phone: 928-674-5000
  Facility amenities: Fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, wifi and wired internet
  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 MCM Elegante Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after buffet breakfast between 7:00 & 9:00 AM; checkout by noon. You will be staying at MCM Elegante Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. No special documents or waivers required.
  Parking availability:
Parking is free at the MCM
To Start of Program
  Location:  Albuquerque
  Nearest highway: I-25 and I-40
  Nearest airport:  Albuquerque International Sunport
  From End of Program
  Location: Albuquerque
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details



From Airport




Hotel Shuttle
MCM Elegante Hotel Shuttle
phone: 505-884-2511


Per Person/One Way:


Hotel shuttle is free
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


15 minutes 




5 miles


After picking up your luggage, call the hotel at 884-2511 from the courtesy phones in the baggage claim area.




To Airport




Hotel Shuttle
MCM Elegante Hotel Shuttle
phone: 505-884-2511


Per Person/One Way:


hotel shuttle is free
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


15 minutes 




5 miles


It is a good idea to let the hotel's front desk staff know the evening before your departure that you'll need a shuttle to the airport. They can let you know what time the shuttle will depart in order for you to catch your flight.

Driving Directions
  From Interstate 25 Interstate 25 runs north and south through the middle of Albuquerque, where it crosses Interstate 40. From the north, take Exit 227 (Comanche, Candelaria, Menaul). Drive south along the frontage road until you reach Menaul (the third major intersection). Turn left on Menaul. Just after the first major intersection, with University Blvd., you'll see THE MCM ELEGANTE on the right. From the south, take Exit 225 (Lomas). Continue driving north along the frontage road until you reach Menaul. Turn right on Menaul and, just after the first major intersection (University), you'll see the hotel on the right.
  From Interstate 40 Interstate 40 runs east and west through the middle of Albuquerque. Near the center of town, it crosses Interstate 25. From the east, take Exit 159-D (University Blvd.) to the first light, which is Menaul. Turn right on Menaul and you'll see THE MCM ELEGANTE on the right, just past the intersection. From the west, take Exit 159-A (University Blvd.). Continue east along the frontage road until you reach University; turn left on University. Take a right at the second light, on Menaul, and you'll see the hotel on the right, just past the intersection.
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 Albuquerque/Orientation and Introductions
(Monday, September 22)
 Arrive To: Check into hotel between 3:00-5:30 PM. Register with the Road Scholar group leader between 4:00-5:30.
 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: MCM Elegante Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Puebloan Archeology and Anthropology/Visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center/Archeoastronomy Class
(Tuesday, September 23)

Note: Standing at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel
 Morning: This morning begins with a lecture on Puebloan anthropology and archeology. We'll then depart for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
 Lunch: Lunch at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
 Afternoon: Visit exhibits at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Evening lecture on Archeoastronomy. We'll learn how ancient peoples from Egypt to Peru to Chaco Canyon used Archeoastronomy in planting and harvesting their crops, conducting seasonal celebrations and religious ceremonies, and in planning many other aspects of their lives. We'll then see a video, "The Mystery of Chaco Canyon."
Accommodations: MCM Elegante Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Chaco Culture National Historic Park/Overnight in Farmington, NM
(Wednesday, September 24)

Note: Walking up to 2 - 3 miles over paved and unpaved, sometimes uneven, terrain

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Pick up boxed lunches, then depart for Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Our coach 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 as a group!

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.

On arrival, we'll stop at the Visitor Center, then embark on our canyon exploration.

 Lunch: Boxed lunches at Chaco
 Afternoon: After lunch, our exploration of Chaco Canyon continues, followed by departure for Farmington, NM.
 Dinner: Dinner at a selected restaurant
 Evening: Hotel check-in
Accommodations: Hampton Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Aztec National Monumen/Chimney Rock Hike
(Thursday, September 25)

Note: Hiking up to 2 miles over paved and unpaved, sometimes uneven terrain

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Depart for Aztec Ruins National Monument.

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.

After visiting the ruins, we'll depart for the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area, where there will be a short hike.

 Lunch: Boxed lunches at Chimney Rock
 Afternoon: Bus continues on to Mesa Verde National Park and hotel check-in at Far View Lodge
 Dinner: Dinner at the Far View Terrace Café
 Evening: Evening at leisure
Accommodations: Far View Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Mesa Verde National Park
(Friday, September 26)

Note: Hiking up to 2 miles over paved and unpaved terrain

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Far View Terrace Café
 Morning: Today, we'll have an all-day 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: Lunch at the Spruce Tree Terrace Café
 Afternoon: Continue exploring Mesa Verde
 Dinner: Dinner at the Far View Terrace Café
 Evening: Evening at leisure
Accommodations: Far View Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Hovenweep National Monument
(Saturday, September 27)

Note: Walking over paved and unpaved trails at Hovenweep.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Far View Terrace Café
 Morning: Hotel check-out and departure for Hovenweep National Monument
 Lunch: Boxed lunches at the Monument
 Afternoon: Explore ruins at Hovenweep.

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.

Bus departs for Cortez, arriving at about 4:30 PM for hotel check-in.

 Dinner: Dinner at a selected Cortez restaurant
 Evening: Evening at leisure
Accommodations: Baymont Inn and Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Canyon de Chelly
(Sunday, September 28)

Note: Short walks at overlooks

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Hotel check-out and departure for Canyon de Chelly.

On arrival, we'll drive along the north rim, stopping at overlooks along the way.

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 at a selected restaurant in Chinle
 Afternoon: Bus continues rim exploration, then goes to the Holiday Inn for hotel check-in
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Evening at leisure
Accommodations: Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: White House Ruin Hike at Canyon de Chelly/Travel to Albuquerque
(Monday, September 29)

Note: Moderate roundtrip hike of 2.5 miles; some inclines on return to Canyon rim

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: After checking out and loading luggage, our coach departs for the White House Ruin trailhead at 8:30 AM.

This moderate hike of 2 1/2 miles is the only one that will take visitors down into the canyon, and will take approximately 2-3 hours. Those that do not wish to hike may further explore the rim drives on the coach.

 Lunch: Lunch at a selected restaurant in Chinle
 Afternoon: Depart at 1:30 PM for return to Albuquerque, stopping in Window Rock en route, and arriving at the hotel in Albuquerque at about 6:00 PM.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel
 Evening: Program closing at the hotel
Accommodations: MCM Elegante Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Departure
(Tuesday, September 30)
 Depart From: Independent departures from the hotel. Checkout time is by 12:00 noon.
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel 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

A Thief of Time

Author: Tony Hillerman

Description: A mystery of stolen artifacts from an ancient Anasazi burial site set against a detailed depiction of Southwestern culture.

American Indian Myths and Legends

Author: Richard Erdoes, Alfonso Ortiz

Description: An illustrated collection of 180 traditoonal stories from all over North America.

Anasazi America

Author: David Stuart

Description: A thought-provoking, engaging account of the rise and fall of Anasazi society in the desert southwest.

Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest

Author: Stephen Plog, Amy Elizabeth Grey (Illustrator)

Description: This illustrated introduction provides an in-depth look at the ancient cultures that first inhabited the pueblos and cliff dwellings of the American Southwest. Organized chronologically, it features hundreds of maps, mostly black-and-white photographs and site diagrams.

Ancient Ruins of the Southwest, An Archaeological Guide

Author: David Grant Noble

Description: The third edition of Noble's indispensable guide to the archaeology of the American Southwest.

Book of the Hopi

Author: Oswald White Bear Fredericks, Frank Waters

Description: Thirty Hopi elders share their legends, ceremonies, history and language.

Colorado Plateau, Wild and Beautiful

Author: John Annerino

Description: A coffee table tribute to the geological wonderland of "Red Rock Country." Award-winning photographer and writer John Annerino takes us through the echoing canyons, towering hoodoos and cliff dwellings of the region’s beautiful parks and reserves.

Desert Solitaire

Author: Edward Abbey

Description: One of the great works on the value of the desert, eloquent and laugh-out-loud funny. Although Abbey writes specifically about his experiences as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah, his message is universal.

Four Corners Regional Map

Author: G.M. Johnson Maps

Description: This double-sided road map shows national parks, archaeological sites and attractions from the Grand Canyon to Chaco, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Bryce and Zion.

In Search of the Old Ones, Exploring the Anasazi World of the Southwest

Author: David D. Roberts

Description: An exuberant, engaging account of archaeological adventures in the desert Southwest. Roberts investigates the factors that may have led to the demise of the Anasazi civilization and looks into longstanding controversies.

Masked Gods, Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism

Author: Frank Waters

Description: An excellent overview of Pueblo life and their many ceremonies.

Moon Handbook Four Corners

Author: Julian Smith

Description: A slim, comprehensive guide to the sights and history of Navajo and Hopi Country, Moab and Lake Powell.

People of Chaco, A Canyon and Its Culture

Author: Kendrick Frazier

Description: A nicely written account of Chaco and its people. First published in 1986. Frazier interweaves ethnographic data, oral history and archaeological evidence in his classic portrait of the place.

Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History

Author: Joe Sando

Description: An expansive history of the Indian Pueblos of New Mexico from a Native American perspective. The book explores the origins of the tribe to its current struggles to maintain sovereignty, land and water rights.

Pueblo People: Ancient Traditions, Modern Lives

Author: Marcia Keegan

Description: Photographer Keegan, who has studied the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico for 30 years, compiled 417 color photographs alongside personal stories and cultural insights in this stunning tribute.

Runner in the Sun

Author: D'Arcy McNickle

Description: Nickles combined his anthropology background with all the suspense of a mystery to craft this novel about pre-Hispanic Indian life in the American Southwest.

The Professor's House

Author: Willa Cather

Description: Cather's accomplished 1925 novel includes a story-within-a-story of explorer Tom Outland, a character modeled after Richard Wetherill, the discoverer of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde.

The Southwest Inside Out, An Illustrated Guide to the Land and its History

Author: Thomas Wiewandt, Maureen Wilks

Description: An outstanding guide to understanding the geomorphology of the Southwest, featuring the author's color photographs of canyons, dunes and other landforms.

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