Visiting Aztec Ruins in Aztec, New Mexico
Recently we visited Aztec Ruins and I was lucky enough to get to take a professional camera inside and score some really cool pictures of something that is close to my heart. Aztec Ruins is an awesome stop on your way through the Farmington area, or a nice side-trip if you're spending time in the Farmington area.
If you've ever wanted to see as far into America's past as was possible then Aztec Ruins may be just the place for you. The Mayan, Inca, and Aztec cultures of South and Central America were some of the high points of America's culture and technology Pre-Columbus when Europeans arrived. However, an often overlooked yet just as interesting culture existed in the North-American Southwest. Anaasází ruins exist across a huge swath of the Four-Corners area, however places like Mesa Verde require a full day to visit and cost money. Aztec Ruins is free, and it doesn't have the same crowds as the larger ruins. This helps make it a really cool place to visit if you get the chance.
Aztec Ruins National Monument is in the town of Aztec, New Mexico, which is 12 miles from the large town of Farmington. The ruins were abandoned in the 12th to 13th century and became a national monument in 1923. Since then it has been attracting visitors. The visitor
center itself was built in 1920 by Earl H. Morris, an archaeologist that may have been the inspiration for Indiana Jones. Morris built what is now the visitor center now, as a house for him and his family as he worked and excavated the ruins. In fact many of the beams that make up the building were taken from the ruins, and some even still show the ancient stone axe markings and scars from back when they were first cut down and dragged to the current site from over 10 miles away.
Today the visitor center has been expanded off the original building and it now hosts some of the artifacts taken from the site. The museum is also free though there is a gift shop as well where you can buy mementos and trinkets to commemorate your visit. The museum provides a very well done overview of what the grounds represent, who the people were, what they did, and how they lived. I think it's really interesting how things have changed here over the years. I grew up in Farmington and remember going to Aztec ruins on field trips almost yearly as well as with friends and family that would come and visit. I've always felt a connection here and I'm so happy to see how they have improved and upkept the grounds over the past 25 years.
I have some of this same pottery. I grew up along the Anamas river not far from here and we'd find pieces of pottery like this every year when we tilled the garden or any time we dug in the yard. When we replaced our septic system's leach field and excavated across the property I found several hundred pieces and chips of pottery in the dirt. It's so exciting to me to see complete pieces of the same material that I have little chips of. The ancient Pueblo people made some incredibly complex and beautiful pottery that rivals what is made today in it's aesthetic and function.
Parking is easy and most of the grounds are wheel chair accessible though there are places that a wheel chair simply can't be accommodated due to the cramped nature of the buildings and no way of making wheel chair access possible without destroying or damaging the structures. You should be aware that there are some places you can visit that are going to be a tight squeeze if you are tall or unable to comfortably crawl or bend over.
With that said however, there are plenty of great views to be had from the paved trail and it's awesome in my opinion what they have done to the grounds over the past years to make it more accessible and easier to navigate. There is a paved path that goes around the ruins.
One of the most impressive aspects of Aztec Ruins is the reconstructed Great Kiva. Kivas are something fairly unique to the Anaasází/Pueblo and Hopi cultures of the area. Kivas are large, circular rooms, usually subterranian, However a great kiva like the large one here has walls that extend above the surrounding ground The word Kiva comes from the Hopi language.
The roof of the great kiva is supported by four large pillars that extend from the floor and help support the massive logs that hold the majority of the weight of the smaller logs that make up the roof structure. It's impressive how an ancient civilization was capable of building something like this, it's also amazing how well restored this Kiva is.
From the outside you'd think the Kiva was fairly small inside, but it's outside size is very deceiving.
It'll probably take you 1-2 hours to see everything there is to see. This is a great short stop unlike Mesa Verde which really needs at least a whole day to really appreciate the park. Currently Aztec Ruins is open 9am - 5pm every day and Aztec Ruins National Monument is open every day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. For more information you can contact the park at
Mailing Address: 725 Ruins Road Aztec, NM 87410
If you are in the area I highly suggest that you check this place out. It's really worth your stop.
Here's a gallery of photos that either didn't have a place in the post, were posted, or otherwise are cool enough to share. You can download and redistribute these images as much as you like so long as you don't crop the watermark.