Unlike most major ancestral Puebloan ruins, Aztec Ruins is exceptionally convenient to visitors: it's within the city limits of Aztec. Aztec Ruins National Monument was designated a World Heritage site in 1987 as part of Chaco Culture World Heritage site because it preserves important Pueblo architectural and engineering achievements. Aztec Ruins was built as a public ceremonial, economic, and political center around 1100 AD and remained occupied by the ancestral Pueblo people until 1300 AD.
Fee Free Park
As of May 1, 2018, the $5 admission fee per person is no longer charged.
Entrance into the Aztec Ruins National Park is now Free!
Aztec West Trail
Today you can follow their ancient passageways to a distant time through a self-guided tour that is approximately 45 minutes long. Explore a 900-year old ancestral pueblo Great House of over 400 masonry rooms and North America's largest reconstructed great kiva. Look up and see original timbers holding up the roof. Search for the fingerprints of ancient workers in the mortar.
Construction of the Aztec West great house was episodic and rapid. In fact, a majority of the great house was completed in only 30 years! For comparison, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon took almost 300 years to build. With over 400 rooms, Aztec West is the largest known great house outside of Chaco Canyon. In addition to rooms, Aztec West was also abundant in kivas. It is thought this great house had 30 kivas, some of which are still visible and intact today.
'Kiva' is a Hopi word used to refer to specialized round and rectangular rooms in modern Pueblos. Ancient Chacoan kivas, the type found at Aztec Ruins, are round or keyhole shaped, usually semi-subterranean, and built into great houses. Like modern kivas, they were entered by a ladder through a hatch in the roof down to the center of the kiva floor, or in the case of great kivas, via stone staircases leading from ground level down into the kiva. Kivas were built in all sizes. Great kivas, like the one in the plaza at Aztec Ruins, are believed to have been used for community-level activities, whether ceremonial, social, or political. Small kivas are sometimes called clan kivas, and were probably used by small kin-based family groups for ceremonial, social, work and other activities. During ceremonies today, the ritual emergence of participants from the kiva into the plaza above represents the original emergence through the sipapu, or navel, by Puebloan groups from the underworld into the current world.
Visitor Center and Museum
In the museum, view ancient pottery, stone tools, woven yucca textiles, an original ladder and watch the video "Footprints of the Past
" to hear the perspectives of archaeologists and Native American scholars. Shop for books, postcards and traditional crafts at the Visitor Center.
Picnic and Trails
Picnic pavilions are available in the shade of cottonwood trees, view a heritage garden, walk the Old Spanish Trail or the native plants trail.
Ranger Tours and Talks
During the summer months, there are ranger led talks and tours of the ruins and cultural demonstrations. Annually there are special events such as the Summer and Winter Solstice Observations and American Indian Cultural ArtsFest.
Encyclopedia of Aztec Ruins
Aztec Ruins is doing a Facebook series of 26 posts looking at a topic or topics based on each successive letter of the alphabet. An awesome educational experience for a teacher's class room. We have that series here as it develops.