Covering over 480 miles (an additional 110 miles off loop), the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway is a mesmerizing mix of landscapes carved into shapes of every kind by wind and water. Pause and appreciate the long occupation by native communities, present over a time spectrum rarely intact elsewhere. From Paleolithic society to ancestral Puebloans to nomadic Navajo, Apache and Ute tribes to the impact of European settlers, these native communities endure. Visitors will find centuries-old traditions still honored.

In 2021, a section of this Scenic Byway was designated as a National Scenic Byway!


This ancestral Puebloan community was active in the 12th and 13th centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers 400+ rooms and North America's only reconstructed Great Kiva. The visitor center also houses a small but exceptional museum where visitors can view artifacts recovered from past excavations of the ruins, learn about the architecture and native American groups that interact with the Aztec Ruins.
Aztec Ruins
Photo by EMKotyk


Enjoy 11th century Puebloan ruins and a Chacoan great house, plus replicas of a sweatlodge, hogan, tipi and pithouse. View artifacts and browse the gift shop for Native American art. Traveler tip: Ask about the extraordinary, off-site "pueblito" and rock-art tours hidden within Largo Canyon.
Salmon Ruins
Photo by EMKotyk

Chaco Canyon

Formerly a major ceremonial and trade center, this UNESCO World Heritage site was active from 850-1250 A.D. Regarded as central to the ancestral Puebloan culture, it is located in a canyon that contains the largest excavated ruins in the Southwest. The area features hundreds of small sites and 13 major ruins, most of which are accessible by car or on foot. The Park preserves the monumental architecture and complex community life of a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture that took root and flourished for a thousand years.
Chaco Canyon
Photo by EMKotyk

Navajo Nation

Famous for its area weaver auctions of Navajo rugs, auctions are usually held the second Friday of each month. Artisans also sell jewelry and pottery.


Formerly a railroad coal station, Grants boomed when uranium was discovered in 1950. Visitors enjoy mined gems and a re-created uranium mine at the New Mexico Mining Museum. Grants is a favorite stop along Route 66.

El Malpais' jagged, molten lava landscape of lava tubes, cinder cones, pressure ridges and caves formed more than a million years ago.
El Malpais
Photo by EMKotyk

One of the country's finest examples of volcanic eruption, visitors also enjoy an ice cave where temperatures never rise above 31 degrees F.
Ice Cave
Photo by EMKotyk

A vital waterhole at its base made El Morro a popular stop for ancestral Puebloans, Spanish explorers and early American travelers. Some 2,000 names, dates, messages and petroglyphs are etched into its sandstone bluff.
El Morro
Photo by EMKotyk


The six original Zuni pueblos were the legendary "Cities of Gold" sought by Vasquez de Coronado. Settled in 1699, Zuni is the largest of New Mexico's 19 pueblos and is celebrated for producing silver jewelry, stone fetishes, paintings, and pottery.


Gallup was a westward railroad stop, then later a Route 66 pass-through. Trading companies and pawn shops line Gallup's main streets, offering a wealth of Native American art and crafts. The annual Inter-Tribal Ceremonial in mid-August is a premier event with parades, dances, marketplace, contest powwow, rodeo and Native foods.

Navajo Nation

Two Grey Hills Trading Post is an historic post on the Navajo Reservation. Constructed of original stone and adobe, it remains the primary source of authentic, "Two Grey Hills" style regional rugs, known around the world as the finest in Navajo weaving.

Toadlena supplies cash, services, and goods for approximately 1,500 Navajos that trade their hand-woven Native American rugs.

This prominent landmark rises 1,800 feet above the desert plain on the Navajo Nation. A remnant of volcanic activity millions of years ago, Shiprock plays a significant role in Navajo religion, mythology, and tradition. It is a point of interest for photographers and several film productions and novels, including the movie The Lone Ranger (2013). The rock formation is near the community of Shiprock, home to the Northern Navajo Fair, the oldest and most traditional of the Nation's fairs, held every October.
Photo by EMKotyk


Farmington is surrounded by world-class cultural treasures, magnificent landscapes, and thrilling river sports. Local museums highlight everything from fish and game to developments in electrical history to children's activities. Farmington Museum and Visitors' Center at Gateway Park exhibits the city's history, oil and gas industry, a trading post reproduction and rotating art exhibitions.

A federal wilderness area, the Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a desolate area of eroded badlands that offer some of the most unusual scenery in the Four Corners region. Time and nature have etched a world of fantastic rock formations that have become a favored wilderness experience.
Photo by EMKotyk