The Four Corners

Trail of the Ancients

Other landscapes feature grasslands or forests but in the Four Corners of New Mexico the Trail of the Ancients looks at what might be termed naked land. The Earth’s crust is exposed and what remains is sculptures always different and precise in their forms. It was the sea that is responsible for some, the melting glaciers, volcanoes and erosion. The landscape may seem severe but one has the full sky, larger than the ocean that one can see at any given moment. Must see places sandstone Native American Peoples have lived in thsi landscape form many years, they adapted to the climate and loved the land and all its fragile beauty.

International Dark Sky Park Program – Chaco Canyon

Chaco has long been considered by many night sky enthusiasts to be one of the best places in America to stargaze. Today, amidst this ancient landscape, visitors can experience the same dark sky that the Chacoans observed a thousand years ago. The protection of dark night skies is a priority at Chaco not only for the enjoyment of star-gazing visitors, but for the natural environment as well. Nocturnal wildlife relies on darkness for survival, and the natural rhythms of humans and plants depend on an unaltered night sky. By designating over 99% of the park as a “natural darkness zone”, in which no permanent outdoor lighting exists, Chaco is ensuring the preservation of these nocturnal ecosystems.

The park’s natural nighttime darkness, commitment to reducing light pollution, and ongoing public outreach have led to its certification as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Chaco is the fourth unit in the National Park System to earn this distinction. By receiving this designation at the Gold-tier level, Chaco rates as one of the best places in the country to experience and enjoy natural darkness.

With the help of the NPS Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, the park produced an inventory of existing night sky conditions which will be used as the basis for a continuing monitoring program. In an effort to preserve Chaco’s natural darkness and reduce light pollution from park facilities, the park has developed outdoor lighting guidelines that meet the IDA’s International Dark Sky Park standards. The park has also developed new dark sky interpretive programming and, in partnership with The Albuquerque Astronomical Society, has enhanced its public outreach to local communities.

Learn more about Chaco’s Night Sky Initiative and interpretive programs. Review Chaco’s IDA International Dark Sky Park application.

Did you know?

Among their many accomplishments, the CCC camp at Chaco planted 80,000 trees and 80,000 shrubs at Chaco between 1939 and 1941. They also cut poles and surveyed 375 miles for telephone line, built 1018 small dikes to control erosion, and constructed 3.2 miles of entrance road.


Shiprock is a remenat of an explosive volcano, 30,000,000 years ago, so not to worry, which after years of erosion left this mystical “rock with wings” jutting out of the desert landscape to be seen for miles and miles plus it has been photographed from outer space. This Rock with Wings, features in the mythology of the Navajo people. Navajo people arrived in the Shiprock area traveling on this ship, hence the name. When seen at sunrise or sunset or during a storm one easily feels the mystical calling of the pinnacle.

Tony Hillerman’s book “Fallen Man” features Shiprock as the center of an investigation. A man?s body was found on the rock. Climbers are forbidden to climb Shiprock. The film “Pontiac Moon” with Ted Danson with Mary Steenburgen, also fit the rock for the story line. Currently, the film “The Lone Ranger” includes a number of shots of Shiprock including Tonto’s walk home toward the Shiprock. Since the early 1900’s a town has grown around the Shiprock pinnacle. The first weekend of May is the annual Shiprock Marathon and the first weekend of October is the Northern Navajo Nation Shiprock Fair.

The Four Corners Monument

May it be beautiful before me.

May it be beautiful behind me.

May it be beautiful above me.

May it be beautiful below me.

May I walk in beauty.

Four Corners Monument became a reality in 1912. What did not take place in 1912? Rebuilt in 2010 the new Monument is attractive and quite simply draws the interest of many travelers as it marks the only point in the United States where four states come together at one small point and you can have feet and legs in one of each of the four states, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Surrounding this spot are several Native American booths where artists show and sale their art. I might add that the monument is only 5 miles from Highway 64 so the round trip is a total of 10 miles out of your way, so to speak. Might as well visit the Four Corners Monument. Enjoy!

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