Crow Canyon

Ancient Civilizations of Power and Influence: Chaco

Entrance to Chaco Canyon NHP


Ancient Civilizations of Power and Influence: Chaco


Have you ever wanted to immerse yourself in the solitude, mystery, and power of Chaco Canyon? This is your chance to spend three nights camping in one of the largest and most intriguing ancient community centers in the American West. Learn about the archaeology of Chaco with three of the finest big-picture scholars, who place Chaco Canyon into a continental context and weave compelling stories of trade, identity, and power. Did trade goods such as turquoise move south as currency in exchange for strategies in political power that was in full effect in Mesoamerica? Is it a coincidence that Chaco’s rise parallels Cahokia’s? If, as Dr. Lekson invites us to imagine, “Everybody knew everything,” certainly these ancient civilizations of power and influence would have shared and interpreted grand concepts in their own unique ways.

The Ancient Civilizations of Power and Influence series continues with Huaxtec, Mexico, in 2021 and Cahokia, Illinois, in 2022; though each program can be experienced separately, the entire series offers an unparalleled look at the ancient past. 


• Hike to Peñasco Blanco and view numerous petroglyphs along the way, including the supernova panel, which is often linked to the A.D. 1054 supernova event.

• Spend three nights camping in Chaco Canyon, one of the largest ancient community centers in the American West.

• Learn about the archaeology of Chaco with three of the finest big picture scholars, who place Chaco Canyon into a continental context and weave compelling stories of trade, identity, and power.

Ancient Civilizations of Power and Influence: Chaco

  1. Scholars
  2. Accommodations
  3. Is This Trip for You?
  4. Terms & Policies

Dr. Stephen Lekson

Dr. Stephen Lekson, retired associate professor and curator of anthropology at the University Museum, University of Colorado, is a leading authority on Chaco. His theories, especially those about the “Chaco Meridian,” in which he proposes a link between Chaco and fifteenth-century Paquimé in Mexico, have captured the attention of archaeologists and the public alike.

Dr. Timothy Pauketat

Dr. Timothy Pauketat, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, studies the historical relationships between identity, religion, politics, and everyday life in ancient North America. Tim’s research on the Mississippian culture center of Cahokia has influenced standard views of the development of social complexity.

Dr. Gerardo Gutiérrez

Dr. Gerardo Gutiérrez, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, specializes in Mesoamerican archaeology. His research interests include the spatial analysis of political and territorial competition of Mesoamerican polities previous to, and during the expansion of the Aztec Empire.

Best Western Rio Grande Inn
Located 1.5 blocks from historic Downtown Durango, you will find the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a plethora of local restaurants and nightlife, stunning art galleries, and unique shopping. All of downtown Durango is within walking distance. Airport shuttle available.

Gallo Campground, Tent Camping
Tucked among the fallen boulders and cliffs of Gallo Wash, the campground offers camping in a rugged environment, surrounded by petroglyphs, a cliff dwelling, inscriptions, and a high desert landscape. The campground has water and restrooms with flush toilets, but no showers or hook-ups. All meals will be provided by an outfitter.

This program includes intensive hiking across rugged and remote canyonlands. One of the hikes is 7.2 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 200 feet on mostly dirt roads and some trail. You may be required to hike up to 4 miles a day on uneven, rocky, and unestablished trails. Some routes may be steep for short sections and have loose rock and no shade. While staff members are available for assistance, you should be comfortable using your hands to steady yourself and be able to take steps higher than a standard staircase step to navigate around boulders and bedrock.


The elevation levels for this trip range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet. We recommend ramping up your exercise regime prior to arrival and arriving a day or two early to help transition to higher elevations, especially if coming from sea level. If you have any questions, please contact your physician.

Remote Facilities

This program includes three nights of camping in a remote landscape where urban comforts are not available. The campground has bathrooms with running water and flush toilets. While we take advantage of facilities along our travels, many trailheads and hiking trails lack facilities. We will offer a simple hiker’s toiletry kit if you wish. We always practice “Leave No Trace” ethics. Parts of this trip involve backcountry travel in vans; expect drives on winding dirt roads.

Cultural Sensitivity

We will traverse a sacred landscape—the ancestral homeland of descendant communities. Please know that we practice “visiting with respect” with each and every family, regardless of their provided amenities. Guidelines will be provided to help you prepare for this journey. Alcohol is strictly prohibited on tribal lands.

Archaeological Ethics

It is a violation of the Society for American Archaeology code of ethics for program participants to keep any artifacts or other cultural or paleontological remains from any archaeological site. It is against the law for participants to keep any such materials collected from state or federal land. It is our hope that you become site stewards and help us preserve our national heritage for future generations.
For further information on the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s Terms, Conditions, and Cancellation Policies please click here. You will find details on tuition, cancellations, travel insurance, accommodations, medical information, and more.

Tuition & Registration


Single Tuition
Member*: $4,200
Non-Member: $4,325

Shared Tuition
Member*: $4,000
Non-Member: $4,125

Deposit (due at time of registration): $2,000
*If you are interested in becoming a Crow Canyon member, please contact our Enrollment Specialists.

Registration Deadline and Balance Due in Full: 6/14/2020

To Sign-Up for the Waitlist:
Call: 800-422-8975, ext. 457
E-mail: [email protected]