Things To Do

Front of Aztec Ruins visitor center
A view of the front of the visitor center surrounded by orange and green trees.

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Visitor Center

See Earl's house! The visitor center started as the home of pioneering archeologist Earl Morris. Here, you can receive an orientation to the archeological site, pick up a trail guide, and see beautiful 900-year old items such as pottery and jewelry in the museum. You can also watch the 15-minute video, Aztec Ruins: Footprints of the Past, to hear diverse perspectives from Pueblo people, Navajo tribal members, and archeologists.

Picture of Aztec West kiva with walls behind
The Aztec West self-guided trail winds around kivas and into rooms.

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Aztec West Self-Guided Trail

Explore the ancestral Pueblo "Great House" that began as a satellite city of Chaco, and later functioned as the social, economic, and political center of the region after Chaco declined. A self-guided, half-mile walk winds through original rooms. Along the way discover skillful stone masonry, remarkably well-preserved wood roofing, and original mortar in some walls. The interpretive trail guide combines modern archeological findings with traditional Native American perspectives. You can also enter the ceremonial Great Kiva; this awesome semi-subterranean structure, over 40 feet in diameter, is the oldest and largest reconstructed building of its kind. Please remain on the designated trails at all times, and do not climb the walls.

Junior Rangers talking about their activity sheets with a ranger
Junior Rangers talking about their activity sheets with a ranger to earn their badges.

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Junior Ranger

Kids, become a Junior Ranger and pledge to protect every national park! Free activity sheets for all ages are available at the visitor center. You earn a badge for completing the activities and discovering more about the ancestral Pueblo people.

You can also earn an Aztec Ruins Junior Ranger patch online!

Visitors observing winter solstice sunset with a ranger.
Visitors observing a winter solstice sunset alignment with a ranger.

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Interpretive Programs and Special Events

Rangers offer interpretive talks and tours at scheduled times May-September. Other activities include the evening lecture series in the summer, demonstrations of traditional American Indian arts, astronomy programs, and annual special events. The times and locations of these programs are posted about a month in advance on the calendar.

Plants growing in the Heritage Garden
In the Heritage Garden sunflowers, corn, and amaranth all shoot toward the sky at the height of the season.

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Heritage Garden and Native Plants Walk

The Heritage Garden and the Native Plants Walk are both inside the shady and historic picnic area. Traditional crops like corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and gourds are grown by park staff and volunteers. Tours are offered in the summer. The Native Plants Walk is located on the west side of the picnic area near the parking lot. Take a quick stroll and see the wild plants that people in the Southwest have relied on for thousands of years. You can follow these links to read about the grasses, herbaceous plants, and succulents as well as the shrubs and trees found on the trail and elsewhere at Aztec Ruins.

Pedestrian bridge over the Animas River
A pedestrian bridge over the Animas River is part of the nationally designated Old Spanish National Historic Trail that runs between Aztec Ruins National Monument and the City of Aztec's historic downtown.

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Old Spanish National Historic Trail to Downtown Aztec

The Old Spanish Trail was the first recorded trade caravan from Santa Fe, NM all the way to Los Angeles, CA. The first journey was led by Antonio Armijo in 1829, and it was so difficult the traders never took that exact same route again! As you can imagine, it is tricky to find the trail on the ground today, and we really don't know how close the caravan actually came to Aztec Ruins. Today you can follow the nationally desginated trail from the picnic area, and over the bridge across the Animas River. The trail connects to historic downtown Aztec, but as of February 2023, there is an unpaved section that might be muddy. Please be prepared.

Picnic area to the Animas River- 1/2 mile
Picnic area to historic downtown Aztec- 1 1/2 miles

A group walking toward the Animas River.
Old Spanish National Historic Trail

Learn more about the Old Spanish National Historic Trail and its retracement through Aztec Ruins.

Last updated: March 6, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

725 Ruins Road
Aztec, NM 87410


505 334-6174 x0

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