Aztec Ruins National Monument

Approximately an hour and a half south of Mancos, CO lies the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, NM.  The ruins actually have nothing to do with the Aztec Empire, as they had been home to the Pueblo People.

Admission is only $5 per person for anyone 16 and older and free for anyone under 16. The admission is good for 7 days.  When you arrive, they have some loaner copies of the guide map you can use to follow the site and learn about the ruins.  If they are out of loaners, or you want your own printed guide, they are for sale for $2 each.


The name ‘Aztec’ was given to the site by early explorers and it stuck.  Situated next to the Animas River, this location was the largest Ancestral Pueblo community in the Animas Valley.  It was being built and in use for over 200 years.  Then, around 1300 AD, the natives left the area, abandoning the site.  In the early 1900’s, excavation was begun of the West Ruins, the part we toured today.


The Kiva, or meeting house, was reconstructed in the 1920’s.  The roof is estimated to weigh several tons.  You have to descend a flight of stairs to get in and another to get out.



The doorways were quite short.  Mom, of course, had no problems with them.




It is amazing the amount of work that went into building this community.  Each rock had to be carefully selected and carried back to the area to be placed.  The planning required to get the entire place to flow smoothly from room to room is awe inspiring.




We were able to go inside the building, crouching to move from room to room.  If you are claustophobic, don’t worry.  There were windows built into the walls that connect to open air areas.


The North wall has been found to perfectly follow the path of the sun on the summer solstice.


Another puzzle that archeologists are trying to figure out is the line of green stones that run along the walls.


The sheer size of the ruins is amazing, but so is the fact that there are more ruins that haven’t been uncovered.  The entire East side of the community still lie buried.



The weight of history and mystery lies heavy in this area.  You can almost hear the voices of those who lived and died here, continuing their daily routines of survival.  This park really stood out with the way we were able to really interact with it.  You went into buildings and through doorways and up and down stairs, similar to those people who had lived here.  This was a really interesting, interactive site to visit.