Chaco Culture National Historical Park fees apply. You must fill out the free backcountry permit form at the trailhead to complete this trail regardless of whether you are day hiking or backpacking.
From the trailhead behind Kin Klesto
, begin up the rocky switchbacks and into a narrow slot in the cliff face. This route to the mesa top was used by the Chacoan people similarly to how it is used by visitors today. Once up on the mesa, follow the trail and cairns past Terrace View, the Stone Circles, and the Shrimp Boroughs before arriving at the junction down to the Pueblo Bonito Overlook. The view down on Pueblo Bonito
is better in the afternoon, so for now, turn left at the next junction toward Pueblo Alto.
The path ascends the mesa, climbing near the Chacoan Steps and passing an old Chacoan Road. About 1.5 miles from Kin Klesto
, you can begin to see the ruins of New Alto. Trails lead to New Alto and to Old Alto to the left and right, respectively, of the main trail.
Near Old Alto, turn right on the main path. The trail now traverses the mesa top with great views down on Chaco Canyon and beyond. About 0.5 miles after Old Alto, the trail descends to work its way across the rock on the edge of the mesa, passing the Jackson Staircase before entering a short slot section to descend to a lower rock shelf. The trail works it way back along this lower shelf with views down on Chetro Ketl
and limited views of Pueblo Bonito
. (At one time, the views down on Pueblo Bonito
were spectacular from this section; for safety and trail rehabilitation, these viewpoints are no longer accessible from the trail.)
Arrive back at the Pueblo Bonito Overlook junction about 4.4 miles from Kin Klesto
. Descend to the overlook for good views of Pueblo Bonito
, then return to Kin Klesto
via the trail.