By Nadia Werby
Chimney Rock Interpretive Association
Summer is almost over, but now there’s even more time to enjoy Chimney Rock National Monument because the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) is extending the 2021 season until Oct. 15.
Self-guided tours and monthly special programs bring this beautiful site to life so you can visualize what it might have been like to live here 1,000 years ago. Chimney Rock National Monument is accessible daily for self-guided tours. All tours begin at the visitor cabin, where fees are collected, then guests drive in their own vehicles to the high mesa. Tours are first-come, first-served and reservations are not required. Prices for self-guided tours are $12/adult and $6/child (ages 5-12).
September special events at Chimney Rock National Monument
• Mysteries of Chimney Rock Tours: Every Tuesday 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays 7:15 to 9:45 a.m.
• Night Sky Programs: Sept. 3 and 10, 6 to 9:30 p.m.
• Geology Tour: Sept. 8 and 29, 8:10 to 11 a.m.
• Full Moon Program: Sept. 20, 6 to 9 p.m.
• Equinox Sunrise Tour: Sept. 22, 5:15 to 7 a.m.
• Birding at Chimney Rock: Sept. 25, 7:45 to 10 a.m.
CRIA offers the Mysteries of Chimney Rock Tour every Saturday morning and Tuesday afternoon. This engaging two-hour tour is led by a trained CRIA tour guide. The tour will spotlight a number of general topics aimed at interpreting the history and significance of Chimney Rock and the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited the area over a thousand years ago. You will learn about the connection of Chimney Rock to the greater Chaco culture, the significance of the mesa-top Great House, and the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants of Chimney Rock.
You will walk both the Mesa Village and Great House Pueblo Trails, learning about the structures along each trail, including their significance and uses. You will be treated to the stunning views of the surrounding countryside and asked to imagine what it must have been like for the people who once called Chimney Rock their home. The tours will be conducted in the quiet off-hours of the monument. Bring your curiosity, camera, sturdy shoes and water. Check our website for tour times. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12).
CRIA offers two different Night Sky Archaeoastronomy Programs each month. The Stars and Galaxies Program will take place on Friday, Sept. 3, and the Our Solar System program will take place on Sept. 10. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12). Guests will proceed to the amphitheater for the first part of the program, an introductory talk including topics such as how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky, and what special astronomical events they might have seen.
All night sky programs are designed to include telescope viewing by attendees and we hope restrictions will be lifted in 2021 to allow this activity. But, since the virus can be spread by the moisture of the eye contacting a telescope eye-piece, we may need to omit this activity for the safety of all. Also, weather conditions may occasionally prevent telescope viewing on a particular date.
If telescope viewing is planned, you’ll then drive to the High Mesa parking lot, where volunteers await with telescopes. At the viewing area, each telescope will focus on a different feature and volunteers will change that focus periodically during the viewing time. If we are not able to use the telescopes, expert volunteers will give an expanded talk about how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky, what special astronomical events they might have seen or other topics relevant to this special place. Check our website for program times and bring your questions.
The Geology Tour will take place on Sept. 8 and 29. This is a 2.5-hour guided tour that explores local geology and its relationship to the daily lives of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived at Chimney Rock. Tour participants will hear the events in the ancient geology of the area and learn how to identify a common trace fossil in the area. No prior knowledge of geology is needed. Please check our website for tour times. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12).
The Full Moon Program will take place on Sept. 20. This program includes an informative lecture on topics specific to the Chimney Rock site, such as the Ancestral Puebloan culture, archaeoastronomy theories or area geology. Then, guests watch the full moon rise to the music of Charles Martinez’s Native American flute. (This moon rise does not occur between the spires.) You’ll be torn between looking west to see the spectacular sunset and focusing on the eastern mountain range to see the first sliver of moon.
The program lasts approximately three hours including check-in, driving to the mesa top and hiking to the Great House Pueblo. This program is recommended for ages 8 and up. Tickets are $20 for the Full Moon Program alone or $25 for the Full Moon Program preceded by a tour of the Mesa Village Trail. Guests who plan to attend the early tour, please check in at the visitor cabin at 6 p.m. The early tour leaves the cabin at 6:15 p.m. Guests who are attending the Full Moon Program only must arrive for check-in between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m.
Welcome fall at Chimney Rock on Sept. 22. Watch the sun rise over the San Juan Mountains this first morning of fall. With a 360-degree vantage point and the hush of early morning in the wilderness, the sunrise from the Great House is a marvelous experience for the eyes and the spirit, and an amazing opportunity for photography. Guests will be given the opportunity to take photos and then depart the Great House on their own or join the guide for an interpreted hike with fascinating information about the importance this location is thought to have had for the people who lived here a thousand years ago. Tickets are $16 for adults and $8 for children. The program is suitable for ages 8 and above.
The Birding at Chimney Rock program will take place on Sept. 25. This program, presented in partnership with the local chapter of the Audubon Society, is a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn about birds native to the Chimney Rock area. Experienced Audubon birders will lead and assist the group, walking in the lower area of Chimney Rock National Monument (no archaeological sites are included on this tour). This program takes place off-trail, on uneven ground, with some mild up and down walking. Exact location will vary. Please bring your own binoculars if you have them. The fee is $16 for adults and $8 for ages 5-12, and is considered a nonrefundable donation.
For tickets for any of these special programs, please visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call (877) 444-6777. A booking fee applies to each ticket purchased online or through the call center. Purchasing your tickets in advance is the only way to guarantee a spot for the monthly and annual programs.
Include Chimney Rock in your plans this summer. This Ancestral Puebloan cultural site is located 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs and 3 miles south on Colo. 151. To view the Chimney Rock National Monument 2021 Calendar of Events, go to www.chimneyrockco.org.
CRIA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument under a participating agreement with the USDA Forest Service/San Juan National Forest.