September events at Chimney Rock National Monument set


Chimney Rock Interpretive Association

Summer will soon be coming to an end and now that the weather is cooling off, this is the best time to visit Chimney Rock National Monument. View the stars or the full moon or take a tour of this spectacular place where the Ancient Puebloans lived more than 1,000 years ago. 

The Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) offers monthly programs and guided tours at the monument. You’ll walk in the footsteps of the fascinating and enigmatic Ancestral Puebloans as you learn of their ties to Chaco Canyon and the far-reaching influence of the celestial skies. Archaeological structures and artifacts, abundant wildlife and its breathtaking setting in the San Juan National Forest make Chimney Rock a must-see. 

Mystery of Chaco

CRIA is proud to present a viewing of “The Mystery of Chaco Canyon” on Sept. 16, at the Chimney Rock amphitheater. 

An award winning film, “The Mystery of Chaco Canyon” by Anna Sofaer reveals the brilliant astronomy of the Ancient Puebloans. Before the viewing of the film, Dr. Erica Ellingson, professor at the University of Colorado, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, will give a special presentation. 

The gate will open at 6 p.m. Ellingson will speak at 6:30 p.m. “The Mystery of Chaco Canyon” (56 minutes) will be shown after the lecture. 

Tickets are available at for $15 (age 13 and older), $8 (age 6-12), 5 and under free. Note: These tickets are not available on Walk-ins are welcome, and tickets can be purchased at the gift shop the evening of the event. 

Bring something soft to sit on along with a jacket and flashlight.

Birding at Chimney Rock

The last 2023 Birding at Chimney Rock Program takes place this month on Sept. 16. 

This program includes a casual two-hour walk led by a knowledgeable birding guide from the Weminuche Audubon Society. These outings will introduce you to the diverse community of birds that spend their summer at the monument. Your guide will help you identify various species and explain the unique adaptations that allow these birds to survive here. 

Good walking shoes are advised, along with plenty of water and sun protection — also, bring binoculars. Birders of all skill levels are welcome. This is not recommended for young children. Check in at the entry gate between 7:45 and 8 a.m. The program ends at 10 a.m. This is a reservations-only program. Tickets are $16 (age 13 and up), $8 (age 6-12), 5 and under free.

Autumnal Equinox
Sunrise Program

Welcome autumn at Chimney Rock on Sept. 23. Come to this special place and 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 rising sun witnessed from the Great House Pueblo is a marvelous experience for the eyes; and you will learn why such celestial events were important to the ancient ones. 

It is a 3-mile drive to the trailhead and a 30 to 45 minute uphill hike to the Great House Pueblo in pre-dawn darkness (a rocky and steep trail in places). Please bring a good flashlight and dress appropriately. Sunrise is at 7 a.m, with the return hike down the trail taking place in daylight. 

Guests will be given the opportunity to take photos and then depart the Great House Pueblo on their own or continue with your guide for an interpretive walk to learn the importance this location had for the Ancestral Puebloans. 

The program is suitable for ages 8 and above. The tour is available by reservation. Tickets are $16 (age 13 and up), $8 (age 6-12), 5 and under free.

Flute Music at Twilight Under the Pinnacles

The Flute Music at Twilight Program takes place on Sept. 23 in the amphitheater area, with an amazing view of the pinnacles above. The program will begin with a relaxing 1/4-mile walk up the nature trail above the amphitheater. Upon returning to the amphitheater, the program resumes with an informative lecture on topics specific to the Chimney Rock site. 

As dusk progresses and stars begin to appear, you will be treated to the haunting melodies of a native American flute played by our own Charles Martinez. Gaze in wonder at the night skies and ponder what significance they had for the Ancestral Puebloans when they looked up at the same night skies 1,000 years ago. 

Check in at the entry gate between 5:45 and 6 p.m. The program ends at 8 p.m. The program is available by reservation. Tickets are $16 (age 13 and up), $8 (age 6-12), 5 and under free.

Full Moon Program with option of Early Tour

The Full Moon Program takes place on Sept. 29 against the backdrop of the Great House Pueblo at the top of Chimney Rock Mesa. 

About an hour before moonrise, you will be treated to an informative lecture on topics specific to the Chimney Rock site (Ancestral Puebloan culture, archaeoastronomy theories, area geology, etc.) Then, as the full moon begins to rise, a single flute note follows another and another as you become slowly embraced by the music of Martinez. You’ll be torn between looking west to see the spectacular sunset or 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 (2.5 miles up a winding dirt road with 20 mph speed limit — allow 15 minutes each way) and hiking to the Great House Pueblo. Please keep in mind that the lecture before the moonrise is approximately 30 minutes in length and the hike back down the high mesa occurs after dark. 

This program is available by reservation. Tickets are $20. Guests are also offered the option to take a guided tour of the Mesa Village Trail before the Full Moon Program. This Early Tour Full Moon Package is $25. Check-in is between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m. All tickets require a booking fee.

Sketching at the

The Sketching at the Pinnacles class takes place every Tuesday in September and is part art, part reflection, part nature study, and a little visit to Chimney Rock National Monument — all rolled into one. 

The class starts at the Mesa Village Trail with a guided walk down to the Great Kiva, where we relax on blankets or chairs which we provide. Our goal is to become centered with the site and focus on a specific item of nature. Using sketchbooks and drawing materials provided, we will examine an item of nature selected and watch how it magically appears on a page in our sketchbook. Afterward, there will be a sharing with each other of what we have learned. 

No art talent is required, just a desire to be open to suggestions and willing to try a hand at self-expression. Materials will be provided to each participant. Check in at 5 p.m. at the entry gate. The class is available by reservation. The fee is $20 per person (age 10 and up), plus a booking fee and includes all materials. 

Guided Great House Tour

The Guided Great House Tour takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This guided tour takes visitors 1/3 mile up the Great Pueblo Trail, making several stops along the way to learn about the Ancient Puebloan structures built more than 1,000 years ago. Hear the archaeological details that connected this civilization to the Chaco culture located 90 miles southwest of this spot. 

At the end of the trail, visitors will enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view from atop the mesa ridge along with a very close-up view of the two pinnacles: Chimney Rock and Companion Rock. The tour is available by reservation for up to 10 people. Walk-ins are welcome if room allows. This is recommended for ages 5 and above. Check-in is at the plaza kiosk by 10 a.m.; the tour begins at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $12 (age 13 and up) and $5 (age 5-12), plus a booking fee. Walk-ins do not pay a booking fee. The tour may be canceled for insufficient attendees. The USFS Daily Use fee must be paid (or applicable federal pass used) since this program occurs during the monument’s regular daily open hours.

Mysteries of Chimney Rock Tour

The Mysteries of Chimney Rock Tour takes place on Monday and Friday mornings from 8 to 10:15 a.m. and on Wednesday evening from 5 to 7:15 p.m. This engaging two-hour 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. 

You will walk both the Mesa Village Trail and the Great House Pueblo Trail to learn specifics about the structures along the way, including their significance and uses. You will be treated to the stunning views of the surrounding countryside. 

Check-in is 15 minutes before the program starts at the entry gate. The tour is available by reservation. Tickets are $16 (age 13 and up), $8 (age 5-12), 4 and under free, plus a booking fee.

Geology Tour

The Geology Tour takes place on Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and on Thursday evening from 5 to 7:30 p.m. 

This program includes 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 learn about the events in the ancient geology of the area and how to identify a common trace fossil. 

Check-in is 15 minutes before the program starts at the entry gate. The tour is available by reservation. Tickets are $16 (age 13 and up) and $8 (age 5-12).

More information

For tickets for any of these special programs, visit 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. Tickets are considered a nonrefundable, nontransferable donation.

Chimney Rock uses a fee system. All vehicles and motorcycles will be subject to an activity pass fee of $20. The activity pass fee provides five days of access to Chimney Rock National Monument. To purchase your required activity pass, you can:

• Purchase your activity pass in advance at

• Download the mobile app — purchase your pass in advance or arrive on-site and use the app to provide payment (Android or iOS) by scanning the on-site QR code.

• Arrive on-site and purchase the activity pass.

• Interagency, Access, Senior, Military and fourth-grader park passes are accepted for national monument access.

Include Chimney Rock in your plans this summer. This Ancestral Puebloan cultural site is located 17 miles west of Pagosa and 3 miles south on Colo. 151. To view the Chimney Rock National Monument 2023 Calendar of Events, go to 

CRIA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that offers interpretive programs at Chimney Rock National Monument in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. For more information, see the CRIA website at or call (970) 731-7133.