The Penasco Blanco Trail is a 14 mile out and back trek that can a bit strenuous on a hot day. Two famous Chaco Culture destinations are located near the seven mile end point, but relatively few hikers choose to go this far. This lengthy trail goes over level ground on the valley floor, so it may seem easy to conquer, but when the bright New Mexico sunshine heats things up, this trail will seem like it is a million miles long. For this reason, most visitors tend to only venture to points of interest within easy reach, rather than to take on the entire trail.
The Kin Kletso Great House Pueblo only requires a short hike and this is the first stop along the Penasco Blanco Trail. This is also where the mesa top trail to Pueblo Alto and the Pueblo Bonito overlook begins, so Kin Kletso definitely is the most popular destination along the pathway. The highest percentage of visitors turn around and go back from here, so continuing further on the Penasco Blanco Trail will lead to an opportunity to enjoy the peaceful wide open spaces with no others around.
Hiking into the Chaco Culture National Historical Park back country does require a permit and obeying a few protective rules. There is an information kiosk with a self-serve permit station located at the start of the Penasco Blanco Trail, which is a nice convenience. After touring the first point of interest at Kin Kletso, the trail goes about another mile to a side canyon with a deep ravine. Going off trail is not allowed in this vast archeological area, so following the path the long way around the obstacle is the only choice. By doing so, a few petroglyphs can be seen on the canyon wall if one looks carefully.
After rounding the bend around the side canyon ravine, Casa Chiquita will start to come into view in the distance. This is yet another structure that made use of the local yellow sandstone for building blocks and the glowing golden color of this pueblo certainly is an impressive sight to see. Casa Chiquita is relatively small when compared to the other great house pueblos in Chaco Canyon, yet it truly is a unique ancient sacred place marvel over. According to the park information pamphlet, this structure once had 35 ground floor rooms and rose a few stories tall. Casa Chiquita has the look of a square annex structure, yet because of the proximity to the vast agricultural fields to the west this pueblo may have served a farm worker utilitarian purpose. Nobody knows for sure, because so many Chaco Culture mysteries remain hidden by the hands of time.
Both Kin Kletso and Casa Chiquita are well worth experiencing, while something just as interesting awaits a little further down the Penasco Blanco Trail. A very long ancient petroglyph wall can be viewed about a mile past Casa Chiquita, which boasts harboring rock art from a very long timeline. For those who relish the though of reading some ancient newspaper rock, it will be best to not turn around and head back from Casa Chiquita. The Penasco Blanco Trail sure does have a way of coaxing hikers to rack up a few extra miles, so be sure to pack plenty of water even if a short stroll is all that is planned!
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