Explore New Mexico
12 day Camping Trek - Native American trails and ruins
New Mexico isn’t as traveled as it bordering states, but has a rich Native American history and often unexplored wilderness. The natives learned how to battle with the desert conditions and created trade routes all over the state. On this unique camping trip explore the rich history of New Mexico's Native American culture. There is evidence that Native Americans have inhabited New Mexico for over 2,500 years. Early ancestral Indians lived for centuries as hunter-gatherers throughout the Southwest. About 1,500 years ago some of these groups, commonly referred to today as the Anasazi, began practicing agriculture and established permanent settlements, which are now known as pueblos.
12 days, 11 nights
Tour start and end:
|Meet the guides
Reading and discussing histories and science, hiking, archery, sightseeing.
As a historian, an adventure outdoors traveler, an endless music and beer enthusiast and an energetic and thoughtful guide, I love to share stories and connect all elements of a tour being a great storyteller to make a tour come alive. Guiding in many cities out East and in rural areas of New England, I look forward to supporting our guests on this winter experience in Maine and ensuring their safety and comfort.
Eddie Frank, Tusker Trail, and Michiel Stavast, WeVenture, met during the early days of the COVID pandemic and shared their thoughts on how and when to bring adventures together in the US when travelling would be safe again. Eddie and Michiel share a passion for new adventures, preferably with a level of new exploration. Both living in the mountains of California, their businesses specialize in adventure travel. Having many zoom calls, the “new” way of doing business in times of the pandemic, Michiel used Eddie’s extensive knowledge on adventure travel to create unique itinerary for US travelers. Both businesses focused on bringing back their activities before finalizing the Winter in the Northeast tour. With a combined 60+ years of experience in adventure travel, Eddie and Michiel know it is the right moment to bring this collaboration to the US and the winter tour is the first of many more to come.
WeVenture is offering tours in 11 cities and multi-day tours on the East Coast of the USA. Tusker Trails offers overland tours in Africa, Mongolia, Greenland and Nepal.
Day 1 —Acoma Sky City & Chaco Culture National Park.
After we meet our fellow travelers and Tusker guides we drive out of Albuquerque for an hour into the desert to visit Acoma Sky City. This mesa-top settlement is known worldwide for its unique art and rich culture. A federally recognized Native American Tribe, Acoma Pueblo is home to over 5000 tribal members and with more than 250 dwellings, none of which have electricity, sewer or water. The Pueblo is regarded as the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Access to the pueblo is difficult as the faces of the mesa are sheer, in the past the only way to get to the pueblo was by hand-cut into the sandstone staircases. We will meet a local native who will guide us through the city and offers insight on Acoma’s living history and culture. Permanent exhibits in the main hall take visitors on a historical journey of the Acoma Pueblo. We will enjoy our lunch at the Sky City.
We continue our explorations of native ruins by visiting one of US most remote National Parks; Chaco Culture National Historic Park, a World Heritage Site. After a 2,5 hour bumpy dirt road ride we made it into the canyon. Chaco Culture is a network of archaeological sites which preserves outstanding elements of a vast pre-Columbian cultural complex that dominated much of what is now the southwestern United States from the mid-9th to early 13th centuries. These sites were a focus for ceremonies, trade, and political activity and they are remarkable for their monumental public and ceremonial buildings and distinctive multi-storey “great houses.” Your guide will take you along the ruins and hike upon a mesa to see the large structures from above. We will stay in the park on a primitive campsite, the camp host will manage the camp and prepare a great meal. In the evening we can stargaze and enjoy a night walk in the park.
Day 2 & 3 – Chaco Canyon & Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness
After our strengthening outdoor breakfast we drive into the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness on Navajo land.
The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American Tribe in the USA and are a sovereign state covering the four corners of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The wilderness is a desolate area of steeply eroded badlands. Translated from the Navajo word Bistahí, Bisti means “among the adobe formations.” De-Na-Zin, from Navajo Dééł Náázíní, translates as “Standing Crane. We hike the 8-mile Bisti Wash loop with unearthly views. There are no actual hiking trails in the Bisti. Being in the hills is like being in a maze, there are many dead ends and you can easily lose your sense of direction. We will hike along the Alamo wash, where there are plenty of great photo opportunities such as the “Cracked Eggs” and the “Rock Garden”. Walking passed Petrified wood and Hoodoo’s even amplifies the feeling we are on a different planet. Our camp host will greet us with another great meal under the stars!
On our last day in the park we visit the southern part of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin wilderness and enjoy the Ah-shi-sle-pah Trail. After lunch back on the campground we return into Chaco Canyon and hike the Pueblo Alto trail to the top of a mesa to have a panoramic overlook on the canyon and it’s ruins.
Day 4 & 5 – El Malpais National Monument & Mount Taylor.
Our 2-hour’s drive south brings us to El Malpais National Monument, here we explore caves and lave tubes while crossing US’s continental divide. While definitely tough-to-explore badlands, El Malpais National Monument is not the lifeless volcanic vastness you would expect at first sight. Rugged plants and lichens have surprisingly done their best overtaking each and every vesicle, crack, fracture, or crevasse. Enhancing with colors, smells, and textures an incredibly challenging landscape of primeval basalt charred black from eons of slow oxidation. El Malpais is home to some of the oldest Douglas Fir trees in the American Southwest, the eldest clocking over 1,300 years! We have a on-the-go picnic and make our way to our remote campground on Mount Taylor in Cibola National Forest. Here we spend two nights in the wilderness. Your experienced camp host will find the perfect spot to setup our dispersed camp. The following morning after breakfast we get ready to summit Mount Taylor at 11,301 ft. From the summit we grant views on the caldera of the dormant stratovolcano, and a birdeye view south to the border of Mexico. To the Navajo people, Mount Taylor is Tsoodził one of the four sacred mountains marking the cardinal directions and the boundaries of the Dinetah, the traditional Navajo homeland. Retuning to camp we will have a campfire made dinner and cheers a drink to our success.
Day 6 – Silver City
Today we have a 5-hour’s driving day ahead of us so we will pack up early to make most of the day. Driving Hwy 117 south through El Malpais National Monument we have short stops along the way. The La Ventana Natural Arch, the largest of New Mexico’s accessible natural arches, is a massive sandstone formation with a span of 120 feet width. A short trail leads to the base of the arch. Continuing our travels we make another hiking stop in the northern section of Gila National Forest at the Catwalk. The name for the area, The Catwalk, refers to the original plank-board walkway placed atop the steel pipe that used to bring water to the ore processing plant, ruins of which can still be seen near the parking area. The 2 mile loop trail offers a fascinating glimpse into the geologic and historic foundations of southwest New Mexico. Tonight we have a dinner and a hotel bed at the Bear Mountain Lodge, an unique retreat in the Gila National Forest. The Gila Wilderness, established in 1905, is the oldest wilderness area in The United States.
Day 7,8 and 9 — Gila National Forest
Driving into the National Forest we can put our phones away since there won’t be any reception in the wilderness. From our dispersed base camp, where we are staying for three nights, we will explore the rugged area. After setting up camp we visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings. For thousands of years, groups of nomadic people used the caves of the Gila River as temporary shelter. In the late 1200’s, people of the Mogollon Culture decided it would be a good place to call home. They built rooms, crafted pottery and raised children in the cliff dwellings for about twenty years. Then the Mogollon moved on, leaving the walls for us as a glimpse into the past. On our drive back we can comfort our muscles in a natural hot spring at the Gila Hot Springs. After a good night of sleep under the stars we gear up for our second day, strenuous day hike through little Bear Canyon, this 10 mile hike shows the hoodoos and cliffs in this wilderness. Deep in the heart of the Gila Wilderness in the epic Gila River Canyon the canyon intersects with Little Bear Canyon, the view of this is breathtaking and perhaps the holy grail of our New Mexico journey. Making our way back crossing the river and near the end, we can rest our feet at the Middlefork natural hot springs before returning to camp. On our last day we summit Black Peak following a portion of the Continental Divide trail, this 8 mile hike brings us to the 10K summit.
Day 10 and 11 – Quarai Mission and Manzano Mountains State Park
Leaving the wilderness and into the wide open we drive to Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to go bird watching. The name of the refuge means “woods of the Apache” in Spanish, named for the Apache tribes that once camped in the forests along the Rio Grande. A twelve-mile-long loop road ” give affords good views of the fields where crops are grown for the benefit of the birds under cooperative agreements with farmers. There have been 374 different bird species observed in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge since 1981, making it one of the most diverse areas for bird species in the United States . The wetlands attract the huge flocks of wintering cranes and geese that are the refuge’s most interesting feature. Many other species as waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey also winter in the refuge. The diversity of birds is also high in spring and although the area is hot in the summer still many water birds can be found, including such New Mexico rarities as the least bittern and occasionally the little blue heron. We will make photo stops and stretch our legs on one of the short trails along the wetlands. After a short drive we stop at the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument to explore the ruins of the Quarai Mission. The mission, one of the three sets of pueblo and mission ruins at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument are located where the Great Plains meet the Manzano Mountains. Quarai is home to a seventeenth century Spanish mission church and convento, the mostly unexcavated and covered ruins of a Tiwa pueblo. Heading into the Manzano Mountains Wilderness our short drive brings us into our last dispersed camp where we spend our last two nights of the trip. Our final 7 mile day hike is on the Spruce Spring trail that goes through several biological zones and leads us along fern canyons and granite rock walls to Gallo Peak. This 10K peak offers stunning views on the Manzano Mountains and our gives a final view on our journey here in New Mexico.
Day 12 – Albuquerque, NM
Today we pack up our camp and end the tour in the city of Albuquerque.