Known for sweeping vistas, culturally rich Ancestral Puebloan settlements and internationally recognized dark skies, the Four Corners, connecting NM, CO, UT and AZ, is unlike anywhere else in the world. Journey alongside NPCA experts to experience extraordinary ancient structures at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. You’ll also experience the mystifying cultural sites within Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins and Hovenweep while learning about NPCA’s important contributions in the region.
September 25 - October 1, 2022
7 days/6 nights
Minimum/Maximum: 12 guests/16 guests
- Visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites with NPCA and National Park Service staff leading you on specially crafted behind-the-scenes tours
- Discover the deep-rooted connections between the cultural heritage of Ancestral Puebloans and local modern-day tribes as you embark on a guided adventure through time
- Learn how NPCA and local tribes address ongoing issues of oil and gas development in the region, which threaten irreplaceable cultural and ancestral sites
- Spend two full days exploring cliff dwellings and receiving expert knowledge of archaeological sites with brilliant guides at Mesa Verde National Park
- Wander through the Puebloan “great houses” at Chaco Culture National Historical Park as you learn about the compelling history of these storied places from a local expert
- Enjoy an enlightening journey with NPCA experts through the cultural landscape of southwestern Utah at Hovenweep National Monument while you celebrate recent park protection victories
- Experience the true wonders of some of the darkest skies in the country as you stargaze in a newly designated Dark Sky Park
DAY 1: September 25 - Arrivals into Durango, CO: Welcome to the Southwest! After flying into Durango, meet with the NPCA group and head to Farmington, NM to check into your room at a charming bed and breakfast. We kick off the trip with a welcome dinner and a chance to get to know your fellow travelers. Our NPCA host will give an overview of the themes we’ll explore in the days ahead. We’ll enjoy a group dinner before settling in for the night at Casa Blanca Inn and Suites. Casa Blanca Inn and Suites (D)
Day 2: September 26 - Chaco Culture National Historic Park: After breakfast, we’ll drive 1.5 hours south toward Chaco Canyon.* We arrive at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in time for a picnic lunch and an introduction to the park from park staff. A thousand years ago, people used the five Chacoan “great houses’’ to trade, exchange information and celebrate important events. Today, Chaco Culture National Historical Park faces threats from increasing oil and gas development, which would destroy lands of paramount importance to surrounding tribes. We’ll learn how NPCA and partners are challenging these pressures to protect stories of American heritage while we explore the park’s sophisticated structures alongside local experts. In the late afternoon, we’ll return to Farmington where we’ll spend night two at Casa Blanca Inn and Suites. Dinner tonight is in Downtown Farmington. Casa Blanca Inn & Suites (B, L, D) *Because the dirt roads going into and out of Chaco Culture National Historical Park are prone to flooding during rain, this visit is weather dependent. In case of inclement weather, we will visit alternate sites selected by NPCA staff.
Day 3: September 27 - Aztec Ruins National Monument & Mesa Verde National Park: After breakfast at Casa Blanca, we set off toward Colorado, stopping along the way at Aztec Ruins National Monument. Here, we’ll tour the ceremonial Great Kiva, a one-of-kind reconstruction with an impressive 40-foot diameter. Take note of the oil well that sits adjacent to these ancient structures; it’s a sign of the competing pressures on this land. From Aztec Ruins, we drive about 1.5-hours to Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to over 600 protected cliff dwellings typical of Ancestral Puebloan culture. We’ll begin by meeting with park staff for an introduction to the park and the archaeological importance of its sites. This afternoon we’ll have a chance to stretch our legs on one of the park’s many scenic hikes before checking into our lodging for the next three nights. Dinner tonight is in Far View Lodge’s Metate Dining Room. Weather permitting, after dinner we’ll have the option to head back outside for a night sky program. In 2021, the National Park Service and International Dark-Sky Association designated Mesa Verde an International Dark Sky Park – if conditions are right, we’ll get to see why! Far View Lodge (B, L, D)
Days 4-5: September 28-29 - Mesa Verde National Park: Days 4 and 5 are dedicated to Mesa Verde National Park. With expert guides, witness the archaeological marvels of Chapin Mesa and meet the park’s superintendent, Kayci Cook. There will be an option to hike the moderately strenuous Petroglyph Trail before lunch as well as the option to visit various other Puebloan sites before heading back to our accommodations and dinner as a group.
On Day 5, we delve deeper into the park and NPCA’s role in its conservation. After breakfast, we’ll go off the beaten path and explore Wetherill Mesa, known as “the quieter side” of Mesa Verde and tour Long House, the park’s second largest cliff dwelling. Journey through Badger House Community, a series of four mesa top sites that span 600 years of prehistory, and Step House, home to two separate construction periods in one site (early Basketmaker pithouses built about 620 CE, and a masonry pueblo dating to 1226 CE). In the afternoon, we’ll meet with NPCA experts and partners for a discussion about the challenges the park faces from proposed oil and gas drilling in the surrounding area. Dinner tonight is in the Metate Dining Room. Far View Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 6: September 30 - Hovenweep National Monument:
The next morning, we head west toward the renowned Hovenweep National Monument, just over the border in Utah, approximately a 1 hour and 45-minute drive. Along the way, we stop at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum for an overview of the structures and cultural legacies we’ll see throughout the day. Once in Hovenweep, we’re met by NPCA partners who guide us through the landscape, beginning with the Square Tower Group, where the largest collection of structures in Hovenweep can be found. We’ll learn about the challenges posed by the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of nearby Bears Ears National Monument by nearly 85%, opening the previously protected lands to mineral, oil and gas development. However, the tireless collaborative work of NPCA, tribes, archeologists, nearby communities and conservation groups resulted in a thrilling victory of the Biden Administration in 2021, restoring protections to Bears Ears National Monument, along with other monuments that protect the stories of America. We’ll spend our final night in Durango, Colorado. Tonight, we’ll meet with NPCA staff and partners to reflect on the week and conclude the evening with a joyous farewell dinner.
The General Palmer Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 7: October 1 - Departures: On our final morning, enjoy breakfast before your transfer to Durango Airport for your flight home. For those choosing to extend your stay in Durango, we can provide recommendations for the many cultural activities and outdoor adventures the area has to offer. (B)
Please note: This itinerary is subject to change based on weather conditions and park closures related to COVID-19.
NPCA TRAVEL ELIGIBILITY: NPCA is the only independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocacy on behalf of the National Park System. We are 100% privately funded and we rely on donations from individuals like you. One traveler per group must be an active NPCA member to participate in an NPCA trip. An annual membership starts at $15 per person. Please make dues payable to NPCA by check or credit card at npca.org.
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MORE INFORMATION For full details on this trip, including inclusions, exclusions, accommodations, terms and safety protocols, please download the detailed trip brochure.
MAKING RESERVATIONS To secure your space on this NPCA trip, please contact Jared Dial, NPCA’s Associate Director of the Educational Travel Program, at 1.800.628.7275 or email the Travel Program at email@example.com.
TRAVEL PROTECTION We strongly recommend purchasing important optional travel insurance that will cover you for a variety of travel-related contingencies, such as trip cancellation, interruption, and/or delay; baggage loss, theft, damage or delay; accident and/or sickness medical expenses; accidental death; as well as evacuation/repatriation coverage. Please note that a Pre-Existing Condition waiver is available if you purchase the policy within 21 days of making your initial trip payment. Also consider the optional “Cancel for any Reason” protection. All questions regarding the plan’s coverage should be directed to Travel Insurance Select through USI Affinity at 1-800-937-1387 or by visiting their website.
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