Around 1100 A.D. ancestral Pueblo people embarked on an ambitious building project along the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico. In less than three decades they built a monumental "great house." Aztec West stands three-stories high, stretches longer than a football field and once had as many as 500-rooms including a ceremonial "great kiva" over 40-feet in diameter.
A short trail winds through room blocks of this massive
site offering visitors a uniquely intimate experience. Along the way
discover original roofs intact, ponder intriguing "T" shaped
and north-facing corner doors, see a reed mat left by early inhabitants
and more. The trail culminates by descending into the reconstructed
great kiva, a building that inherently inspires contemplation, wonder,
and an ancient sense of sacredness.
Aerial view of West Ruin
Operating Hours & Seasons
Interagency Annual, Senior and Access pass holders and up to 4 adults are also admitted free of charge. Interagency Volunteer passes are also honored.
All National Park Pass, Golden Eagle, Golden Eagle Hologram, Golden Access, Golden Age Passports will continue to be honored according to the provisions of the pass. Only paper Golden Age and Access Passports may be exchanged free of charge for new plastic passes.
Note: Educational and scientific institutions may be eligible for a fee waiver. For more information go to: the link For Teachers, then Plan A Field Trip, then Educational Fee Waiver or call (505) 334-6174.
Self-Guided Trail: Aztec Ruins provides visitors an intimate opportunity to explore the ancient Puebloan "great house" known as West Ruin. A self-guided 1/2 mile walk winds through rooms built centuries ago. Along the way discover skillful stone masonry, remarkably well-preserved wood roofing and original mortar in some walls. The interpretive trail guide combines modern archeological findings and traditional Native American perspectives to enhance the visitor experience. At the trail's end, visitors enter the Great Kiva. This awesome semi-subterranean structure, over 40-feet in diameter, was the central social and religious site of this ancient complex. Now reconstructed, Aztec Ruins' Great Kiva is the oldest and largest building of its kind.
Interpretive Programs: Rangers offer interpretive talks throughout the summer at scheduled times. Other activities include scholarly lectures and demonstrations of traditional American Indian crafts. The times and locations of these events are posted in mid-spring.
The museum features a variety of ancient artifacts excavated at or related to Aztec Ruins. Throughout the day a 25 minute video, "Hisatsinom," reveals the pre-Columbian history of the Four Corners region.
Doorways through corner room joints are not supposed to be structurally sound. Yet, three North-facing corner doors at Aztec Ruins have stood for over 800 years. Why did ancient builders include these features in their design?
The Aztec Ruins were not ancient Aztec temples! This site was home to ancestral Pueblo people. Scholars once thought the Aztecs migrated to Mexico from the southwestern U.S. Later, commercial maps and early settlers mistakenly called monumental ruins along the Animas River - the "Aztec Ruins."
Did You Know?
For more information on the Ancestral Pueblo People, visit Cliffdwelling.com