When our family took a Route 66 road trip earlier this summer, we chose to take a pre 1937 alignment that brought us up to Santa Fe. This route passed the Pecos Pueblos National Park where pueblo ruins dating back to the 1400s can be seen.
What makes these pueblo ruins different from others that we’ve seen over the years is that the site contains two reconstructed kivas that are easily accessible by visitors to the park. Kivas are special rooms used by Pueblos and Hopi peoples for spiritual purposes. While modern kivas are generally built above ground, ancient kivas were circular, subterranean rooms.
The kivas at Pecos Pueblos are underground rooms that are entered by descending a ladder. To reach the kivas, visitors have to walk an easy quarter mile path which begins at the back of the Visitors Center.
What to see from above
From above ground, all that can be seen of the kivas is a square hole with a couple of rungs sticking out of the ground. It isn’t until you begin to descend into the kiva that you get a sense of how large these kivas can be. The kiva we climbed into seemed to be at least 20 feet in diameter and 9 feet deep.
The one thing that impresses you immediately as you descend into the kiva is the temperature difference. Even though the outside was a brutal 105 degrees, the interior of the kiva felt like 60. The other thing you’ll notice is the complete absence of sound.
The kiva we entered was circular in shape with walls made of stone that were packed over with mud.
At one end could be seen the fire pit and a ventilation shaft. There was also a depression in the floor, known as the sípapu, which served as the symbolic place of origin of the tribe. Even with these ceremonial artifacts, it was easy to see that the kiva could hold large groups of people.
What to know for your visit
The Pecos Pueblos kivas are found on National Park grounds and require an admission fee. The fee is quite reasonable ($3 for ages 16-adult) and includes an interpretive map around the site which includes even more pueblo ruins and two Spanish colonial missions which were erected in the 1600s. It’s a good idea to grab one of these maps; we noticed that even though the kivas were marked, their location slightly off the trail made them easy to miss.
The elevation at the Pecos Pueblos is high (7000 feet) and we recommend that you dress appropriately for hiking, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and take it easy along the trails. For more information about the Pecos Pueblos National Park and planning your trip, be sure to visit the National Parks website at NPS.gove/pec/index.html.
More by this contributor:
Planning your trip to the Pecos Pueblos National Park in New Mexico
What to see along State Hwy 14 in New Mexico
How to dress for hiking Arizona and New Mexico national parks