Few places in North America offer the smile-inducing recreational splendor of the Four Corners, a vast expanse famous for whitewater rivers, water-carved canyons, moonscape badlands, expansive deserts and forested mountains. Helping to anchor this singular landscape in northwest New Mexico is Aztec, a vacation destination renown for its UNESCO World Heritage ancestral ruins, top-ranked mountain biking and premier fly-fishing and boating.
Perhaps less well known but no less spectacular are the Aztec Arches, a 306-count assortment of sandstone arches and windows that punctuate the area’s rugged, high-desert grandeur.
Located within minutes of Aztec and scattered among boulder-strewn canyons, the wind-, water- and temperature-formed arches, bridges, pillars and pedestals are a natural beacon for hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers and four-wheel enthusiasts. Some of the formations are as small as a kitchen table, while others could easily accommodate a locomotive.
Favorites include Arch Rock (LAT: 36˚ 53.455196N; LONG: 107˚ 50.950298W), a huge, rainbow-shaped formation celebrated for its size and Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs; Cox Canyon Arch (LAT: 36˚ 59.873857N; LONG: 107˚ 54.55085W), regarded the area’s most spectacular; and Bridge of Wonder (LAT: 36° 49.090083N; LONG: 107° 45.848507W), largest of all the Aztec Arches, located on a high ridge following a challenging drive into Caballo and Crow canyons.
Make no mistake: Aztec Arches are not always easy to find. However, a significant number — like those found in Alamo, Cerritos, Cox, Crow, Hart and Vereda canyons — can be located when arch hunters come equipped with a compass or GPS, water and snacks, sunscreen and brush protection, and a heavy dose of energy and determination.
Instructions and maps to many of the Aztec Arches are available at the Aztec Visitor Center, located in Aztec at 110 North Ash Avenue or online at www.aztecnm.com. Information is also available on the City of Aztec Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CityofAztec/.