Simon Canyon Ruin

Round Trip Distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5701 - 5851 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 1 hr. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Simon Canyon Trailhead
Fee: none
Attractions: Navajo pueblito

View Simon Canyon Ruin in a larger map

The Simon Canyon Ruin is located within about 1.5 miles of the Navajo Reservoir Dam east of Aztec, New Mexico. The Navajo built small defensive structures, called 'pueblitos', like this one on top of large boulders. The small one room ruin on top of a 20 foot high boulder overlooks Simon Canyon from a slickrock bench. The pueblito is in such good condition that calling it a ruin seems like a bit of a misnomer.

The Google Maps 'get directions' function does a good job of finding the route to the trailhead but basically what you do is drive east from Aztec on New Mexico Highway 173, the Navajo Dam Road, for 16.2 miles to Road 4280. On our trip there wasn't a sign for Road 4280 but it is the same road as the Navajo Lake Cottonwood Campground. If you come to the San Juan River bridge then you went too far. From Highway 173 it is 2.8 miles along a dirt road to the trailhead. Stay to the left when the road forks to avoid going to the campground.

From the trailhead follow the road through the wash that drains Simon Canyon. Stay to the left at the kiosk where the San Juan River trail splits off to the right.

About the only crux of the hike is a short climb that takes you up to the same level as the bench that the ruin sits on.

There is a well site at the top of the hill. This is where the road ends and the foot path takes over. Stay to the left and follow the trail between the fence and the rim of the canyon.

The trail to the ruin weaves in and around large boulders as it follows along the rim of the canyon. The trail by itself would be fun to hike whether it led to a ruin or not.

As you approach the area where the ruin is the trail is following a section of slickrock that bends away from the main canyon. At this point you can look up and see the ruin sitting atop its boulder a few hundred yards away. Descend from the slickrock and cross the shallow wash and pick up the trail on the other side. A juniper tree obscures the trail a little from the wash but once you get past it the rest of the route is evident.

The small pueblito sits on top of the boulder seemingly unchanged by the passing of the last several hundred years.

A kiosk mentions that the structure was built between 1700 and 1775.

For those that are nimble enough there is a rope and log ladder that leads up to the top of the boulder.

Or you can do what we did and climb up the nearby hillside and make use of a pair of binoculars and a telephoto lens. The roof seems at least as resistant to the weather as the ground below it. Maybe even more. The small logs that support the roof have been cut with a sharp blade which is a big contrast to logs in older structures.

The Simon Canyon Ruin sits off by itself on the north side of the San Juan River. Since it doesn't take a lot of time to visit it can be combined with a stop at the Aztec National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico or a trip up Largo Canyon, near Blanco, to Crow Canyon and some of the sites in that area. For a few other options the Salmon Ruin is near Bloomfield and the Chaco Canyon National Monument is about an hour further south. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.