ANCESTRAL PUEBLO PEOPLE KNEW what was up—the sky—and they built their world around it. At Aztec Ruins National Monument, the structures left behind by the Animas River Valley’s largest Indigenous community are closely tied to celestial events. At sunrise on the summer solstice, the north wall of the Aztec West Great House aligns perfectly with the crowning sun.
“These buildings are almost like a calendar,” says Nathan Hatfield, program manager for interpretation at the monument. By situating structures so the solstice light lines up with walls, windows, and doorways, ancient farmers kept tabs on the seasons. Now, every June 21, park rangers guide early-morning visitors behind the great house to watch sunlight flood into place along the back wall. After sunrise, volunteers present a short program about the archaeoastronomy of Aztec Ruins.
If you’re feeling off-balance, the event could offer a timeless reminder of the power of perspective. Hatfield says many make the event an annual kickoff for a more measured summer.
Get up early. Visitors usually arrive 15 minutes or so before dawn. “Everyone wants to get their picture of the sunrise lining up,” Hatfield says.
Knowledge is power. “We don’t know their language and we don’t have any written record from these people. But we know they were farmers. We know they had domesticated animals. They were builders and architects.”
Ancestral Puebloans—they’re just like us. “We have that universal understanding of the sun, the moon, and the stars. That’s something we share with these people. It’s humbling. People are going to be watching the sky a thousand years into the future.”
Hot wheels and candy paint mean a guaranteed good time. On June 4, cruise to Red River's Brandenburg Park, where the Red River Car Show takes over the town. Expect lowriders, Model Ts, a 1960s ambulance, and an ultra-rare Lotus Exige at the parade down Main Street, plus family-friendly games and country singer John King.
Texas-based country musicians descend on Carlsbad at this festival featuring food trucks, vendors, and two nights of live music. Performers include the Randy Rogers Band, Curtis Grimes, and Holly Tucker.
24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest, Gallup
A 13.5-mile loop with a 700-foot elevation gain might cause some pumping and grinding at this endurance mountain biking event.
The vistas in the Zuni Mountains—and a venue with snacks, music, movies, and kids’ activities—should ease the pain.
Rodeo de Santa Fe
Since 1949, professional riders have gotten downright dusty at this annual bronc-fest. The family-friendly fun starts with mutton busting and barrel racing before the thrilling main event.
Hit the mountain bike trails at 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest, in Gallup. Photograph by Curtis Gillen.
Chow down at these small-town food fests.
Smokin’ on the Plaza, Lovington