We were there this past Oct with our Class B camper. The road was a washboard - but passable if you go slow. If there had been recent rain it might be a real mess.
The campground at the park is nice, there are trails and ruins that you can walk to right from the campground and dozens more after a short drive to the loop road (paved). If you can time your visit for the night of the full moon, the rangers there will do night time tours of some of the pueblos by moonlight. I have lots of pics so if you're interested send me a message and I'll send you the link.
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. ~ Lao Tzu
We went in May 2011 with our TC and we had a very slow rough trip in. We almost turned around before gettting all the way in. Once you hit the NP, the roads are paved. A lot of comments in the Visitor Center about the horrible road, but the ParK Service employee was telling people to try driving the speed limit (I think it was 35). On the way out we did try to maintain 35, and it wasn't near as bad. There are some areas that are really bad no matter, and we had to almost stop to maintain control. If we watched closely, we could see a color variation in the road to indicate the roughest areas and could slow down before we hit them. We took a short video clip of a water bottle in the holders, and it was really sloshing.
We didn't do a lot of hiking, but really enjoyed the area. We watched and talked to park employees working out in the ruins to prevent further erosion.
We recently saw a documentary on public TV about the area, and may have to go back to see more.
We probably wouldn't have gone if we didn't collect the National Park Passport stamps, but enjoyed a number of the park sites featuring the ancient ruins on our trip through that area.
We visited Chaco Canyon in May of 2011 and enjoyed it very much. If you are at all interested in early American history you shouldn't miss it and while you are out there you should get on up to Mesa Verde and see that as well.
Getting to Chaco Canyon is quite an effort because of the washboard road. Because it seemed the shortest route from Gallup NM, we drove in on the southern route which was a mistake. It is about 22 miles of washboard and goes over some rocky outcroppings which makes it difficult for a vehicle with low road clearance and longer wheel base. We caught our fiberglass skirt on some rock, broke some glass and dumped the refrigerator contents on the floor on the way in but didn't have anywhere near that problem on the way out.
We drove out the north eastern route to US 550 which is around 12 miles of washboard or a little more but is much more level. We were told by some workers at Chaco Canyon that the washboard wasn't too bad just, “go fast”, one young lady Forest Ranger said 50mph would do it. I sort of tried it but found that at 25-30mph that the back end of the van, a Roadtrek 190P on the Chevy chassis, felt like it wanted to come around and go first. Since getting one wheel off the side of the road surface would have meant we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere until we got some major help I wasn't willing to drive fast which means you have to tolerate the washboard for quite a while but it is doable. On the way out while crawling along we did see a couple of SUV's coming in at a pretty fast pace.
To reiterate, I drove both the northern route from US 550 and the southern route in spring in May of 2011. I found the northern route to be much better than the southern route because of the following.
1) The northern route's section of washboard is much shorter around 12 miles versus 17-20 miles on the southern route. I am sure that recent grading would make the northern route quite easy.
2) The southern route crosses a few sections of rock outcroppings which are a few feet higher than the surrounding roadway. These are fairly short wavelength and somewhat steep on one side or both. So the problem becomes more difficult for a vehicle with a long wheel base and low ground clearance like a Chevy 190 Popular as I found when I caught the fiberglass skirt on one. If one were driving a jeep or any other vehicle with shorter wheel base or higher ground clearance these rocky spots would not be a problem.
3) Except for the problem noted above both routes are fairly level. I remember the southern route as having a deeper sandy ditch on the side of the road such that I believe getting one wheel off the road could be a serious problem in a place where help might be difficult to find, I saw one vehicle while driving in from the south and saw a few while driving out the northern route.
Our first day there was windy and dusty and we had dust in our eyes, nose and mouth but by evening it was beautiful and the next day was calm and very nice. Hot and dusty on the day we went in, it went down to 27f overnight, May 12. In the morning we hiked up from the campground to the top of the canyon wall and along for a ways and really enjoyed it. Of course we walked through the ruins and reading about them and seeing them was a great experience.
For us it was a great experience and I hope to do it again but unless they pave the southern route I'll drive in from US 550 which I believe is the northeast.
CJ is the better half.
05/06 Roadtrek 190 Popular