Canyon de Chelly National Monument
On Thursday, May 16, I left Petrified National Forest and drove roughly 100 miles to Canyon de Chelly National Monument, located just east of Chinle, AZ. The park is located on the Navajo Nation and is managed cooperatively by the Navajo Nation and National Park Service. The park encompasses roughly 84,000 acres in three canyons – Del Muerto, de Chelly, and Monument. People have lived in the canyons going back 5,000 years; some 2,400 archeological sites have been identified. About 40 Navajo families presently live in the canyons.
Cottonwood Campground is located just below the visitor center. Camping fee is $14 per night, payable in cash. It is operated by Navajo Parks, thus the various US parks passes are not valid. Occupancy was light when I was there so people were spread out pretty well.
On Friday, I drove the North Rim and South Rim roads, visiting the overlooks. There are three overlooks on the north rim – Antelope House, Mummy Cave, and Massacre Cave. It is about 18 miles from the visitor center to the last overlook.
There are seven overlooks along the South Rim, the last being roughly 16 miles from the visitor center. Ruins are visible at nearly all the overlooks by scanning the alcoves along the canyon walls.
The last overlook is Spider Rock. Spider Rock is a sandstone spire rising close to 800 feet from the canyon floor.
Saturday morning I hiked down to the White House ruins. This is the only self-guided access to the canyon floor. The trail descends 600 feet into the canyon and it is about 1.25 miles to the ruins. There are several switchbacks, so the trail isn’t very steep.
Jeep, hiking, and horseback trips into the canyon are available with Navajo guides. Time didn’t allow me to do that this trip; but I would like to do a jeep trip on a future visit.
Sunday morning I leave Canyon de Chelly headed for the red rock country of southeast Utah.