There are many reasons why you should visit Canyon de Chelly, notable for being one of the longest continuously inhabited areas of North America. The canyon preserves the ruins of the Anasazi tribe that lived there. Canyon de Chelly also one of the most visited national monuments in the country.
Over 100 Anasazi Indian ruins that dot the canyon, along with stunning canyon walls, pinnacles, and beautiful rock faces and formations, making it a true delight for hikers, historians, and outdoor enthusiasts. Canyon de Chelly offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the tribes who lived there in the past, and the present Navajo tribe occupying the canyon.
Things to do in Canyon de Chelly
White House Ruins Trail
If you want to enter Canyon de Chelly on your own, your only choice is hiking the White House Ruins Trail. The route is a doable 2.5 miles roundtrip that descends 600 feet into the canyon. The trailhead is on the South Rim and will take you about 3-hours to complete. At the bottom of the canyon, you can get a close up look at the White House Ruins but cannot enter them.
Canyon de Chelly Scenic Drives
Scenic drives run along both the North and South Rim of Canyon de Chelly. Most visitors opt for the south rim drive that features 7 overlooks. Plan on taking at least three hours for this drive. The South Rim offers the best view of the White House Ruins. The North Rim features 3 overlooks and takes about 2 hours to complete. Both roads offer amazing photo opportunities of the canyon.
Guided Canyon Tours
The best way and only way enter Canyon De Chelly other than the White House Ruins Trail is accompanied by a local Navajo guide. Tour options include offroad vehicle tours, hiking, and horseback. Choose how intense an experience you want. Hiking, of course, requires time.
Full and Half Day Tours
The most comprehensive way of exploring Canyon de Chelly is to book a full day tour that covers the main attractions of the canyon, along with parts of the neighboring Canyon Del Muerto. If you are hard-pressed for time, opt for the 4-hour tour. To do true justice to Canyon de Chelly, you will need to spend at least one night so you can explore in and around the canyon.
The Navajo guides are excellent and provide a narrative to your surroundings that will transport you back to ancient times of the Anasazi! And the only way to access the Canyon floor is with a guide, so it’s best to get a guide who will not just share the geographical significance, but a historical and cultural perspective to your tour.
Camping in Canyon de Chelly
The park offers camping options for visitors at the Cottonwood campground. There are 90 individual campsites and 2 sites for groups, with each site including parking, a picnic table, and grill There are restrooms at the campground but no shower facilities.
Spider Rock Campground
Spider Rock Campground offers campsites to camp in, along with parking facilities for RVs. If you want a traditional Navajo dwelling experience, rent a cozy traditional Hogan. All hogans feature wood-burning stoves and not much else. If you are looking for creature comforts hogans are not for you but It’s worth the experience. Website.
Another more comfortable accommodation option is the Thunderbird Lodge, located close to the entrance of the park. While far from upscale the Thunderbird Lodge offers visitors comfortable lodging and dining facilities. TV, WiFi, and a reservation Trading Post on site. Located in Chinle, Arizona a short drive from the visitor center. Website.
Getting To Canyon de Chelly National Monument
The canyon is a three-hour drive from Flagstaff or a five-hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona. You can see most of the National Monument’s attractions in one day but plan on spending at least one night in the area. Visit the official website for detailed information and park hours.