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Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Known for steep canyon walls dotted with greenery and hundreds of ancient pueblo ruins, Canyon de Chelly reflects one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America. Distinctive architecture, artifacts and rock imagery are all remarkably preserved, providing a peek into the lives of the canyon’s earliest inhabitants. Today, a Navajo Indian community still inhabits the canyon floor, herding sheep during the summer months.
History & Nature
Several hundred prehistoric ruins can be found throughout Canyon de Chelly. Built between 350 and 1300 A.D, these dwellings were once inhabited by the Ancient Puebloan People once called Anasazi. In the 1700s, Navajo Indians began to make their way west from northern New Mexico, eventually settling in Canyon de Chelly. Designated as a National Monument in 1931, today Canyon de Chelly is the only National Park Service site to be completely located within the Navajo Nation.
Replete with picturesque vistas of rocky outcroppings and dry riverbeds, Canyon de Chelly’s most distinctive geological feature is Spider Rock – a sandstone spire similar to those that dominate the landscape in nearby Monument Valley – which rises from the canyon floor.
Things to Do
Start your exploration at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument Visitor Center, where you can learn about the area and the Navajo people’s customary Hogan house. Two drives follow the rims of the canyon from the visitor center, and these are the only drives allowed without a guide.
If you have some time to explore, don’t miss the well-preserved Puebloan ruins nestled in the 1,000-foot-tall rock walls, accessible only via guided tour. With your guide, you can drive through the Chinle Wash to view the scattered settlements and ancient ruins of the canyon. At the end of the South Rim Drive, you will come to the popular overlook of Spider Rock.
While most hiking requires a guide, you can explore the White House Ruin trail on your own. However, know that most visits to the canyon floor require accompaniment by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide.
Hotels, Lodging & Camping
Located in Northern Arizona, there are plenty of overnight accommodations at nearby Flagstaff hotels, as well as at Chinle and Tuba City. A free campground is also available within Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Call the park for details on amenities, restrictions and availability.