Welcome to Tuba City, situated within the colorful badlands of the Painted Desert and on the western edge of the Navajo Nation.
Tuba City's American Indian heritage shines at its two local history museums and a popular trading post. Located north of Flagstaff and 50 miles east of the Grand Canyon, the area's vast desert features the majestic Painted Desert, a remote canyon and 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks.
All in a name
As the largest community on the Navajo Nation, Tuba City also has a small Hopi population since it shares a border with two Hopi villages, the Upper and Lower Villages of Moenkopi. In fact, it was a Hopi leader named Tuvi who inspired the town's name when Mormons settled in the area during the 1870s. They befriended Tuvi, but had trouble pronouncing his name, hence "Tuvi" becoming "Tuba." The Navajo (or Diné), who have inhabited the area since the 1890s, refer to their home as Tó Nanees’dizí, which means "tangled waters" because of underground springs that feed several reservoirs.
Tuba City attractions
Three Navajo community centers are steeped in cultural significance. Tuba City Trading Post, circa 1906, has always been a place to buy and sell goods. Today, you can purchase directly from artisans selling authentic handmade arts and crafts, such as jewelry, textiles, pottery, Kachina dolls and clothing. Located in the same building, the Navajo Code Talkers Museum encourages visitors to learn how Navajo code talkers were essential to Allied victory in World War II, during which they used their traditional language to transmit coded messages. Next door, the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum features exhibits about Navajo land, language, history and ceremonial life, as well as a life-size hogan (home) and hands-on weaving and basket-making displays.
The Painted Desert's colorfully layered columns, mesas and rolling hills span some 150 miles across Tuba City and northern Arizona. It's part of Petrified Forest National Park, about two hours southeast from Tuba City, so plan a day trip for further exploration. Another striking place, with colorful formations and towering hoodoos, is the remote ravine Coal Mine Canyon, which sits at the edge of the Painted Desert. Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks, outside of Tuba City, contains actual footsteps of creatures who roamed during the Jurassic Age some 200 million years ago—and visitors are allowed to walk on them!
Please remember to adhere to tribal rules and regulations while visiting Navajo Nation, and always respect the privacy and customs of the Navajo people.