Canyon de Chelly is a Navajo nation managed National Monument located in Northeastern Arizona. There are many spectacular places in and around Utah, Arizona and New Mexico with unique sandstone buttes, red deserts and rock formations. But Canyon de Chelly stands out with its culture rich Navajo people and their native lores. For more than 5000 years, people have lived in these canyons, cliff dwellings by raising livestock and farming. Ancestral Publoneans were the first tribe to live here before Navajo natives. Now, Navajo families still reside here by managing the monument, preserving their culture and ancestry remains.
Read more about their history and culture here.
What to do in Canyon de Chelly?
The whole monument is about 83,840 acres with the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. The entry to the park is absolutely free. There are two rim roads namely ” North Rim” and ” South rim”, which has access to about 10 overlooks with awesome views of the canyon below. Just grab a map from the visitor center and get going on your self guided scenic drive. You will only need a day to complete all of them. But, if you want to experience the canyon floors, then you have to take a tour by hiring an authorized guide. You can either hike, take horse back or vehicle ride.
The famous “Spider Rock”
This is the last and best point in the South Rim Drive that you should not miss. You might have seen this place in many western movies and commercials. If fact, we chose to visit this place after watching the 1960’s movie “Mackenna’s Gold”. Its a 750 ft high red sandstone spire formation that began 230 million years ago. It gloriously stands as the last remnant of the stream and hillslope erosion process that continue to make the canyons deeper and wider.
According to native lores, the spire was the home of “Spider woman” who had supernatural powers and was the protector of Navajo people. It is believed that she was the one who taught them to survive, fight and the art of weaving.
White house overlook
From this overlook you can see the White house ruins at a far distance. If you want to get a closer look, then take a 1.5mile hike down to the canyon’s floor through a marked trail. But ruins are fenced to preserve the structure. So, you wont be able to take inside look of the ruins.
Other Overlooks in South Rim & North Rim
For each overlook, you have to walk less than quarter mile form parking area to reach the points. Below are some pictures.
Sliding house overlook
Lodging & Camping
Can camp at cottonwood campground for a fee. There is no shower or hookups. But the sites seemed clean and paved.
Or stay at the only hotel “Thunderbird lodge” in Canyon de chelly. This historic hotel is owned and run by the local Navajo people. Rooms are nice, clean and comfortable. They also have a souvenir/gift shop with lots of native artifacts and craft.
- For best photographs, visit afternoon. Avoid cloudy days.
- Don’t miss the Spider rock.
- Be very careful when you are at the edge of the cliffs.
- Some of the house ruins are a little hard to find from the overlook point since they are too far and tiny. Also, there are no interpretive signs or markings. So, recommend you to have a binocular or a zoom-able camera lens to find. We used 70-300 mm lens to capture close ups.