5 May
2016
Posted in: travel
By    Comments Off on Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly

Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016.

If there’s a theme to our vacations, besides national parks, it’s canyons. There’s not a canyon rim hike we haven’t enjoyed, from the Grand Canyon to Canyonlands to Yellowstone. We love the views across a canyon and peering into the depths below. We’ve watched videos and viewed displays at several visitor centers explaining the natural wonder of canyons.

Canyon de Chelly intersections of canyons

Several days before we visited Grand Canyon National Park over spring break, we stopped at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northern Arizona. I didn’t know much about Canyon de Chelly before visiting except that it could be easily visited on our driving route. Canyon de Chelly is stunning and rich in Navajo history.

Canyon de Chelly rim view

The area has been occupied for almost 5,000 years, and the 84,000 acres of monument land are all part of the Navajo Nation. There are families who live on the land, and private houses are on both rim drives. Canyon de Chelly features several hiking trails as well as options for guided tours in the bottom of the canyon. Guided tours are available for a fee from authorized guides.

Canyon de Chelly rim view

cliff dwelling ruins in Canyon de Chelly

The monument has two major canyons to explore: Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly. Several trails lead to overlooks featuring ruins. We hiked in both canyons. Mummy Cave Overlook was our favorite hike in the monument. I think our boys were drawn to the hike by the name and the hope they would find a mummy at the end of the trail. There are no mummies, but the trail leads to the overlook for one of the larger Puebloan ruins which was occupied until 1300. There are no bad views at Canyon de Chelly. Every rim overlook is beautiful in it’s own unique way.

Spider Rock at Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly has seven overlooks along the South Rim Drive, all with slightly different angles to view the canyon. Our favorite spot at the monument is at the end of South Rim Drive, Spider Rock. This was THE spot a park ranger told us to place at the top of our list while at the monument. Always trust a park ranger. Spider Rock is a sandstone spire towering 800-feet above the canyon floor. The view is everything one could hope for from a canyon rim.

White House ruins at Canyon de Chelly

White House Trail is a 2.5 mile round trip trail leading down into the canyon for a closeup view of cliff dwellings. It’s the only trail into the canyon that doesn’t require a guide. We had good intentions to hike this trail until falling snow and 30-degree temperatures thwarted those plans. So much for the hopes of warm temperatures on spring break. The weather didn’t stop us from short hikes at rim overlooks to enjoy the beauty of Canyon de Chelly. The short hikes satisfied our adventuresome spirit and gave us a solid understanding of the monument.

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