For a day filled with Native American history, cultural exploration and spectacular scenery, plan a leisurely day trip north toward Chinle, Arizona, on US 191. Chinle is the portal to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Monument region spans an impressive 131 square miles and holds three separate canyonsโ€”del Muerto, de Chelly and the Monumentโ€”situated on Navajo tribal land. Leave early to catch the glorious colors unfolding before your eyes as the sun inches its way into the sky.

The desert vegetation is teeming with flowering cacti, native lupine and hardy shrubbery against the backdrop of plateaus and gentle hills. The further north you travel, expect to see larger trees and the occasional chaparral darting across the road or perched on fence posts.

Self-guided walking/driving tours along the upper rims of Canyon de Chelly provide breathtaking views of the vibrant colors and red rock surfaces (naturally streaked with variegated color) rising above the canyon floorโ€”stretching skyward up to 1000 feet in many places. Exploring the canyon floor is only possible with a National Park ranger or a tribal guide. Expect to see sheer cliffs, Anasazi ruins, modern Navajo farms and more.

Quick Facts

  • Canyon de Chelly is the only National Park operated wholly on Navajo Tribal Trust Lands. Navajo communities farm and live within the Monument.
  • Although Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, the Navajo nation does.
  • Tribal folklore claims a deity known as Spider Woman lived on a prehistoric sandstone monument known today as Spider Rock. The Navajo believe Spider Woman ate ill-mannered children and then bleached their bonesโ€”turning the sandstone white on the apex.
  • Well-preserved pictographs are seen on canyon walls, providing a historic footprint for cliff-dwellers and pueblo occupants of the past. They tell of Spanish conquerors and victorious battles along with births, deaths and diseases of significance to the tribes.

Must See Attractions

  • Hubbell Trading Post near Ganado: The oldest continuously operating trading post of the Navajo nation.
  • Navajo artisans: Watch local natives weaving baskets, blankets and garments at the visitor center.
  • North and South Rim driving tours: Unbelievably beautiful scenery, spectacular colors and diverse desert landscape.
  • Cliff dwellings and ancient ruins like White House.

For a visual preview of the area, click on the link below to watch a video: