By Mike Koopsen
Canyon de Chelly National Monument has a wonderful assortment of ancient cliff dwellings that can be seen from a number of overlooks both on the South Rim drive and on the North Rim drive, which looks over Canyon del Muerto. Many visitors choose to take a guided tour into the canyons to see the buildings up close, since to enter the canyons by foot or car you must be with an authorized Navajo guide. However, there is one trail that you are allowed to hike into Canyon de Chelly unescorted, and that is the trail to White House Ruin. The structures are very impressive, one of my personal favorites in the American Southwest, and the hike is only three miles or so round trip.
Another overlook along the South Rim drive that I highly recommend is the Spider Rock overlook. It is a short walk to the viewpoint which has an awe-inspiring view of the canyon, as well as of the Spider Rock monolith that rises 800 feet from the canyon floor.
Editor’s Note: This is a perfect weekend to visit the Navajo Nation. Not only can you explore Canyon de Chelly, but you can experience Navajo lifeways at the Sheep is Life celebration on Friday and Saturday in Tsaile, a short drive east from Canyon de Chelly. It’s two days of workshops and food including the Navajo Churro Sheep Show and Wool Show, fiber arts demonstrations, butchery and traditional foods, arts and crafts, and cultural presentations. Sounds like the perfect place to escape the desert heat!
Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.