By Mike Koopsen
The Navajo National Monument has two of the most impressive and well preserved Native American cliff dwellings that I have seen in the American Southwest. The Betatakin ruins can be seen from a distance after a short walk from the visitor center or on a ranger-led hiking tour into the beautiful Tsegi Canyon. This guided hike is limited to 25 permits per tour and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The five-mile round-trip hike can be a real challenge for some since you are descending over 700 feet into the canyon on the way to the ruin and then have to hike back after your visit there. Remember to bring plenty of water and snacks.
Keet Seel is the other ancestral pueblo that is accessible by hiking trail. Twenty permits a day are available for overnight campers or for day hikers. Advanced reservations and a backcountry permit are required for this hike. But unlike the Betatakin tour this is a self-guided hike. In addition, a short pre-hike orientation is mandatory the day before your 17-mile round-trip hike. This hike is usually only available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Once you arrive at the site you need to contact the backcountry ranger who will then lead you on a guided tour. The buildings can easily be seen from below but you do have to climb up a steep ladder to access the pueblo. The magnificence of this village is unbelievable and it is a real adventure to visit this awesome area.
Mike Koopsen of Trails Traveled Photography lives in Sedona. See more of his work here.