Canyon de Chelly is located in Colorado on a section of the Navajo Nation. The stunning monument is enclosed by looming sandstone walls that tower 1,000 feet into the sky. Once the home of the Ancient Pueblo people, the canyon is filled with well-preserved cliff dwellings and famous landmarks like the Spider Rock. A trip to Canyon de Chelly is a serene and rejuvenating experience bound to impress with its authentic, majestic beauty.
Canyon de Chelly’s name, pronounced “Canyon de-shay,” came from the mispronunciation of “Tseyi” (“say-ee”) the Navajo word for canyon. The canyon became a National Monument in 1931 when President Hoover sought to preserve the archeological resources. The canyon’s colorful walls were carved by rivers and land uplifts over the course of millions of years. Today, they continue to remind us of its glorious past. The canyon’s rich history is displayed through curving walls, scenic outlooks, and ancient ruins scattered across the land. Canyon de Chelly is currently occupied by the Navajo who tend to their fields and orchards, preserving and protecting this magnificent landmark. Currently, about 40 families live within the park.
In partnership with The National Park Service, the Navajo manage the park and protect its resources. Years ago, the Ancient Puebloans thrived in Canyon de Chelly, the lands fertile and filled with crops. Later, the Hopi Indians came to the canyon and made their home inside its walls. The Navajo have occupied the canyon for the last 300 years. They raise livestock and continue to farm the canyon’s fertile valley floor. Many Navajo companies also offer tours of the canyon floor by horseback, hiking or Jeeps.
Canyon de Chelly offers numerous special events throughout the year- some of them completely free! Come to Canyon de Chelly during Archeology month in March to check out their free hikes and tours! Or why not celebrate National Park Week at the canyon? From April 18-26, there will be clean up along all of the trails as well as the clean up of an illegal dumpsite. There are also special events going on for Treaty Day, Founder’s Day, Public Lands Day, and Native American Heritage Month. Not to mention a Halloween costume contest in October!
Go for the run of your life through Canyon de Chelly during the 55K Ultra, held there this October. Held in one of the Navajo’s most deeply spiritual locations, the run offers the opportunity to experience Navajo distance running as the art of celebrating life. The Navajo treat running as a form of prayer, running across the grounds as the sun rises into the sky and light pours over the canyon walls. All proceeds go to local Native American runners.
South Rim Drive
Take in all the breathtaking sights of the South Rim Drive! Enjoy exquisite views of the deep blue skies and the fiery sandstone walls of the canyon from atop some of the finest overlooks in the Southwest. Bring some cash with you, because you’ll find locals selling beautiful, handcrafted art, jewelry and pottery along the drive.
Don’t miss the Spider Rock Overlook, a favored location at Canyon de Chelly. Spider Rock, the most famous landmark in Canyon de Chelly, features an 800-foot rock tower that is of great significance to the Navajo. According to legend, the Spider Woman lives atop the rocks where she hordes the bones of her victims.
The ruins of ancient Anasazi Indian villages remain in some parts of Canyon de Chelly. Around 1100 A.D. the Anasazi built cliff dwellings into the sides of the canyon walls as well as inside caves. Astounding and magnificent, the ruins are left over from an ancient culture that breathed life into the canyon.
White House Ruin
Another spectacular trail that can’t be missed is the White House Trail! Filled with short, dark tunnels, slimy lizards this trail leads straight to the White House Ruins, some of the oldest in the canyon. To get to the bottom of the steep, rocky one-mile trail, you must use foothold to climb down a short gully.
Located high up on a cliff face, the Mummy Cave Ruins have over 75 rooms, making it one of the largest cliff dwellings in Canyon de Chelly. Best seen from Viewpoints on the North Rim Drive, the Mummy Cave Overlook offers a spectacular view of the valley.
The Antelope House Ruin is named after the Anasazi painting of antelopes grazing on a nearby cliff. A true spectacle to behold, the complex once consisted of almost 100 rooms, standing at four stories tall. Many of the walls are covered in decorative designs and ancient paintings.
Where to Stay
Come to stay at the Thunderbird Lodge, located right outside the canyon. Built on the site of a former trading post, the lodge serves traditional Native American cuisine in addition to modern dining and is beautifully decorated with Navajo rugs and artwork.
The Best Western Canyon de Chelly Inn, located just 4 miles from the canyon. Enjoy a leisurely stay in one of their Southwestern-style rooms, and be sure to check out the gift shop, filled with fine Indian Artwork!
Canyon de Chelly offers a magical getaway amidst the ruins of an ancient civilization. An immensely spiritual location, the national park is filled with breathtaking views and beautifully preserved cliff dwellings. A trip to Canyon de Chelly is an experience you won’t ever forget!