Things to do
Experience Canyon De Chelly
Visitors to Canyon De Chelly National Monument “experience” this powerful place with its rugged beauty, history and Navajo culture. Self-Guided tours take visitors for a drive along the north and south rim roads for spectacular views from the overlooks, and a hike leads tourists to the White House Ruins. But, for the true “experience,” Navajo guided tours on horseback or in heavy-duty jeeps are a must. An overnight stay at Thunderbird Lodge and delicious food in the restaurant and shopping in the trading post adds to the lasting memories. The Canyon De Chelly experience takes tourists on an exploration through the canyon bottom in the midst of the Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs where you will even see Navajo dwellers of the canyon floor who raise livestock and farm the land. The towering monolith of Spider Rock is viewed from below – this spot the center of the Navajo universe is steeped in stories and Navajo traditions and the lore of the Spider Woman. Within the 84,000 acre monument, Canyon De Chelly has experiences eons of existence, even today Navajo residents continue to dwell in the canyon and raise livestock and farm the land.
Visitor Center – The National Park Service offers a world of information, interpretive programs and a museum of the history of Canyon De Chelly. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, a variety of interesting daily activities and programs are offered.
North Rim Drive – Four overlooks give visitors unique views and spectacular sights, including Ledge Ruin, Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave. At Antelope House Overlook, visitors are able to follow a rugged trail and see antelope art work, and view the Antelope House Ruins, which were abandoned around 1260.
South Rim Drive – As the drive climbs higher above the canyon floor, Tunnel and Tsegi Overlooks takes visitors on to Junction Overlook where Canyon De Chelly and Canyon Del Muerto meet where kivas and ruins can be seen along the curving cliff walls. From White House overlook, visitors can take a 2-hour round trip hike down to the site. Visitors are advised to carry water, stay on the trail and respect Navajo residents of the canyon. Sliding Rock, Face Rock, Spider Rock and Speaking Rock overlooks nearly dizzying views of the sights.
Navajo Guided Tours – Access to the canyon floor is restricted to guided tours. Experienced Navajo tour guides give visitors the true “Canyon De Chelly experience”. Navajo guides can put together the perfect tour package to best suit the needs of visitors. These Navajo tour guides offer a unique perspective on the history and culture significance of the canyon. A list of tour providers is available at the Thunderbird Loge and the Visitors Center.
Other Places to Visit
Only an hour-and-a-half drive from Canyon De Chelly, Monument Valley is a showcase of spectacular scenery and a sacred place to the Navajo people. For many years, Monument Valley has been an attraction for millions of people from around the world and a setting for scores of movies. This magnificent landscape makes for a wondrous experience.
Historical Hubbell Trading Post
The squeaky wooden floor greets your entry into the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. When your eyes adjust to the dim light in the “bullpen” you find you’ve just entered a mercantile. Hubbell’s has been serving Ganado selling groceries, grain, hardware, horse tack, coffee and Native American Art since 1878. Discover Hubbell Trading Post NHS, where history is made every day.
Four Corners National Monument
A unique sight, Four Corners is the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point—Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The original marker, erected in 1912, was a simple cement pad, but has since been replaced with a granite and brass monument. Many photos are taken of visitors lying on the center point with arms and legs touching each of the four states. Four Corners is located ½ mile from the junction of Highways 160 and 41 – open year round, Four Corners features a demonstration center with Navajo artisans, Navajo jewelry and crafts vendors and traditional Navajo food. A remote area, picnic tables and self-contained restrooms are available, but there is no running water or electricity. Other services are located in a 30-mile radius. It is recommended to bring water and snacks.
Window Rock Tribal Park & Veterans’ Memorial
The small park near the Navajo Nation Administration Center features the graceful red sandstone arch for which the capital is named – Window Rock. At this location, the Navajos built a Veterans’ Memorial to honor the many Navajos that served in the U.S. Military – many of whom are recognized in the annals of history for their role as Code Talkers in WWII. Code Talkers used their language to create a code that was never broken by the enemy, and historians credit the Navajo Code Talkers for helping to win WWII.
Navajo Nation Council Chambers
The hub of leadership for the Navajo Nation government, there are 24 council delegates representing 110 Navajo communities, known as Navajo Nation Chapters. The delegates discuss issues and enact legislation to determine the future on the Navajo people. While council is in session, visitors will hear the delegates carry on the tradition of speaking Navajo, providing an example of how the Navajo Nation remains is valuable cultural heritage while forging ahead with modern progress.
Navajo Nation Museum, Library & Visitors Center
The Museum is a contemporary 54,000 sq. ft. building which also houses the Navajo Nation Library and conference/meeting facilities. It holds an extensive collection of archival material—including 40,000 photographs—that documents the culture and history of the Navajo people, as well as art, ethnographic and archeological material, including documents, recordings, film and videos. This material is available for on-site study and is used by many researchers and authors.With an active exhibition program, the Museum highlights the work of Navajo artisans in various media, including weaving in its ever-changing exhibits. Another important aspect of the Museum focuses on their cultural education program. This important program provides in-house and in-school programs for teaching Navajo culture to K-12 youth on the reservation.
Navajo Nation Botanical and Zoological Park
The only tribal zoo in America, the Navajo Nation Botanical and Zoological Park is a sanctuary for nature and the spirit. Animals reside in natural habitats, surrounded by native vegetation and scenery. Most of the animals are indigenous to the Navajo Nation and part of the zoo’s dedication to exhibit animals and plants important in Navajo history and culture. There are about 30 species of wild animals, including cats and birds of prey, reptiles, coyotes, bear and many more. Many animals are received as orphans—generally, wild animals are not bred at the zoo. For visitors interested in seeing the zoo’s large mammals, remember that they are most active in the morning hours.
Navajo National Monument
Step back in time, and capture a glimpse of Arizona’s two largest ruins—Betatakin and Kiet Seel, and see how the ancient ones lived more than 900 years ago. Beautifully preserved ruins can be seen from the Betatakin Overlook. Navajo National Monument is operated by the National Park Service and has a modern visitor center and campground. On the grounds, replicas of ancient hogans and sweat lodges can be seen. Full day hikes are available to both the Betatakin and Kiet Seel sites, located off U.S. 160 at the end of Hwy 564. Admission is free. The park is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., closed on holidays.