Guest Article: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

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A colleague author, Eve Pearce, reached out to me about submitting some content for Drive to Five.  Eve did a great job capturing the highlights of one of Arizona’s top travel destinations in a write-up that she put together.

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “de-SHAY”) National Monument is located 300 miles northeast of the Phoenix area in rural Arizona.  I haven’t yet made it out to Canyon de Chelly, but I did get pretty close on my trip home from Durango in the ILX in May.

Enjoy Eve’s write-up and stay tuned because now I’m itching to make it out to this place soon!  Photos are courtesy of Google Images.

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Road Tripping to Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Of all of the beautiful places to road trip and travel to around Arizona, one of the most scenic is Canyon de Chelly. Within these canyons, the Navajo have lived here for almost 5,000 years surrounded by four distinct sacred mountains. The unique part about this area is that it is made up of Navajo Tribal Trust Land. However, the US National Park Service works closely with the Navajo Nation in order to keep Canyon de Chelly sustainable for both the established community and visitors.

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The Scenic Landscape

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is made up of nearly 84,000 acres and consists of three distinct canyons total. Monument Canyon and Canyon Del Muerto come together with Canyon de Chelly. Along with temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees during the summertime, the floors of the canyons remain flat with walls towering a massive 1,000 feet.

With the sharp changes in elevation, both weather and temperatures can change rapidly while visiting. For instance, during the winter time, temperatures within the canyon can range between 40 and 60 degrees with the possibility of snow showing up in the wintertime and sudden rainstorms in the summer. Because of this, it’s always important to be prepared for any type of weather when visiting.

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The Gorgeous Drives

Road trip to Canyon de Chelly for is an exciting adventure that is unlike anything else you may have experience before. You can do so by traveling off of US Route 191. It is located slightly over an hour north of the town of Chambers and is a 5 hour drive Northeast of Flagstaff. There are both a North and South Rim Drive, which offer majestic views of Puebloan ruins and jaw-dropping canyons. Driving on South Rim Drive leads to views of Spider Rock, two 750 foot spires that are very important to the Navajo people. According to Navajo legend, the taller of the two spires are said to be home to the Spider Woman.

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The Dine’ Tah Scenic Road is also available to drive along and is just over 100 miles long. This road will take around 3 hours to drive one way. The phrase “Dine’ Tah” means “Among the People.” This road gives visitors a much better idea of what life was like in this area many centuries ago. Along with views of art and former dwellings, visitors can check out St. Michael’s Mission, which was one of the first schools in the area for the Navajo. As it stands now, it has a museum with ancient artifacts on display for viewing.

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White House Trail

While visitors do not have to pay to visit the park, most areas are restricted for exploring unless accompanied by a Navajo guide and permit. However, the overlooking views along the rim and White House Trail are free to explore unsupervised. Along this trail, visitors can see amazing ruins that date back to 1200 A.D. Known as the White House Ruins, these are some of the oldest throughout the entire park.

While White House Trail is only a 2 and a half miles long, it is somewhat steep and typically takes visitors between 30 and 60 minutes to make their way down. Despite this difficulty, there is no doubt that the scenery is quite beautiful on the way to the ruins. You will pass an orchard, a farm, cross a stream, and see plenty of cacti and lizards as you descend to the canyon floor.

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Camping at Canyon de Chelly

For visitors looking to extend their stay and camp overnight, there are two options available: Cottonwood Campground and Spider Rock Campground. Although there are two chain hotels located within Chinle, there is nothing quite like going to sleep with the sounds of nature and waking up to the gorgeous sunrise while overlooking the canyon floor down below.

Keep in mind that both campsites vary in terms of what is and is not allowed. For instance, while Cottonwood only features a group area for campfires, Spider Rock has open fire pits at each campsite. The next time you’re looking to road trip around Arizona, it is highly recommended that you travel northeast and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Not only are the views spectacular, but there is plenty of history to be learned and it is a great area to meet and talk to the Navajo people.

– By Eve Pearce

2 Responses to “Guest Article: Canyon de Chelly National Monument”

  1. Tyson, amazingly I’ve never seen this place and it’s only a few hours from my grandpa’s house! I would hope the monument is as gorgeous as those photos. After reading this post, it’s a must see now!

    • Jason, perhaps we could rendezvous at CdC one of these weekends when you’re going to be at your gpa’s place! I’d sure love to see it. I’d hoped to visit it before posting Eve’s article, but this summer got out of control and I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to that area next. Phenomenal scenery, for sure.

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