Navajo National Monument – Canyon de Chelly – Monument Valley

We are now entering the Navajo Nation portion of our trip. Our first stop was at Navajo National Monument where we spent the night at Sunset View campground. Their campgrounds are free they are on a first come basis and flush toilets are available. We arrived late so we just set up camp, had dinner then went for a walk around the campground. During our walk we met the man who was in Darryl’s “morning kayaker” photo the previous morning at Lake Powell. It’s a small world!

The following morning we decided to stop in at the visitor center to inquire about their guided tours to see the Betatakin ruins which are only accessible with a Navajo guide. Unfortunately, we arrived two weeks too early since their tours don’t start until Memorial Day weekend. But we were able to hike the three relatively short rim trails (Sandal Trail, Aspen Trail and Canyon View Trail) to enjoy the views of the canyons and get a peak of the ruins from the Sandal Trail.IMG_0947

A closer view of the Betatakin ruins.
A closer view of the Betatakin ruins.

These ruins were occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan people dated back to 1250-1300. It is thought that up to 150 people were living here at its peak. The reason for their departure is unknown.

Hiking here is a beautiful and solitary affair. We shared the trail with only one other person. It was nice to be away from the crowds in Lake Powell and enjoy the peace within the canyons.

View from Canyon Overlook trail.
Canyon View Trail
View of the ancient aspen forest from the Aspen Trail.
View of the ancient aspen forest from the Aspen Trail.

After our morning hike in Navajo National Monument we drove to Canyon de Chelley National Monument. We took in the views from the lookout points along the canyon rim as we drove to our next camp site at Spider Rock Campground.

Valley of Canyon de Chelly
Valley of Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock is a family owned campground at the far end of South Rim Drive, 10 miles south of the visitor center. I had my first taste of fry bread made by Howard’s grandchildren (Howard is the owner). The fry bread was ok but then again, I’m not a huge fan of bread of any kind so you should try it for yourself if you have a chance. The facilities are quite rustic but there are bathrooms and solar heated showers available.

We hired a Navajo guide to take us on a tour through the canyon on the following day. All visitors into the canyon must be accompanied by a licensed Navajo guide. Tully Yaazi, our guide, grew up in the canyons and he still farms a small ranch in the canyon. He shared with us stories about life in the canyon as he drove us through the canyon to get a closer view of the ruins and the petroglyphs and pictoglyphs that could be found throughout.

"First Ruin"
“First Ruin”

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White House ruin

 

Antelope ruins named for the pictographs of antelope at this site.
Antelope ruins named for the pictographs of antelope at this site.
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Antelope pictographs that gave Antelope Ruins its name.

 

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Named “Newspaper Rock” because different styles of petroglyphs are present spanning hundreds of years.

After our tour with Tully I had just enough time to take another tour of the canyon but this time on a horse! I was lucky enough to ride this beautiful mustang named Sherman. It was basically a private tour just to “First Ruin”. Riding through the canyon on horseback was a wonderfully peaceful way to experience the canyon.

Sherman and me exploring Canyon de Chelly together.
Sherman and me exploring Canyon de Chelly together.

Our next stop on our Navajo Nation tour was Monument Valley. I have looked forward to this day for many years! I loved driving through the valley and photographing these massive monoliths. If we come back through we will definitely stay in one of the campsites within the valley to have it to ourselves rather than sharing the roads with a couple hundred other tourists. DSC01434

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Our last view of the valley.

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