“I’m swimming in the wind,” my daughter shouts over the gust that whips across the top of the mesa on which we’re standing. Canyon de Chelly National Monument is the landscape around us, but the Four Corners spring winds are the dominant feature as we hold on to hats and jackets swirl like capes. It’s a warm wind adding to the fun of exploring a place of beauty in a land of history.
About 800 feet below us is the Sliding House Ruin. This ancestral pueblo, built, occupied and abandoned before Europeans came to the area, is aptly named. While some of the village walls stand in the shelter of the overhanging cliff, other portions are sliding down the sandstone ravaged by the elements.
Sliding House is one of seven ancestral pueblos viewable from canyon rim overlooks along the North and South Rim roads. The Rim road driving tours will keep family members hopping in and out of the car anxious to see what surprises lie at the base of the canyon walls. With four overlooks at pueblos and the massacre site, active homesteads of Navajo tribal members, with hogans and sheep pens can also been seen. Deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is sacred ground for the Navajo and Pueblo cultures. Unless accompanied by a Navajo guide approved by the National Park Service, access from the rim is limited to the overlooks on both rims.
One pueblo, however, the White House – named for its white-washed walls – can be viewed in the canyon on a short, steep hike from the rim. This is the only public access to the canyon, and families are limited to the White House ruin. Although the trail is steep, it is an easy hike for most children. There are places to rest and shade along the switchbacks to the canyon floor. One feature my daughter loved was the fact that there is a tunnel through on the trail. The 50-foot long carving through the sandstone is dark and cool on a hot summer day.
The cliff-based pueblo is set for viewing, but access into the White House is not permitted. The signature white mud walls are clearly visible. If planning to visit all ten overlooks – four on the north and six on the south – and hike to White House, a full day at the Monument is needed. Another option is to take a guided tour into the canyon. Navajo guides will accompany you in your vehicle for a private tour. There are group tours by licensed vendors as well. These half and full day tours often include meals and take in locations, such as Tunnel Rock, not visible from the canyon rim.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument has a rustic lodge inside the park boundaries. The Thunderbird Lodge is situated at the entrance to the canyon. It also is the supply center for the adjoining Cottonwood Campground. The Park Service campground is free and has potable water but no showers. It’s filled as campers arrive. There are no reservations. There are both Best Western and Holiday Inn motels in the adjoining town, Chinle, and the Spider Rock private campground is located across from the Spider Rock overlook.
Also see Part 1, Canyon de Chelly: Breathtaking and Holy
Also keep in mind:
Other places nearby include Monument Valley Tribal Park. See the three-part series:
Monument Valley Part 2: Seventeen Miles – Go in Beauty
Monument Valley Part 3: Visiting the Four Corners
And read on TravelingMom.com