Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located near Chinle, AZ. The trail is primarily used for scenic driving and is accessible year-round.
Hiked from Bat Cave Canyon down into Canyon de Chelly. Past Spider Rock and Face Rock. Saw lots of pictographs and petroglyphs, as well as ruins and pottery shards. Wonderful and awe-inspiring. Climbed out at Sliding House Ruins. Kudos to Benjamin, my Navajo guide, who ALSO took me up Canyon del Muerte the next day.
Hiked the White House Trail. Opened my hiking season here this year. It was pretty easy trail made difficult carrying my 2 year old. Hot mid-way and beautiful at the bottom looking up. No pets are allowed so I had to leave my dogs home.
We stopped overnight here at Canyon de Chelly. Awesome views from both sides of the canyon.
After a brief visit at the Painted Desert Visitor Center, we got back on I-40 and headed east to Chambers and took a left on hwy 191 north to Canyon de Chelley at Chinle, with free admission to the park. We traveled above the rim of a 1,000 foot canyon stretching along a flat, green and sandy bottom dotted with hogans (hexagonal structures of logs and earth that Navajos use as both homes and ceremonial centers - one was at the visitor center), cliff dwellings, and red rocks. We took the 16-mile constantly ascending south rim drive with 8 overlooks and dramatic vistas (vs. the 15 mile north rim drive Canyon de Muerto). Near the mouth of the canyon was Tunnel Overlook, where a short narrow canyon feeds into Chinle Wash, which is formed by streams cutting through the canyons of the national monument. The next stop is the Junction Overlook, which overlooks the junction of Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly. Here we saw the Junction Ruin through our binoculars; the ruin has 10 rooms and a kiva. First Ruin, which is perched precariously on a long narrow ledge, was also visible. In this ruin are 22 rooms and two kivas. The third stop is White House Overlook, from which we saw the impressive 80-room White House Ruins, which are among the largest ruins in the canyon. Although we did not hike it, from this overlook is the only opportunity to descend into Canyon de Chelly descending 600 feet to the canyon floor, cross Chinle Wash, and approach the White House Ruins on the White House Trail. The buildings of this ruin were constructed both on the canyon floor and 50 feet up the cliff wall in a small cave. Although you cannot enter the ruins, you can get close enough to get a good look. Unsupervised access is restricted to the rim overlooks and to this single trail into the canyon - for all other trips down or along the canyon, a Navajo escort is required. The 2.5-mile RT hike takes about 2 hours. The black streaks on the sandstone walls above the White House Ruins, known as desert varnish, are formed by seeping water, which reacts with iron in the sandstone (iron is what gives the walls their reddish hue). A well-maintained trail, there are a couple of short tunnels, plenty of cacti and lizards, and the track passes a farm and an orchard before crossing the stream to the Ruins. Near the stream, just before the second tunnel, there is an interesting short cut down a narrow gully, using old foot-holes carved in the sandstone walls. Once at the White House, rest rooms and Indian jewelry sellers detract a little from the experience but the delicate well-preserved buildings beneath the 500-foot sheer cliff are well worth the trip. The fifth stop was Sliding House Overlook. These ruins were built on a narrow shelf and appear to be sliding down into the canyon. Inhabited from about 900 until 1200, Sliding House contained between 30 and 50 rooms. This overlook is already more than 700 feet above the canyon floor, with sheer walls giving the narrow canyon a very foreboding appearance. The last stop on the South Rim was the most spectacular, Spider Rock Overlook. This viewpoint overlooks the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. The monolithic pinnacle rises 800 feet from the canyon floor, its two freestanding towers forming a natural monument. Across the canyon from Spider Rock stands the similarly striking Speaking Rock, which is connected to the far canyon wall. We drove back down the one-way drive to 191 and headed north to the Four Corners Monument. On our way, we saw several dust devils, which are desert tornados and really neat. Looking through Maui Jim sunglasses we could really see the funnels well. A great drive.
On our way back from Mesa Verdi CO to Phoenix AZ, we stopped to view Canyon De Chelly's South Drive. The scenic highlight was Spider Rock at 800' above the canyon floor. We didn't have much time to spend exploring the canyon floor, access was limited to tour groups at the time. Worth the ride.