Keet Seel Trail is a 15.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Shonto, AZ and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and backpacking and is accessible from May until September.
Make sure you take a lot of water with you - 8 liters or more is recommended as running out can be very dangerous. Backcountry permits are required for both day and overnight hikers to Keet Seel, with a limit of 20 hikers per day.
This trail is certainly challenging but worth the experience.
Ive hiked in almost every state in the USA, and this is one of the most memorable hikes Ive ever done.
I decided to do this trail as a solo, one-day hike. There is an option to take the hike in two days if you decide to camp near the ruins. Another option is a one-day horseback ride. Every one of the 20 people going that day, except for me, went on horseback.
The trail follows the old Tsegi Road for about 1.5 miles to Tsegi Point. Make sure you stop and look out over the canyons at this point. The vistas here are vast. You can even see Navajo Mountain far off on the distant horizon. Then the trail turns right (south) and drops around 1000 feet into the confluence of Tsegi and and Batatakin Canyons.
Most of the rest of the trip follows a maze of sandy canyon floors. For most of the last 5.5 miles of the hike youll be walking in an inch or two of water down Keet Seel Canyon, so be prepared to get your feet wet.
Walking in the canyon is a surreal experience. Majestic red, yellow, and pink, cliffs rise far above your head. Birds of prey soar overhead and wild life abounds. During my visit I heard what sounded like horses galloping towards me. Sure enough, three wild mustangs came charging around a bend in the canyon, their hoofs splashing the shallow water into the air. One passed by on my left and two on my right.
Finally, theres the Keet Seel Ruin itself. The size, shape, and location of the alcove in which this magnificent ancient city lies makes Keet Seel one of the best preserved large ruins in the USA. A ranger is there waiting to take small groups on a tour through the ruin. I found it fascinating that there were 450 year old ears of corn still and pottery still laying on the floor of the place.
1. Make sure you take a lot of water with you. I took 5 quarts and ran out of water for the last couple of miles on the way back. It was very dangerous. I experienced the beginnings of heat exhaustionsomething I never want to experience again!
2. Backcountry permits are required for both day and overnight hikers to Keet Seel, with a limit of 20 hikers per day, and the trail is fairly long (about 18 miles round trip). The combination of few people and long distances really gives you a feel that youre in one of the remotest areas of the Southwest, and indeed you are.