Photos of Keet Seel Trail

DISTANCE
14.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,768 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

camping

hiking

trail running

historic site

no dogs

backpacking
5 months ago

I couldn't recommend this hike strongly enough. We feel privileged to have been selected for one of the limited number of permits issued each year to hike into Keet Seel. The hike was recently selected by Arizona Highways as the hike of the month, which will only serve to increase the demand for permits.

Our party of 4 decided to do the hike in 2 days vs a single day so we could take our time and fully enjoy the surroundings and exploring the Keet Seel cliff dwellings. We opted to stay at the Monument's camp grounds the night before we hiked into the canyon so that we could get an early start while the air was still cool.

I would rate the difficulty of this hike somewhere between moderate and hard. Hard, primarily because of the amount of water you are required to carry and having to traverse thru so much sand. We carried 7 liters of water each into the canyon. We cache about 1/3rd of our water near the first marker once we were in the canyon so it would be available for the climb out. This worked well for us, and we never ran out of water. I would strongly discourage anyone from considering filtering their water. Cattle and feral horse droppings quite literally line the stream bottom. In fact, it's virtually impossible to avoid walking thru it.

For shoes I would recommend "WATERPROOF" hikers or trail runners, preferably medium height. You could also consider low gaiters if you prefer low shoes. I definitely would not recommend trail runners that are not waterproof unless you like to remove you shoes every couple miles to dump out the copious amounts of fine sand that will filter into your shoes. Your shoes will get wet as you will be continuously crossing the shallow stream bed. Luckily the Arizona sun will dry your shoes quickly once you get the camping area.

The camping area near the cliff dwellings is a beautiful spot, surrounded by fencing to keep the cattle and horses from entering the area. The composting toilets are clean and well kept with virtually no smell.

I would highly recommend this backpacking experience. Especially if you enjoy beautiful/remote locations, star filled night skies w/ virtually no light pollution, and some of the most incredible ancient cliff dwellings to found anywhere. Remember your hats, sunscreen and insect repellent.