Canyon de Chelly is a sort of miniature version of the Grand Canyon, and it can be found in the same general region in northern Arizona. You'll have to head east of the Grand Canyon and into the Navajo Nation to find the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and stopping for a look is definitely recommended when in the area. In addition to some fascinating Native American ruins, the 113-square-mile Canyon de Chelly Park has stunning natural vistas galore. Three main canyons can be found within the Canyon de Chelly National Monument area, and they were all cut out by streams. Wind has helped to shape the various canyon features, the most renowned of which is Spider Rock.
The main geologic feature at Canyon de Chelly is Spider Rock, and you can view this 800-foot sandstone tower from the South Rim Drive. The other main access road in the park is the North Rim Drive, and it too offers fantastic views of the canyon and its environs for those who are up for some sightseeing. Both of these paved drives start at the Visitor Center, and while exploring them, it will be possible to stop at various overlooks to take it all in. This is prime desert terrain, at least in terms of natural beauty, and stunning views are in good supply regardless of the vantage point.
A number of ancient ruins mix with the geologic structures at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, with the White House Ruin being the most famous. There is a White House Ruin overlook on the public hiking trail for some great hiking at Canyon de Chelly. This overlook provides excellent views of these ancient Indian dwellings that are carved right out of the canyon walls. Unless you book a special hiking tour, the public trail is the only trail that can be used for non-guided hikes in the park. It takes about two hours to hike the 600 feet down to the White House Ruins and back.
In addition to taking scenic driving tours and doing some hiking on the public trail, visitors to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument can also go horseback riding. The Canyon de Chelly horseback riding tours, as is true of the hiking tours, are provided by local companies and guides who are part of the Navajo Nation. The backcountry tours are most ideal for those who truly want to explore this dazzling canyon region, and while the permits for these tours are free, you will have to hire a guide. Getting back to the Canyon de Chelly horseback riding tours, they can be enjoyed year round and can last anywhere from a couple of hours to the better part of a day.
The Canyon de Chelly tours come in many different forms, so finding one that suits your wants and needs shouldn't be hard. In addition to a Canyon de Chelly horseback riding tour or hiking tour, visitors can also arrange a bus tour or a tour in a 4X4 vehicle. Some of the 4X4 vehicles feature open tops for maximum viewing pleasure. For those who want to enjoy the full experience at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, booking an overnight tour is arguably the way to go. Masterful Native American storytellers weave some dazzling tales once camp is set up on these overnight tours, and special packages that include traditional dining experiences are available.
Should the Canyon de Chelly figure on your Arizona vacation itinerary, there are a few things to consider when planning a visit. While this monument can be found entirely on Navajo Tribal Trust Land, all park matters are handled by the US National Park Service. No admission fee is charged to enjoy the canyon area, though you will have to pay to enjoy one of the guided tours. Once you enter the boundaries of the Canyon de Chelly National Mounument, it is especially important to remember that roaming about freely is restricted. In fact, you can not enter into the canyon or access the canyon floor if you are not accompanied by a private Navajo guide or a park ranger.
The Visitor Center at Canyon de Chelly is open daily between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., save for Christmas Day. It is possible to drive along the North Rim and South Rim drives throughout the year, and you won't need a 4X4 vehicle to do it. Before you take a scenic drive or embark on a tour of some kind at the Canyon de Chelly Monument, spending some time at the Visitor Center is recommended. In addition to a small museum, the Visitor Center boasts a convenient information desk. Among other things, the staff at this desk can provide visitors with maps and camping tips.
The Cottonwood Campground at Canyon de Chelly has first-come, first-serve sites that feature a grill, a picnic table, a spot for a tent, and a parking space. Special group sites can be reserved in advance, and while there are some RV sites, they can only accommodate vehicles that are 40 feet long or less. Some of the regional towns, such as Holbrook, offer more complete campgrounds with full RV hookups, not to mention hotels for those who are looking for area lodging of a different sort.