Corbitt's National Parks
      Canyon de Chelly
                 National Monument


1931: National Monument

Size: 83,840 acres

2012 visitors: 828,523

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

Sheer red cliffs, dramatic narrow canyons, and caves that hide ruins of Native American villages built between AD 350 and 1300 are all part of Canyon de Chelly's attraction. This showcases history of Native Americans from the earliest inhabitants to the Navajos who currently live and work and farm here.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument includes two large canyons, Canyon de Chelly to the south and Canyon del Muerto to the north. Canyon de Chelly (pronounced canyon d'shay) got its name from the Navajo word Tseyi, which means canyon or "in the rock." All this land, although a National Monument, is Navajo land.

What You're Going to See

There's auto touring, camping and hiking in dramatic canyon trails. Jeep touring is available as well, and horseback riding. Meals are available in-park at the Thunderbird Lodge.

There are two rim drives, South and North. Each has its own highlights, and each takes about two hours to complete. The White House Trail, accessed from the South Rim Drive, begins at the White House Overlook and is approximately two and a half miles round trip. The drop from the rim to the canyon floor is about 550 feet, which is moderately strenuous. This is the only trail available for visitors to hike without a permit or a guide.

Visitors will notice the long dark streaks marking the canyon walls. These streaks, called desert varnish, are part of a metabolic process in which microbes living on the canyon walls digest airborne minerals, resulting in stains left from manganese.

Personal Observations

The sheer cliffs are fantastic. I drove to the Ledge Ruin and Antelope House Overlooks, and they are fantastic! How could a river cut the walls straight down like that? Staring down to the canyon floor, I saw a few pickups and 4x4's, monument visitors being led by a Navajo guide. They were tiny.

Getting There

This Monument is in northern Arizona, near the New Mexico border. From I-40, take exit 333 and go north on Highway 191 for about 87 miles to Chinle. The Monument is about 3 miles east of Chinle.

Nearby Attractions

To the south, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is about 35 miles away, and Petrified Forest National Park is about 70 miles away. Navajo National Monument is about 70 miles to the northwest. Natural Bridges National Monument is about 100 miles to the north, in Utah. Four Corners, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet, is about 60 miles to the north. Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park are about 95 miles to the northeast in Colorado. Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument are about 80 miles to the east in New Mexico.

Visited July 2004.