Plan A Canyon De Chelly Trip

National Parks
Oct 2019
View of Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly,Arizona.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo Tribal Nation is one of the most unique natural treasures in Arizona. The Canyon de Chelly hiking opportunities are some of the best in the world. Imagine combining the beauty and scenery of the Grand Canyon with the rich human history of ancient Egypt and you’ll come close to picturing what Canyon de Chelly has to offer. If you want to plan on hiking Canyon de Chelly, you’ll need to know a bit about the area, the famous features, the logistical requirements of hiking there, and Canyon de Chelly tours with a Navajo tour guide.

Hiking Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly’s hiking trails offer a lot to see and discover, but you must have a Navajo guide with you on most hikes. There are many options for Canyon de Chelly tours that will take you hiking below the rim, but most are only day hikes. If you are interested in an overnight hiking tour of Canyon de Chelly, REI Adventures offers an incredible option that camps on the canyon floor for 3 nights, with a Navajo guide to lead you through the entire trip.

Hiking Trails in Canyon de Chelly

The White House Trail to the white house ruins is one of the few trails in Canyon de Chelly that is open for hiking without a Navajo guide. The hike begins at the White House Overlook trailhead and hikers descend from the overlook down the ruins in 1 mile (2+ miles roundtrip). The ruins are of a complex dwelling believed to have been built around the year 1070. It once had nearly 60 rooms and was home to over 50 people. Some of the ruins have been destroyed by weather and natural forces, but excavations have revealed many artifacts and burial sites.

Because most hiking trails in Canyon de Chelly require a guide, many of the best hiking trails are little known. There are opportunities for ranger-led hikes in Canyon de Chelly as well  and these can give you access to other areas. Although many visitors to the canyon enjoy the scenic views of imposing Spider Rock from the canyon’s rim, there are many that miss out on opportunities to hike on the canyon floor or hike up side canyons like Canyon del Muerto. Plan your visit carefully and with the help of a ranger or local guide, and you’ll see a lot more.


Hikers on Canyon de Chelly Hiking Trip.

Hiker in Canyon de Chelly.

History of Canyon de Chelly

The history of Canyon de Chelly is long and rich. People have lived in Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto, and Monument Canyon for some 5,000 years. The ancient Puebloan people known as the Anasazi discovered these canyons to be the perfect home with a climate suited for agriculture, so they and their Hopi descendants lived here for generations. The region is now home to the Dine, or Navajo people, who still live in the canyon and cultivate the land. The most popular hike in Canyon de Chelly, on the white house ruins trail, ends at one of the most famous ancient ruins within the monument.

Canyon de Chelly is a national monument wholly owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust and managed by the Navajo Nation. Of all places within the US national park system, Canyon de Chelly is the only one that is owned and managed cooperatively like this. It is one of the most visited national monuments, but the visitation is still far lower than popular national parks like the Grand Canyon.

White House Ruins Canyon de Chelly NM in Arizona.

Staying at Canyon de Chelly

Most people who visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument stay in the nearby town of Chinle where there are a few different hotel options including the Thunderbird Lodge. This lodge is located just inside the national monument itself.

You can camp at Cottonwood Campground on a first come, first served basis. There are no hookups or showers available at this campground. If you take a guided tourwith us, you will be able to camp in Canyon de Chelly itself on privately owned land through a unique partnership with a Navajo tribal member.

Canyon de Chelly Tours

Hiking isn’t the only way to explore Canyon de Chelly National Monument. There are also options to take horseback riding or jeep tours. Both of these options are good ways to see more of the canyon floor and learn about the history of the native tribes who have lived here and to whom this canyon holds such high importance.

All of the tour providers in the national monument are private companies that must be registered with the Navajo Parks and Recreation department. We contract with a company called Ancient Canyon Tours when operating our 4-day camping trip in Canyon de Chelly. If you are simply looking for a one day guided hike, we recommend making a reservation with this outfit.