The Navajo National Monument in Black Mesa, Arizona (approx 23 miles northeast of Tuba City) consists of three ancestral Puebloan settlements that are nestled among deep canyons. They date back to approx. 1200 AD, although archaeologists have discovered evidence that suggests these canyons have been inhabited for millions of years.
Fair warning, you will need to be in decent shape to get up close and personal with the villages, and you will need to bring your own grub, as there are no catering facilities at the park. However, if you don’t want to go the whole hog and hike through the trails, there are three overlook points with binoculars where you can view settlements from a distance. During the Summer months temperatures can soar in the area, though there are spots along the trails that are in the shade that offer some respite from the searing heat.
You have a number of options available to you, there are two trails whereby you must be accompanied by a ranger, these are 5 and 3 miles return journeys respectively, and the latter while shorter is physically more demanding. These are only open during the Summer Season. Alternatively there are 3 self guided trails that are accessible year round.
A free permit is required to take the guided trails and these are available on a first come, first serve basis. Treks depart daily at 8:15 and 10:00 on two different trails and they are limited to approx. 20 hikers. You will have to book well in advance to secure a spot on one of the guided hikes.
The trails are fantastic and they bring you through various terrains, from desert settings to thick forest where you will encounter local plant life and birds singing and busily going about their business. I highly recommend taking the trail with a ranger as they will impart a treasure trove of fascinating information that touches on cultural and natural history along the hike.
At the visitor center you can watch videos and find a wealth of information relating to this site. Staff as always with the National Park Services are fantastic. Warm, friendly and eager to educate.
If you want to camp out on your visit there are two free sites, Sunset View Campground is open throughout the year and requires no reservation. Canyon View Campground has 17 sites available but is closed off season and sites can be booked for large groups or school field trips. Both sites have rudimentary facilities such as toilets and running water, but there are no showers or hookup points available. Open camp fires are strictly forbidden. Dogs are allowed on site but they must remain on a leash and under control at all times. Unfortunately they are not permitted on the trails.
Admission to the camping grounds, the park and the trails are free of charge. However, permits are required for ranger guided hikes to the settlements and bookings are only accepted by telephone via the details listed below.
The Summer Season commences on May 27 and runs until September 3rd and the visitor center is open 7 days a week from 8:00 until 17:30. Ranger guided trail hikes start at 8:15 and 10:00 each day, the reason these start so early is to avoid the sweltering heat that builds up as the day goes by. Both campsites are opening during the Summer Season.
Ranger guided hikes on the trails are closed for the Winter Season from October 7th until the May Memorial Day weekend. The visitor center remains open daily and only one camp site (Sunset View) is open throughout the year. There are 3 self guided trails that are accessible year round.