Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, Arizona is a national monument where Navajo families still reside to this day. For this reason access is somewhat restricted.
The site features breath taking picturesque Western scenery. To the Navajo these lands represent a rich cultural history that tells a tale of struggle and survival against the odds. The risk of raids from neighboring Apache and Puebloan tribes were ever present, and after a series of retaliatory attacks US soldiers then got involved.
They ordered the Apache to surrender and present themselves at the nearest fort as they grew tired of the conflicts among the neighboring tribes. Some of the Navajo fled the area and sought refuge with neighboring tribes and in the neighbouring State of Utah, but most stood their ground and used their knowledge of the land to their advantage to outwit US forces that camped out for six long months in a bid to capture the Navajo.
US forces had a vested interest to do so as they knew the lands were rich in minerals, primarily gold.
There are a number of trails of which one is freely accessible without a guide, for the others a park ranger is required for the trails that lead to outlook points.
A basic level of fitness is required if you plan on hiking and be sure to bring lots of bottled water. Otherwise areas are accessible by car. Don’t understimate this terrain, climbing, stairs, steep drops are all part of the parcel and the weather can be as unpredictable as the terrain. If you have a fear of heights hiking to the overlook points may not be for you. If hiking is one of your hobbies you’ll likely appreciate a visit to Fort Bowie and Black Mesa.
A visit can take anywhere from 2 hours to two days to cover all the trails and outlook points so you have a number of options at your disposal.
For those less inclined to hike there are two paved trails that you can drive to outlook points which take around two hours to reach all overlooks.
There are a number of private companies that offer tours via horseback and jeep that take you deep in to the canyon for a different perspective. There is a visitor center that is manned by rangers who are all warm, friendly and all to eager to part with rich history and local knowledge of the canyon. You can collect maps and watch a brief orientation video on arrival.
Access to the park is free of charge. Camping and back country special permits are required and do incur fees. Donations are greatfully accepted at the visitor center and we encourage all our readers to show their support.
The canyon is open year round from dawn to dusk. The visitor center has more traditional operating hours and are closed on major holidays. The gates and center open from 8:00 until 17:00 7 days a week.