All across the Arizona real estate there are ancient homes that are still visible and that allow visitors to take a peek into long-ago Native American life; some of them are tucked into the steep canyon walls of Northern Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “Shay”). Along with the site’s numerous ancient dwellings that reflect one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America, Canyon de Chelly’s most distinctive geological feature is Spider Rock, a soaring sandstone spire similar to those that dominate the landscape in nearby Monument Valley.
Boasting artifacts and rock imagery that are remarkably preserved, Canyon de Chelly is thought to have been built between 350 AD and 1300 AD and is dotted with hundreds of ancient pueblo ruins that were once home to the Anasazi Indians. In the 1700s, Navajo tribes-people began to make their way west from northern New Mexico, eventually settling in Canyon de Chelly and even today, a Navajo community inhabits the canyon floor. Designated as a National Monument in 1931, Canyon de Chelly is the only National Park Service site to be completely located within the Navajo Nation.
If you go: Start at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument Visitor Center, where you can learn more about the area and the Navajo people. Two drives follow the rims of the canyon from the visitor center; these are the only drives allowed without a guide. If you have time, be sure to check out the well-preserved Puebloan ruins nestled in the 1,000-foot-tall rock walls (accessible only via guided tour). You can explore the White House Ruin trail on your own, but please be aware that most visits to the canyon floor require accompaniment by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide.
Overnight accommodations can be found in nearby Flagstaff, Chinle or Tuba City, while a free campground is available within Canyon de Chelly National Monument.