Canyon De Chelly National Monument Scenic Driving Overview

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly National Monument Scenic Drives Travel Tips

  • Canyon de Chelly National Monument is actually comprised of four main canyons: Canyon de Chelly, Canyon de Muerto, Monument Canyon and Black Rock Canyon. The 34-mile North Rim Drive and the 36–mile South Rim Drive are the two main scenic routes.
  • On the North Rim Scenic Drive, start from the Visitor Center in Chinle and head north on AZ 64. The first stop you will come to is the Ledge Ruin overlook, followed shortly by the Antelope House overlook. Continue up the road to Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave Overlook.
  • For the South Rim Scenic Drive, head out from the Chinle Visitor Center on BIA 7 and continue south and east. There are many overlooks on this drive. Tunnel overlook is the first, then continue on to the Tsegi, Junction, White House, Sliding House, Face Rock overlooks and finally end at Spider Rock overlook.
  • At the end of the South Rim Drive you will get a great view of the 1,000-foot drop and the famous Spider Rock monolith. Here, according to the Navajo, Spider Woman lives teaching the art of weaving. The National Park Service works in conjunction with the Navajo Nation to manage the park resources and sustain the active Navajo community. Navajo-run tours and guides give you a more in-depth and cultural experience of the Monument area.

For those who want a truly western experience, take a tour of the canyons and ruins on horseback. Or, you could choose to drive.

For good views of the canyons and ruins, take the two rim drives. South Rim Drive, 36 miles round-trip, leads to eight overlooks; North Rim Drive, 34 miles round-trip, leads to four overlooks. Highlights of these drives include:

  • Views of First Ruin and Junction Ruin from Junction Overlook.
  • White House Ruin, the best known Anasazi cliff dwelling in the canyon. It is named after a long wall in the upper ruin that is covered with white plaster. The ruin is reached over a 2-1/2-mile round-trip trail from White House Overlook. A guide is not required for this hike, but you must stay on the trail going to and from the ruin.
  • Spider Rock, an 800-foot sandstone spire rising from the canyon floor at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon.
  • Antelope House, named for the colorful drawings of antelope by a Navajo artist 150 years ago.
  • Mummy Cave, one of the most spectacular dwellings in the park. This site was occupied from A.D. 300 to 1300.
  • Pictographs may be seen at many other places in these canyons. Some date from the prehistoric Basketmaker and Pueblo periods, but probably the finest are of Navajo origin. On the cliff face at Standing Cow Ruin, in Canyon del Muerto, is a Navajo painting of a Spanish cavalry unit accompanied by a priest. Another is a blue and white cow, which gave its name to this site.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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