Listed below is information to help you get oriented and better explore Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Whether you take the North or the South Rim Drive you'll get a great idea of the different areas of the park by clicking on the options below.
For good views of the canyons and ruins in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, take the two rim drives. The South Rim Drive is a 36 mile round trip through Canyon de Chelly, and leads to eight overlooks. The North Rim Drive is a 34 mile round trip through Canyon del Muerto, and leads to four overlooks.
If you wish to hike anywhere except White House Trail or take your own four-wheel-drive vehicle into the canyons, the park ranger on duty at the visitor center will help you arrange for an authorized guide and will provide you with the necessary permit. In winter and at certain other times of the year, the canyons are impassable.
South and North Rim Drives
South Rim Drive
The South Rim Drive is not a through road but offers more dramatic vistas than the north road.
Seven miles along the drive is the White House Trail trailhead. The only trail in the canyon that does not require a guide, the White House Trail leads to ruins that date from about 1200 A.D. -- some of the oldest in Canyon De Chelly National Monument.
The South Rim Drive ends at the canyon's most spectacular viewpoint, the Spider Rocks Overlook. The twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls are a site of special significance for the Navajo. According to legend, the Spider Woman, who taught the Navajo women to weave, lives on top and keeps the bones of her victims there. Beyond the towers, the main canyon continues for many miles.
North Rim Drive
The North Rim Drive offers several impressive overlooks, including Massacre Cave Overlook. It was from this vantage point that the Spanish soldiers may have fired upon the Navajos during the infamous "massacre of 1803." Spanish accounts describe a battle against Indians "... entrenched in an almost inaccessible point ..." and the killing of 90 warriors and 25 women and children. The Navajo, however say many men were away hunting at the time. Thus the dead were mostly women, children, and old men who had sought refuge from the invaders.
The Navajo call the alcove Adah Aho' doo' nili - Two Fell Off - referring to a brave Navajo woman who grappled with a soldier and tumbled to her death, dragging the enemy with her.
Some Other Things To Know
Quicksand, deep dry sand, and flash floods make the canyons hazardous. For your safety, the protection of the many fragile ruins, and respect for the privacy of the Navajos whose land this is, you are allowed to travel in the canyons only when accompanied by a park ranger or an authorized guide. Travel to and from White House Ruin on the hiking trail is the only exception to this rule.