Wow. This place was amazing beyond our expectations. We came for the mesa views of cliff dwellings and ended up hiking down into the canyon, getting close up views of mesa and cliff dwellings and camping in the Navajo reservation.
First, we arrived at Spider Rock Campground; privately run by a native Navajo guide. The campground was very minimal (even more so than we were led to believe). But it was at least an interesting experience.
The campground here even has three hogans available for rent, from ~$31 to ~$47. But I wouldn’t recommend the small or medium hogans at all.
They are not completely authentic, having modern and non-natural building materials integrated into the ancient design.
There are a dozen or so magnificent drive-by overlooks in Canyon de Chelly.
Unfortunately, there’s only one hiking trail open to the public: White House Ruins. All other trails require you to go with a park ranger (only available during certain days/times), or hire yourself a local Navajo guide.
The park resides within a Navajo reservation, so there are a number of places you can hire someone to give you a private jeep tour through the canyons (for around $150 or more), or you can choose to go on horseback, or even hike a bit with your chaperone.
We opted to simply hike to White House Ruins on our own. It’s only a 2.5 mile hike round-trip, but it’s fairly strenuous with a 600 feet elevation drop (mostly within the first half-mile).
Expect it to take over 2 hours. This is a must-do hike though!
Being down in this canyon is an amazing feeling.
The hike back up is even more strenuous, but just as beautiful.
Canyon de Chelly was on our list of places to see, but now we know it should be a mandatory stop on anyone’s parks list. It was one of the best experiences of the trip, hands down.