97°F
weather icon Clear

Canyon de Chelly a feast for eyes, soul

Avisit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a feast for the eyes and soul. Here you will find sheer red sandstone cliffs rising 1,000 feet above the fertile farmland of the canyons, where prehistoric ancestral Puebloan ruins and hundreds of other archaeological sites dot the landscape. People have lived here nearly 5,000 years — believed to be the longest continuous occupancy of any site on the Colorado Plateau.

The monument was established in 1931 and is comprised of 84,000 acres within the Navajo Reservation at Chinle, Ariz. While the monument is administrated by the National Park Service, it lies on Navajo trust lands that are home to the Diné (Navajo) people. The elevation is between 5,500 feet and 7,000 feet, which means it will most likely be 15 or so degrees cooler than Las Vegas temperatures.

The monument has two main canyons, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “de-shay”) and Canyon del Muerto. Both canyons are home to hundreds of archaeological sites including numerous ruins of former dwellings, located high on the cliff walls in large natural alcoves. Some of the ruins can be viewed from the 10 overlooks along the South and North Rim drives but seeing them up close is even more rewarding.

If you wish to hike down into Canyon de Chelly for that closer look, unless you sign up for a tour with a Navajo guide, there is only one trail open to visitors. The White House Trail is a 2.5-mile roundtrip and descends about 600 feet to White House Ruin. Ancestral Puebloans occupied the dwelling about 1,000 years ago.

To visit other ruins and see more of the canyons, I highly recommend taking a Navajo guided jeep tour. The tours are quite educational and travel into both of the main canyons. Tours are offered in several lengths, but even on a one-half day tour you will stop and see dozens of archaeological sites including ruins of former dwellings, as well as petroglyphs and pictographs. Horse and hiking tours are also available. Prices vary depending on which tour company you choose, and a list of guides appears on the park website, www.nps.gov/cach/.

Natural water sources and rich soil bless the canyon, so many of its residents grow vegetables and fruit trees, graze cattle or raise sheep and goats. People live in modest homes, some of them the traditional hogans made of logs and earth.

The canyon is lush with mature cottonwood trees, and wildflowers are in bloom this time of year. Among the wildlife of the canyon are bears, mountain lions, bobcats, wild turkeys and a variety of raptors and other birds.

Lodging is available near the park’s entrance at the Holiday Inn, 928-674-5000. www.holiday-inn.com/; Best Western, 928-674-5875, www.bestwestern.com/; and the historic Sacred Canyon Lodge, 928-674-5841, www.sacredcanyonlodge.com/.

Camping is available at the Canyon de Chelly Cottonwood Campground at the entrance of the park. No campfires are allowed. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but if you need further information contact Navajo Parks and Recreation, 928-674-2106.

For a no-frills and extremely rustic experience, Spider Rock Campground is great. Its most charming features are hogans of various sizes that you can stay in overnight, and the fact that campfires are allowed. It is in the park and offers guided tours of the canyon, either by hiking or by four-wheel-drive vehicle. Contact Howard Smith for a reservation, 928-674-8261 or www.spiderrockcampground.com/.

From March through November, the Navajo Nation observes Mountain Daylight Time, which means it will be one hour later than Nevada. The visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Alcohol is not permitted on the Navajo Reservation.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled in the book “Base Camp Las Vegas, Hiking the Southwestern States.” She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the newly released book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Yosemite home to iconic American sights

Some of the most stunning and iconic sights in America can be found in Yosemite National Park in California. While most visitors spend days traveling to the park from around the world, Southern Nevadans can get there in less than a day’s drive.

Nearby ‘sights’ let you chill out

The Las Vegas area, including Boulder City, is literally one of the hottest cities in the nation, something we are reminded of daily this time of the year.

City Recreation, July 4

Brew Pub wins coed softball tournament

City Recreation, June 27

Knights help with hockey clinic

Raft trip offers glimpse at hidden wonderland

One of the most enchanting stretches of the Colorado River starts at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona and winds about 15 miles downstream to Lees Ferry. It’s extremely difficult to access by land, so the most enjoyable and easiest way to see this hidden wonderland is by taking a raft trip with a local rafting company.

Big Bear Lake offers myriad sights, activities

Big Bear Lake, California, is an easy drive from Boulder City, less than four hours away in the San Bernardino Mountains. This resort town is at an elevation of 7,000 feet, making it a fine place to escape the blistering summers of the surrounding deserts. Summer average daily high temperatures are in the high 70s, with nights dipping down into the 40s.

Summer clinic boosts youths’ basketball skills

Boulder City Parks and Recreation Department is offering a summer basketball camp to boost the skills of future Bobcats and Eagles players.

Vistas at Calf Creek Falls stunning

Set within a wide Navajo sandstone canyon in south central Utah is lower Calf Creek Falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls in the state. Though the waterfall is your destination, the hike itself offers incredible scenery including wetlands, beaver dams, prehistoric pictographs and granaries, and beautiful Calf Creek itself.

City Recreation, May 16

Season begins with ceremony

Hiking, fruit picking ‘Capitol’ idea in Utah park

Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah is probably best known for its main geological feature, the Waterpocket Fold, a wrinkle in the earth that extends nearly 100 miles. But the park also boasts wonderful hiking opportunities on about 150 miles of trails to see slot canyons, natural arches, bridges and petroglyphs. Elevations in the park range from 3,800 to 8,200 feet, but the hub of the park, Fruita, is at around 5,500 feet.