Canyon de Chelly – Southwest USA Road Trip 2012 (Blast from the Past)

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Southwest USA Road Trip 2012


This is a Blast from the Past post. These posts chronicle our travels and other life events before we started blogging!  These posts are usually heavy on the photos, but lighter on the narrative text.  

In October 2012, Ken and I took a two week road trip around the Southwestern United States.  We flew to Albuquerque, NM and then drove from Albuquerque, New Mexico > Canyon de Chelly, Arizona > Moab, Utah > Monument Valley, Utah > Lake Powell, Arizona > Grand Canyon (South Rim).

This post covers our second stop, Canyon de Chelly!

After our visit in Albuquerque, we departed for Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de Shay) in Arizona. It was STUNNING.

We arrived in the evening, but it was still daylight, so we were able to capture some beautiful “magic hour” photos! There are two main drives along the rim of Canyon de Chelly, the North Rim Drive and the South Rim Drive.

South Rim Drive

There were seven overlooks along the South Rim Drive. I’ll let the photos do the talking!

Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive

From the Rim, you could see some of the ruins of cliff dwellings, built around 1100 A.D. (We’d see them up close the next day, when we went into the Canyon.)

White House Ruins Cliff Dwelling in Canyon de Chelly Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive

It started to get dark, so we had to skip the last one or two scenic vistas on the South Rim drive. But we managed to capture this sunset shot!

Sunset at Canyon de Chelly

We headed back to our hotel. Hotel options in Canyon de Chelly are pretty limited, as our restaurant choices. (At the time, Burger King was ranked the 4th best restaurant in Canyon de Chelly on TripAdvisor). We had dinner at the Holiday Inn, our hotel, which was surprisingly crowded!

Two days later, right before we left Canyon de Chelly, we drove back to the scenic lookout points that we had missed when it started to get dark. It was from the vista that you could see Spider Rock.

View of Spider Rock from the South Rim of Canyon de Chelly View from South Rim Drive at Canyon de Chelly

Kind of a strange story, but a couple in the 50’s started chatting us up about how beautiful the area was. We concurred and were just talking intermittently with them as we walked around taking pictures. So I asked them what brought them to the area. The husband mentioned he had been in Las Vegas for (I’m paraphrasing here, but it’s close), the International UFO and Extraterrestial Beings Conference. Oh people. How quickly they can go from seeming normal to just having a completely different perception of them. But no judging, I guess everybody needs a hobby?

Jeep Ride inside Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a unique place. It is entirely owned by the Navajo Nation, but it is managed and operated by the National Park Service. It’s the only park like that in America! To drive “in” the canyon, you need to arrange for a tour with a Navajo Nation member. These tour companies abounded, and we had no trouble arranging for a tour when we got there. The tour guide came in a jeep and picked us up at our hotel.

Please forgive the blurriness of some of these photos! Several of them were taken while riding in the jeep, and the jeep was a VERY rough ride thanks to the Canyon’s terrain! Tough to keep the camera steady!

Our jeep ride at Canyon de Chelly Sandy floor at Canyon de Chelly

The driver would stop and have us get out to view certain things of note, like these ancient drawings.

Ancient drawings on wall of Canyon de Chelly

It’s also amazing that Navajo people still live in the canyon. However, our guide pointed out that this is becoming less popular, especially with younger generations.

 

Riding inside Canyon de Chelly

One of the major attractions inside Canyon de Chelly are the White House Ruins, which, I mentioned above, were dwellings built nearly 1000 years ago! (Just as a side note: the ruins are also accessible from the Canyon Rim via trail, and it is the only part of the Canyon you are allowed to go into without a guide.)

White House Ruins sign at Canyon de Chelly White House Ruins at Canyon de Chelly

We also made a quick stop at some clean pit toilets near the White House Ruins.

Pit toilets in Canyon de Chelly

We got back in the Jeep and continued our drive. There were different options for what to see inside the Canyon, so we opted for the drive that would take us all the way to a structure called Spider Rock. (More on that below).

Inside Canyon de Chelly (jeep tour) Inside Canyon de Chelly (jeep tour) Inside Canyon de Chelly (jeep tour)

Then, it was impossible to miss it! We spotted Spider Rock in the distance!

Spider Rock from distance inside Canyon de Chelly

Then we got up close and walked around for quite a while.

Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly

It was truly impressive to see up close! Our tour was done, and the driver drove us back to the hotel! It was another rough ride the whole way back!

Canyon de Chelly North Rim

After the jeep ride, we went back to the hotel and rested for a bit. Then we set out to see Canyon de Chelly from the North Rim.

Like the South Rim, there were several scenic vistas to pull over at.

View of Canyon de Chelly from North Rim Drive View of Canyon de Chelly from North Rim Drive View of Canyon de Chelly from North Rim Drive View of Canyon de Chelly from North Rim Drive View of Canyon de Chelly from North Rim Drive View of Canyon de Chelly from North Rim Drive

You could also see additional cliff dwellings from the North Rim.

Cliff dwellings as seen from North Rim at Canyon de Chelly

And that was it for our time at Canyon de Chelly! It was SO stunning, I recommend it to everybody. And, shhh, don’t tell anybody, but I kinda think it was even more beautiful than the Grand Canyon, which we saw later on the road trip.


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