Canyon de Chelly is one of those Arizona travel destinations that showcase ancient and current Native American heritage. The Navajo people live in and around Canyon de Chelly, and the White House Ruins are sacred land.
About 70 families live in and around Canyon de Chelly. The land is owned by the Najavo Nation, who leases the land to occupants for $65 for a 65-year lease. Located entirely in the State of Arizona, Canyon de Chelly was named a National Monument on April 1, 1931. Once you arrive at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument park, you’ll find a Visitor’s Center to help with any questions.
Hiking in Canyon de Chelly
If you want to do some hiking on your trip to the canyon, I would recommend the White House Ruins Trail. It’s a 2.7 mile out and back trail that takes you down into the canyon and heads you out to the ancient White House ruins. The White House Ruins trail takes 2 hours and should be considered easy to moderate. Most of the path is very flat and easy for beginners.
If you plan to go hiking, I would recommend this book; it also has information on the Petrified Forest, Monument Valley, and Antelope Canyon, which are all stops I’d recommend adding to your trip.
How far is Monument Valley from Canyon de Chelly? 99 miles – 1 hour 51 minutes to the north
How far is the Petrified Forest from Canyon de Chelly? 99 miles – 1 hour 35 minutes to the south
How to Pronounce Canyon de Chelly
According to Wikipedia the name Canyon de Chelly comes from:
The name chelly (or Chelley) is a Spanish borrowing of the Navajo word Tséyiʼ, which means “canyon” (literally “inside the rock” < tsé“rock” + -yiʼ “inside of, within”). The Navajo pronunciation is IPA: [tséɣiʔ]. The Spanish pronunciation of de Chelly [deˈtʃeʎi] was adapted into English, apparently through modeling after a French-like spelling pronunciation, and is pronounced /dəˈʃeɪ/ (də·shā′).
There are many scenic outlooks for photography around the rim of the canyon:
One of the more popular things at Canyon de Chelly is the White House Ruins. Nestled into the edge of the lower canyon with southern exposure is a set of Indian ruins named the White House Ruins. This trail is the only one you can go without a Navajo escort. The reason they call it the White House is because of the white-colored plaster/paint used on the house. White House Ruins stands out above lower ruins in a sandstone cave in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. The Anasazi people built these ruins. Anasazi is Navajo for “the ancient ones.”
Here is a video of the Anasazi White House Ruins from the outlook above:
Canyon de Chelly Tours
Based on rules established by the Navajo Nation, all guides must be Navajo and most probably reside in the canyon area. We did a jeep tour that was offered by Beauty Way Jeep Tours. Leandro was our tour guide and grew up in the canyon and has been giving tours since the age of 14. We did a 3-hour jeep tour and learned a lot about the canyon and the Anasazi people.
Beauty Way was also the on-location tour guides for the cast and crew of the 2013 Lone Ranger movie starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp. Doing a tour is the only way to see most of the canyon due to the restrictions in place by the Navajo Nation.
Hotels in Chinle, AZ and near Canyon de Chelly
I’d recommend getting a room at the Holiday Inn located in Chinle. We’ve stayed there, and it was a more beautiful facility than we were expecting. The hotel has dining and an exercise room on-site. The hotel is clean, and the staff was friendly and helpful. If we’re in the area again, we will stay at the Holiday Inn in Chinle again.
Getting to Canyon de Chelly and Chinle, AZ from Phoenix
From Phoenix, drive north northeast and expect the drive to take just under 5 hours with no stops. Canyon de Chelly is definitely worth the trip. You can also plan side trips to Monument Valley and the Petrified Forest.
How to Contact & Find Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
P.O. Box 588
3 miles E of HWY 191 on Rt 7
Chinle, AZ 86503