According to Listofusnewspapers, the upper rim of the canyon can be visited by car. In order to get into the canyon valley, you need a four-wheel drive car, the company of an authorized Navajo guide and the purchase of a permit (see under entrance fees). The first port of call is the Visitor Center east of Chinle (open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). There is an informative exhibition about the geology of the Canyon de Chelly Area as well as about the first residents and about the Navajos who settled later.
To visit the upper rim of the canyon by car takes about 3 to 4 hours. First visit North Rim Drive (north rim; about 30 miles / 48 km from the Visitor Center there and back) and then South Rim Drive (south rim; distance from Visitor Center to Spider Rock Overlook about 15 miles / 24 km).
The North Rim Drive leads to four viewpoints on the canyon rim of the Canyon del Muerto (Valley of Death). After about 5 miles / 8 km on the main road from the visitor center, take a side road 0.8 miles / 1.3 km. A short path leads from the parking lot to the first lookout point.
Ledge Ruins Overlook Overlooks
the Canyon of the Dead, so called because of the mummy finds. You can see the 900 year old walls of an Anasazi village in a rock niche (Ledge Ruins = niche ruins). The next vantage point is
Antelope House Overlook (2 miles from the main road)
In the valley you can see cultivated fields, on the left is the Canyon del Muerto and on the right the Black Rock Canyon. The multi-storey Anasazi ruin got its name from the wall paintings of the Navajos with antelopes. On the rock wall to the left of the ruins is an antelope, probably painted by the Navajo artist Dibe Yazhi from 1830. On the same rock face there are Anasazi rock paintings that were painted centuries ago. Where Canyon del Muerto and Black Rock Canyon meet, across from the Overlook, a huge rock served the Navajo as a fortress and refuge, most recently in 1863/64 against Kit Carson (Fortress Viewpoint). The third junction from the main road leads to two lookout points.
Mummy Cave Overlook (about 1.5 miles / 2.4 km from the main road)
The Mummy Cave got its name from the two mummies found here in 1880. The Navajo name for this place is “house under the rock”. It is one of the largest ruins in the park and includes around 90 rooms and several kiwas. The cave was inhabited for about 1000 years until around 1300. The large rooms and the masonry of the central tower are built in the Mesa Verde style. It is therefore believed that around 1280 residents of the Mesa Verde area could have moved here. You can also see fields, the river and a Hogan. The further vantage point
Massacre Cave Overlook
Offers a good view of grazing sheep, sheer cliffs and the rushing river. The so-called massacre cave reminds us that in 1805 the Spaniards killed 115 Navajos (90 warriors and 25 women and children) here. A Spanish punitive expedition under Narbona, later governor of Mexico, fought a rock position of the Indians for a whole day. As evidence of his success, Narbona presented the warriors’ severed ears to his commander.
From here it’s 12 miles / 19 km back to the Visitor Center and the start of South Rim Drive (Indian Route 7) There are 7 viewpoints of the Canyon de Chelly. The first lookout point after the visitor center is the
You can see fields, a Hogan and the river flowing about 122 meters below. The Navajo fields on the canyon floor still have traditional features, even if they are tended by modern means. However, the income is hardly enough for personal use. The term Tsegi comes from the Navajo language and means rock canyon. It is the starting point for the Spanish-English word combination Canyon de Chelly (spoken: de-sche-i). Further on Parkstraße follows the
From which the ruins of two Anasazi villages, which were built over 700 years ago, can be seen. The First Ruin, so named from the first archaeological expedition into the canyon, is on the left, and on the right you can see the Junction Ruin (crossing ruin). The First Ruin is 30 meters above the canyon floor and comprises 10 rooms and 2 kivas. Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly meet at the Junction Overlook. The
White House Overlook
is named after the long, whitewashed wall of the upper ruin. The lower ruins are on the canyon floor. The White House Ruin Trail, the only hiking trail on which you can descend into the canyon without an Indian guide, begins at the parking lot. It’s 2.5 miles there and back and has an incline of 200 meters. It takes about 2 to 3 hours. Because of the midday heat, you should choose the morning and late afternoon hours and don’t forget sunscreen and drinking water. Even in spring and autumn, the sun burns relentlessly. A serpentine path leads past beautiful rock formations to the prehistoric cliff settlement White House Ruins. The pueblo is located in a natural rock cave 12 meters above the valley floor and could only be reached by ladders. The White House is considered to be the most beautiful Anasazi ruin in the monument. The following
Sliding House Overlook
is located 213 meters above the canyon floor and offers a view of the Sliding House Ruins. The Navajo called this Anasazi settlement “Sliding House” because the apartments were built on a steep rock ledge. Slipping individual walls was the inevitable consequence. Here from around 900 AD. 30 to 50 rooms have been inhabited for 300 years. In front of the ruins, the outlines of Kivas can be seen. The following
Wild Cherry and Face Rock Overlook
offers beautiful views of rocks and gorge. At the end of South Rim Drive is the
Spider Rock Overlook
305 meters above the canyon floor. The vantage point provides a beautiful view of the 244 meter high monolith Spider Rock, the spider rock, two narrow rock needles that are still connected below. The Holy Spider Woman is one of the most important deities in Navajo mythology. She taught people to spin. The rock is dedicated to this deity and sacred to the Navajo; it is considered the landmark of the National Monument. The park road ends at the Spider Rock Overlook, but you can take a four-wheel drive vehicle on a dirt road to the
Continue to Three Turkey Ruin Tribal Park
There are well-preserved ruins to be seen there. The road goes to Sawmill approximately 22 miles / 35 km beyond the park boundary; from there the road is paved again.