The beautiful red rock canyons can be viewed from numerous overlooks along two rim drives.  The North Rim features 3 overlooks and the South Rim features 7 overlooks including one public trail at White House Overlook. However, what sets Canyon de Chelly National Monument apart from other places is the opportunity to observe authentic Navajo culture and history up close. As a non-fee park, you can choose to visit the overlooks and hike the public trail all on your own which does not require a permit or guide.  You can also choose to explore the canyon on a vehicle, horseback or hiking tour with a knowledgeable guide to accompany you.  You will follow the washbed over the sandy, unpaved floor of the canyon.  During your tour you will learn about the history and culture of the Navajo Nation, while viewing the numerous cultural and natural features of the canyon. You will also have an opportunity to meet and interact with highly talented local artists and craftspeople who sell their work at various rest stops. It is off the beaten path, but well worth the time and effort.

The White House Trail may look daunting from the rim, but it is a good trail down to the canyon floor, doable even by children, with many switchbacks.  On the bottom the trail runs along the wash a short distance to the White House ruins.  While you are on the south rim, be sure to drive to the Spider Rock observation point.  The spire of Spider Rock is the home of Spider Woman.  There are no restrooms along the rim drives, however restrooms are available inside the canyon including the bottom of the trail.  Pets on a leash are allowed at the overlooks and in the campground, but not on the trail or on the canyon tours.

The town of Chinle offers 4 gas stations, 3 motels with restaurants, 6 fast food places, a supermarket, bank (wells fargo), post office and hardware store.  Two primitive campgrounds with a nightly fee are in the park, Cottonwood Campground managed by the Navajo Nation and privately owned Spider Rock Campground.  Closest RV parks with full hookups located in Gallup, NM or Monument Valley, UT.  Three motels, Holiday Inn, Best Western and Thunderbird Lodge, offer dining and gift shops. 

Canyon tours require hiring a guide authorized by the park and signing a park permit at the visitor center.  The Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation will soon be issuing permits for a FEE from their new office - until then permits are available for free from the visitor center.  Tours are offered by private companies that are registered with the Navajo Nation, so rates vary.  Thunderbird Lodge, located in the park, is under new management and no longer offers truck tours.  Contact registered company directly for prices and availability.  Reservations are suggested during high season, April to October.

 Things to know before you come:

  • As of April 1, 2014, using your own 4x4 vehicle will not be permitted due to safety concerns.
  • Rim drives are paved and open all year round; no four wheel drive required; White House Trail open all year as well
  • Visitor Center hours are 8 to 5 daily except Christmas day
  • Navajo Nation is partly in AZ, UT, and NM therefore it observes Daylight Savings Time from March to November
  • Park permits for tours are available during business hours only; plan accordingly
  • Visit the park website, www.nps.gov/cach, for current listing of tour companies, phone numbers for lodging, etc....
  • Canyon tours may be cancelled due to high water from snow melt or flash flooding
  • Canyon tours by vehicle require a four wheel drive vehicle with high clearance; no all-wheel drives, ATVs, UTVs, or dirt bikes are permitted
  • Groups on tours must hire enough guides; park requires 1 guide per 5 vehicles, 1 guide per 6 horseback riders, and 1 guide per 10 hikers
  • Best time of year to visit is mid September to mid October when it is not too hot or too cold 
  • Call motels directly for reservations.... CAUTION when using third party reservation system like U.S. Park Lodging or National Park Reservations which is NOT affiliated with the park...read their policy