Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly
Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Shay) is easy to get into – it’s less than 1000 feet deep – but there is only one place you can do it unaccompanied, the White House Ruins trail, because it’s sacred ground to the Navajo, many of whom still have summer homes there. The Canyon is full of their history, much of it heart-breaking, e.g. Massacre Cave where more than 115 people were killed by a Spanish military expedition in 1805. If you don’t want to walk, you can hire a guide to take you down in a 4WD or you can stop at several overlooks along the rim. We used all three methods and were rewarded with close-up views of ancient ruins (from about the 10th to 13th centuries) built into the cliffs and several petroglyphs and pictograms on the cliff walls. Click on the bottom two pictures to enlarge and see these drawings.

We stayed in the nearby town of Chinle on the Navajo reservation, an area which crosses state boundaries. There are noticeable differences from Arizona – you can’t buy alcohol, for example, and they observe daylight saving time, which the state doesn’t, so we had to reset our watches. From Chinle we also visited the eponymous rock of Window Rock, capital of the Navajo nation, which is less than a mile from the New Mexico state line. According to the map, the road we took passed into New Mexico for a short time but, because there were no state signs, we missed it. I don’t therefore feel I can add this to my tally of US states visited – shame!



  1. I didn’t have time to take the Navajo 4WD tour into the Canyon, sadly. I wish I had done so. I did walk down the White House Ruin Trail (I haven’t written about it yet). I was so happy I did that trail, as I loved it. I can see the antelope petroglyphs in your picture, which I couldn’t see from above, at the canyon rim. It’s great to revisit through your eyes. 🙂


  2. The pictograms on the cliff walls are amazing! It wonderful how clear they are after such a long time. The decimation of the native American culture is so very sad. We are very conscious of it in Minnesota. The largest mass execution in US history (by the US) happened when thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota.


    • That’s awful. We were very conscious of the destruction of a culture too as we went round that whole area, and heard / read of many atrocities. If I’d been writing at the time I’d probably have put in more about it.


  3. Love the wildlife:) so cute. It is such a shame that the native Indians had such rich culture and in a blink of an eye they were decimated. I love the history and the pictures on the rocks. I wonder what they mean?


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