68 miles NW of Window Rock; 222 miles NE of Flagstaff; 110 miles SE of Navajo National Monument; 110 miles SE of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
It's hard to imagine narrow canyons less than 1,000 feet deep being as impressive as the Grand Canyon, but in some ways Canyon de Chelly National Monument is just that. Gaze down from the rim at an ancient cliff dwelling as the whinnying of horses and clanging of goats' bells drifts up from far below, and you'll be struck by the continuity of human existence. For more than 2,000 years, people have called these canyons home, and today the canyon is the site of not only prehistoric dwelling sites, but also the summer homes of Navajo farmers and shepherds.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument consists primarily of two major canyons -- Canyon de Chelly (which is pronounced "Canyon duh Shay" and is derived from the Navajo word tsegi, meaning "rock canyon") and Canyon del Muerto (Spanish for "Canyon of the Dead"). The canyons extend for more than 100 miles through the rugged slickrock landscape of northeastern Arizona, draining the seasonal snowmelt runoff from the Chuska Mountains.
In summer, Canyon de Chelly's smooth sandstone walls of red and yellow contrast sharply with the greens of corn, pastures, and cottonwoods on the canyon floor. Vast stone amphitheaters form the caves in which the Ancestral Puebloans built their homes, and as you watch shadows and light paint an ever-changing canyon panorama, it's easy to see why the Navajo consider this sacred ground. The many mysteriously abandoned cliff dwellings and the breathtaking natural beauty make Canyon de Chelly as worthy of a visit as the Grand Canyon.