Canyon de Chelly Hiking & Camping

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4-12
Difficulty
3

Starting from

$1,699

for REI Members

$1,874 for non-members

Departures

Sep 2019-Oct 2020

Descend into remote, magnificent Canyon de Chelly National Monument with a Navajo guide on this 4-day hiking adventure.

Discover a sacred desert landscape of enigmatic ruins and vaulting sandstone walls tattooed with petroglyphs. Join expert REI guides and a small group of fellow curious travelers in Phoenix and head for the Navajo Nation. Wander land strewn with giant petrified logs and pass through a painted desert in Petrified Forest National Park. View Spider Rock from the rim at Canyon de Chelly and marvel at this location that has seen human habitation for over 4,000 years.

Descend slickrock trails to the canyon floor, where cottonwoods and peach trees green the banks of a serpentine waterway. Accompanied by a local Navajo guide, spend three days exploring Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto and Black Rock Canyon. Let native history, stories and lore connect you to the cultural importance of the land. Search for prehistoric petroglyphs. Stand in awe of pictographs, ancient cliff dwellings and iconic ruins, including the ruins of Antelope House, just yards from our campsite. Let the solitude and grandeur of this extraordinary place seep into your soul.

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Trip highlights

  • Enjoy a 4-day hiking adventure in remote Canyon de Chelly National Monument
  • Discover well-preserved rock art and ruin sites including iconic White House Ruins
  • Learn about native culture, history and folklore from our Navajo guide
  • Hike in Petrified Forest National Park and visit its painted desert
  • Camp under the star-filled Southwestern sky in comfy 4-person tents

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Participants should be comfortable with daily hikes between 2–9 miles with elevation gains/losses of up to 600'. Although there are not significant elevation changes on this itinerary (particularly when hiking on the canyon floor) the distances on Days 2 and 3 gives this a level 3 Moderate Activity designation.

Hiking trails are composed of dirt, sand, and slickrock with some steep sections and exposed overlooks.

  • Hiking

What's Included

One night hotel & two nights camping accommodations; guide leadership; round trip van transportation from/to Scottsdale, Arizona; all meals beginning with lunch on Day 1 through dinner on Day 4; beverages including coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate; all group camping equipment; park fees and local taxes.

Accommodations

Hotel, 1 night; Camping, 2 nights.

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Visit Petrified Forest National Park and travel to Canyon de Chelly.

Our trip begins in Phoenix, Arizona. We rendezvous at our host hotel at 7:30 a.m. and set out for remote Canyon de Chelly National Monument. As we travel across Arizona to the Navajo Nation, we stop along the way to explore Petrified Forest National Park and get up close and personal with the giant logs and their amazing rainbow colors. Traveling further in the park we view the Painted Desert with its multicolored banded hills on display before us. Arriving at Canyon de Chelly in late afternoon, we observe famous Spider Rock rising over 800’ from the canyon floor. Not only spectacular but also the core of many Navajo legends. We spend the night at a lodge inside the park. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 1 mile with minimal elevation gain/loss. Transfer time: 6 hours total with multiple stops en route.

Day 2

Descend into the canyon’s inner sanctum and hike among ancient ruins and rock art.

Our day begins with a dramatic 600-foot descent along dirt and slickrock trails to the floor of Canyon De Chelly. At canyon bottom, we stop at White House Ruins, an Ancestral Puebloan fortress and one of the most iconic ruins in the monument. After our visit to this renowned archeological site, we begin our hike into the canyon’s inner sanctum. Navigating some deep sand and creek crossings, our stamina is tested as we make our way to tonight’s secluded campsite in neighboring Canyon del Muerto. The sheer canyon walls, ruins, and hundreds of pictographs left behind by ancient cultures connect us to the natural beauty and human history of this unique place. At day’s end, we settle into our serene campsite on a Navajo family’s private land. The idyllic site provides access to our own cave, an Ancestral Puebloan ruin, incredibly artistic pictographs, and the convenience of a nearby bathroom. All meals included.

Hiking: 8-9 miles with approx. 550’ elevation loss/minimal elevation gain.

Day 3

Explore Canyon del Muerto and Black Rock Canyon with our local Navajo guide.

We explore Canyon del Muerto today and experience life as it must have been like centuries ago. After a relaxing brunch and visit to nearby Antelope House Ruins, we head into an enormous side canyon know as Black Rock Canyon. Stunning views and incredible tales, like the story of Navajo Fortress, will punctuate our hike and allow us to bond even more deeply with this sacred land and its former inhabitants. We hike past half-wild livestock, original Navajo hogans (dwellings), and marvel at the log “ladders” that allowed the native people to evade European invaders. Our Navajo guide explains how Canyon Del Muerto got its name and how bee plants allowed its early inhabitants to thrive. Back at camp this evening, we enjoy dinner with our fellow explorers as the crystalline desert light gently fades on the canyon walls. All meals included.

Hiking: 6-8 miles with minimal elevation gain/loss.

Day 4

Ascend from Canyon de Chelly to the plateau via a route used by ancient canyon inhabitants.

Rising with the sun, we break camp before hiking down Canyon Del Muerto. In this part of Canyon De Chelly wild turkey, black bear, and skunks outnumber the domestic animals that live here. After crossing the Canyon Del Muerto wash, or "arroyo" as it’s called in this part of the country, we enter a stand of bright green cottonwood trees and soak up the shade before our climb out. Like the Ancestral Puebloans, Hopi, and Navajo before us, we ascend the Bare Rock Trail toward the canyon rim. Using the Moqui steps, which were carved directly into the rock by ancient canyon inhabitants, we follow an improbable looking path upwards to the rim, enjoying spectacular views along the way. Topping out onto the pinyon pine and juniper-dominated plateau, we navigate a few shallow washes before reaching our waiting shuttle vehicle. We plan to arrive back in Phoenix between 6:30-7:30 p.m. this evening. All meals included.

Hiking: 4 miles with 600’ elevation gain. Transfer time: 6.0 hours total with multiple stops en route.

Canyon de Chelly Hiking & Camping Departures

Gear list

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you choose the proper equipment. Try to bring only what is necessary; this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

Packed by REI

  • All Group Cooking Gear
  • Group First Aid Kit
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Tent(s)

Packed by you (Required)

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Travel Documents

  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (1-800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice, which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Meet your guides

Gary E.

Gary never tires of sitting on top of Half Dome or swimming in a Yosemite lake. He guides in order to share his passion for the outdoors with others. An REI guide since 2003, he is certified as a Wilderness First Responder and in Leave No Trace principles.

Meet your guides

Brian J.

As a professional guide across the Western U.S. for the past 15 years, Brian loves sharing his knowledge as he leads guests on cycling, hiking and backpacking adventures. His travels have taken him into a multitude of our country’s most prized natural treasures.

Adventure Expert

Andy

Canyon de Chelly is truly one of the Southwest’s hidden treasures. Its remote location, tranquil beauty, vast number of Native American ruins, and sacred standing in Navajo lore make it an incredibly rewarding destination to visit and explore.