Navajo National Monument preserves three major intact cliff dwellings, built by people who were the forefathers of Hopi and Zuni. Later, other tribes occupied the canyons, and today the area is surrounded by the Navajo Nation. A visitor center, museum, three short self-guided trails, two small campgrounds, and a picnic area provide service to travelers. The museum is currently undergoing renovation, and will be open with new exhibits in May, 2011. In the summer, you can find a Navajo weaver at work in the visitor center. Ranger led hikes to the more distant ruins are available daily. Best of all, everything in this monument is free!
Three easy trails that begin at the visitor center are always open:
Sandal Trail: paved trail leads top overlook of Betatakin/Talastima cliff dwelling (1-mile round trip).
Aspen Trail: branches off Sandal Trail to descend 300 feet to view ancient aspen forest (0.8-mile round trip).
Canyon View Trail: view of head of Betatakin Canyon; leads to campground (0.6-mile round trip).
For the more adventerous, there are two ranger hikes to the cliff dwellings Betatakin and Keet Seel. Reservations and permits are required for both. Betatakin is five miles long, fairly strenuous, beginning at 7300 feet, and rising and falling 700 feet over the course of the hike. Hikes leave at 8:15 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. in summer, 10:00 A.M. in winter, subject to weather. Keet Seel hikes have a daily limit of 20 people, and most hikers camp overnight at the site. This is an 18 mile round-trip hike. Both destinations have breath taking views and amazingly well preserved, undisturbed ruins.
The park has two small campgrounds; Canyon View campground is more primitive, with pit toilets and no water. It has 16 sites, 3 of which may be reserved for groups. Sunset View campground has water, flush toilets and can accommodate small trailers under 28 feet in length. Both are free, individual campsites are first come-first serve.