Canyon de Chelly: Arizona’s Best Kept Secret

Canyon de Chelly: Arizona’s Best Kept Secret

After living in Arizona for four years back in the day and visiting several times since, I can’t believe that I had never heard of Canyon de Chelly National Monument (canyon de-shay). I suppose it could be because it’s not a National Park – which would seem to command more attention. If it weren’t for the advice of a family member and our travel friend’s brother, I still might not know about this fabulous place. And in speaking to more people since who haven’t visited, I decided this gorgeous place deserved some much-needed attention with a great post.

I returned to the state – for the second time in the same year – on a three-week road-trip last October. I went to gather more information and photographs for a book project that was rolling around in my head, where I could merge my graphic design skills and traveling obsession into a beautiful coffee table book. Check out the Sneak Peek of “THE NATURAL BEAUTY OF ARIZONA” here.

My road trip took me on a scenic drive from Walsenberg, Colorado called the Highway of Legends, where I found a stunning overlook I had visited years before, high in the San Juan National Forest. To read the blog about that fabulous overlook, CLICK HERE.

That scenic drive allowed my entry into Arizona in the far northeast at Four Corners, the only point in the U.S. shared by four states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. About two hours down the road is Canyon de Chelly – absolutely one of America’s most beautiful monuments – which lies within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. Millions of years of land upheavals and water sculpting have created its sheer cliffs and Native Americans have lived within its walls for nearly 5,000 years.

I opted for lodging at Sacred Canyon Lodge, which sits on the site of a trading post built in 1896 and is the only hotel in the Park. Although not glamorous by any means, it was adequate for the time I spent there and close to the canyon. Within walking distance of my room was a restaurant that served some Native American standbys like flat bread and Navajo tacos. That certainly got my attention and right next to that was a great gift shop with beautiful keepsakes and Navajo rugs. This trip was not so much about shopping, so that will wait until my next visit. My husband was quite disappointed that he missed this stop, so I know we’ll be back.

There are vendors at most stops and much of their artwork includes replicas of petroglyphs (symbols carved or scratched into rock) or pictographs (symbols painted on rock) which can be seen on the walls of the Canyon floor. The floor of the Canyon can only be visited on a Jeep tour with a Navajo guide, which enhances the experience of this beautiful place. There you can hear the history and see the ruins, the petroglyphs and some Navajo dwellers who still raise livestock and farm the land. The views of the canyon walls are spectacular from that vantage point.

Standing on the edge of any of the overlooks and gazing at God’s beauty, while breathing in the history and the calming silence, convinced me that I am on the right path to show off a beautiful state to all who are interested. As it states in the guest information book at the Sacred Canyon Lodge “Canyon de Chelly is a sacred place for the Navajo people. Come and experience the beauty, majesty, harmony and history of this place. May your journey be sacred and your visions clear.”

If you love the photo below, you are not alone! This photo won the May 2015 Photo Contest at and I was able to post a blog to their website! Check it out at

Happy trails,

Barbara Olson

Barbara Olson


  • Laurie

    I think It is time to go back to Arizona and see this! The more I see of Arizona through your lens and blog the more I appreciate it… It may be a good place to retire after all!

    June 17, 2015 at 1:29 pm
    • Barbara Olson
      Barbara Olson

      After doing even more research, there are so many more things to see there. I just have to go back again (with friends) and discover more!

      June 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm

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