A Trip to the Canyon du Chelley

canyon du chelley

A few years ago I went with my college class to the Navajo reservation, to stay out there for three weeks and learn about the Navajo people and their culture in the present day.

There were a few notable things about the trip.

First, although we had a list of places to see and some things to do, we weren’t tied down to a set schedule. This was good because it allowed us to spend time getting lost (which we did. Frequently).

Second, we were camping the whole time. Not the “We’re taking an RV” type of camping.


This was three weeks of no showers, no electronics, and no cell phones. I only brought four outfits with me to switch up for three weeks. Most everyone averaged five outfits for the whole trip. We were encouraged to bring baby wipes in lieu of access to showers.

That last point actually came in handy at Chaco Canyon, because when we stopped there we found out the water was non-potable, which means it shouldn’t be used unless you boil it because of bacteria, viruses, and worms.

On the reservation, and in the desert, if you are lucky to find water at all, it’s almost always¬†non-potable.

Anyway, we stopped at Canyon du Chelley, as it was not only a tourist site, but also had Navajo people still living there, along the bottom of the ridges, growing corn. (We were told via signs not to take pictures of certain areas because some of the people there are adverse to tourists.)

canyon du chelley warning sign


canyon du chelley hogan at bottom of canyon

As my classmates and I descended the 600 foot high ridge along the designated path, we would occasionally be passed by Navajo ranchers on horseback, climbing the rocky road.

There was also quite a few spots we avoided because of horse poop.

canyon du chelley horse riders

Along the bottom we reached what the locals generously called “the river.”

canyon du chelley river waders

I’m from Ohio. That there in the picture is not a river. That’s a glorified stream.

But hey, it’s the desert, so, river.

canyon du chelley river wading

My friends and I walked into the water to cool off, and then we moved on to Spider Rock.

Actually, I tell a lie. Two of the kids we were traveling with wandered off down the river, so the coordinator of the trip took one of the three vans we were using and drove down to find them. That meant the rest of us packed into two vans.

It was tight.

But we made it to Spider Rock.

canyon du chelley spider rock arizona sunset

And then we walked a bit further along the path and watched the sun set.

We actually went a little further out on the cliff edge. Some of the kids went right to the edge, which made me go, “I’m not afraid of heights but the possibility of accidentally falling down a 1300 foot ledge terrifies me.”

I can handle a 300 foot tall roller coaster and the the 600 foot tall cliff, but 1300 sheer cliff? I’m going on board the Nope Train.

But that’s just me.

canyon du chelley sunset at spider rock

canyon du chelley spider rock sunset

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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