This Virtual Tour takes you on the only hiking trail that goes down into Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly and ends at the White House Ruins located on the canyon floor. Canyon de Chelly is located inside the national monument of the same name – Canyon de Chelly National Monument – and is the spiritual center for the native Navajo people.
The 3 mile roundtrip hiking trail to the bottom of Canyon de Chelly and to the White House Ruins is the only access to the canyon itself without hiring a Navajo guide. Although anybody can visit the various viewpoints along the rim of the canyons without a guide, if you wish to venture into the canyons by foot or 4wd vehicle, then you must hire an official Navajo guide at the park’s visitor center.
Canyon de Chelly itself is located near the town of Chinle, which is in northeastern Arizona, on the western edge of the famed Painted Desert. The most common way of accessing the park is from I-40, 76 miles to the south on U.S. 191. Canyon de Chelly is also located about 100 miles from Monument Valley, so a trip to both places can easily be arranged.
Once in Chinle, continue due east through the main part of town and, upon entering the park entrance, you will encounter the visitor center on the right. Stop in to get the latest trail conditions, as well as other valuable information about this beautiful and unique canyon. When we visited, entrance into the park was free.
From the visitor center, turn right and then keep to the right to follow the South Rim Road (Indian Route 7). The left-hand turnoff for the overlook and trailhead for White House Ruins is reached at 5.1 miles from the visitor center. The trailhead begins at the overlook.
Below are some pictures of what you will see along the way.
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Virtual Tour on YouTube
After leaving the viewpoint, the trail heads south along the canyon’s rim and over sandstone for a short distance. The trail is well defined and easy to follow. The trail then makes a u-turn as it begins its descent and enters a short tunnel through the sandstone. The total descent to the ruins is about 600 feet. Just remember that you will be returning via the same trail that you go down on, so make sure to save enough water and strength for the return hike.
This hike is not for light-weights. In addition to the 600 foot elevation gain, the trail runs next to some steep drop-offs where has been carved into the sandstone. Hikers that are afraid of heights, beware! The trail passes through two fairly short tunnels. So hikers that are claustrophobic or tall and tend to hit their heads on low ceilings, beware!
Views from the hiking trail are spectacular. Be sure to stop frequently as the views always change as you descend. The natural sculpturing of the sandstone is also unique and fun to look at. So you definitely want to take some extra time to stop along the trail and enjoy the views. It took us about a total of 3 hours to do the entire hike; but as you can see from the Virtual Tour, we also stopped to take a lot to take pictures!
Once the trail hits the bottom, there is a footbridge available to cross the creek that is often dry. Soon, you will be surrounded by Navajo merchants selling their jewelry and other wares which are lined up along the final stretch to the ruins. Usually, there are restrooms located here. Finally, just past the merchants, you will reach the ruins.
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