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Old 02-28-2024, 08:04 AM   #1
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Best Way to Get to Canyon De Chelly?

Planning our summer trip which will include Canyon De Chelly. Will be coming from TX in early June. In looking at the maps it looks like access is limited, with a fairly long drive on 191 from I 10, which is entirely in the Navajo Nation. We are concerned that there will little to no services along the highway. Would you suggest a different route?

Once we get to Chinle we will probably stay at the Cottonwood campground and would appreciate any tips, particularly about guided tours, photo ops and things to do. Would not mind staying for 3-4 days.
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Old 02-28-2024, 02:44 PM   #2
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Canyon De Chelly

Did you mean from I-40? You shouldn't have any problems crossing the reservation. Are you planning on staying in Cottonwood Az afterwards?
Ken in AZ
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Old 02-28-2024, 06:15 PM   #3
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Actually, we will be coming from the south, I 10. Was planning on staying at Cottonwood (in Chinle?) while we do the canyon.
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Old 02-28-2024, 09:21 PM   #4
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We have enjoyed many trips to Canyon de Chelly and Cottonwood campground. It has been a few years since we were last there so my data may be dated. There were no hookups and it used to be first come. It is a Navajo tribal campground, so your NP pass does not work but the daily fee isnít very high. There was water available and a dump station. Check with Navajo Parks & Rec for current data and possible reservations.

Being a tribal area, everything in the canyons require a guide or permit. The 4wd trips up the canyons are very interesting, educational and fun. Be prepared to get your feet wet in case they get stuck Ė more fun. Take the tours so you donít have to repair your truck after possible deep-water immersion. The rim drives are also interesting and a compliment to the canyon tours. These do not require a guide. Be sure to try a Navajo taco and the fry bread. The tribal or NP visitorís centers can set you up with guides if you want to do personal exploring or hikes.

Lots of culture and history in the greater area. If you go through Kayenta stop at the Burger King to see an interesting collection of items by one of the WW2 Code Talkers. A critical and interesting group of men who served in the Pacific and came home without any recognition until the 1960ís because they were told to not tell people what they did.

The Hopi and the Zuni are separate tribes with their own cultures and reservations. As are the various pueblo tribes in northern NM. The Hopi and Navajo are historically not friendly towards each other so donít ask one about the other.

I would take 180 N out of Deming vs the 191 N from Lordsburg. The 191 between Morenci and Alpine is narrow, slow and VERY curvy. Or pop up to I-40 someplace that looks interesting.

Enjoy the area! Lots to see and do!
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Old 02-29-2024, 07:53 AM   #5
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Great information Doug. Thank you for being so detailed. We have visited Canyon de Chelly as well but stayed in the lodge, not the campground and did not take the tours. It is our intention to visit again and tour it like you just advised.

One other note; anyone wanting a beer at happy hour or a glass of wine with dinner in the trailer will need to bring it along. Alcoholic beverages are not sold anywhere on the reservation.

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Old 02-29-2024, 08:03 AM   #6
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Which is the better campground for 2-3 days discovering the area, Cottonwood or Spider Rock. Spider is the only one that allows reservations if that is important. Sounds like both are pretty much boondocking, which is fine.
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Old 02-29-2024, 08:40 AM   #7
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Spider Rock was for sure bare bones when we were there a few years ago. It's also several miles around the Canyon. Cottonwood is much closer to the Chelly entrance and is much more nice.
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Old 02-29-2024, 09:26 AM   #8
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The possession of alcohol in all areas of the Navajo Nation is prohibited. Which I believe is the same thing as illegal. That said, we imbibed but only out of sight within our trailer. I vaguely recall that issue came up in one of Tony Hillermanís novels involving the Navajo police officers, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee.
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Old 02-29-2024, 11:26 AM   #9
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We stayed at Spider Rock Campground several years ago and enjoyed talking with the Host/Owner Howard Smith a Navajo who grew up on the land where the campground is now.

We did not want to do a Jeep Tour and there is one entrance that one can walk into the park: The White House Trail. I remember distinctly a Navajo women being frustrated with her twelve year old son who was more interested in his Gameboy than doing the hike. It is a little steep near the top, but not too bad.
"We gotta get as far away as we can!"
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