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17 Free Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Spots

Last updated on May 8th, 2022 at 01:37 am

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Are you looking for somewhere wonderful to visit in Arizona and don’t know where? Canyon de Chelly National Monument is the place to be. The national monument is solely owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust of the Navajo Nation. Whether you want to learn the history of the Navajo people or looking for hiking places there are endless things to see and do while in the park. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about accommodation since different hotels and eateries near the park. One drawback for some is to visit inside the canyon you must take one of the Navajo guided Canyon de Chelly tours. They provide both Canyon de Chelly horseback tours and jeep tours.

History of Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Initially, the place served as the home of the Archaic people over 5,000 years ago. They were hunters and gatherers and only lived in seasonal campsites. It’s easy to know how they lived since they had painted images of their lifestyles on the canyon walls.

Later from 200 BC to 750 AD, the place was inhabited by the Navajo people who were basket-makers and farmers. As time progressed, the new community was able to build large public granaries and other structures. Their life slowly changed for the worse when a new group of settlers known as the Pueblos invaded their land.

From AD 750, the new community started building stone houses with household compounds and decorated walls. Most of the remnants seen in the monuments were built by the Pueblos settlers. They are believed to have left the area because of the poor farming conditions. Later in the early 1700s, the Hopis community invaded the area and started practicing seasonal farming.

The Navajos joined them and showed them how to practice domesticated farming. However, they never lived in peace since the Spanish settlers, and other Indian settlers wanted to live in their land. In 1805, the Spanish military advanced their war, and the Navajo people could not hold for long. They tried to take shelter at the rocks, but the Spanish people killed most of the Navajo warriors. Their hiding place where they took cover is known as the Massacre Cave.

In the late 1800s, the US military started occupying the western side of the area and wanted the remaining Navajo community to relocate to Eastern New Mexico. The worst part of their suffering is when Colonel Kit Carson made over 8,000 Navajos walk for over 300 miles to Fort Summer. Sadly, many people died on their way, and the event is now remembered as The Long Walk. However, after four years, the Navajo people were allowed to relocate to their homeland and still reside there.

Be prepared to boondocking some distance from the canyon and, in many cases the best option for you might be to stay at the Spider Rock campground. There are however a ton of other sites nearby that you can include with your time including the Petrified Forest NM, the Vermillion Cliffs NM, and the Grand Staircase Escalante NM to name a few. Oh, and don’t miss the Bisti Badlands listed below.

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19 Free Campsites for Big Bend National Park

 

1. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations – Ganado U.S. Postal Office

Address
Ganado, Arizona
GPS: 35.71085, -109.54255
Elevation: 6398′

Management Public – US Postal Service (Unofficial)

Only safe place in Ganado that allows RV overnight parking. Park on the north side of the US Postal Office. There is a flat and level cement pad to park on.

2. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Bashas

Address
Kayenta, Arizona
GPS: 36.709646, -110.251129

Management Private – Retail Store (Unofficial)

Parking lot for a market and a few other shops. Next to a McDonald’s and Taco Bell also but a different lot. We parked here in out van for a night along with a few other RVs and had no issue.

3. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Spots – The Home Depot

Address
Gallup, New Mexico
GPS: 35.52838, -108.766623
Elevation: 6483′

Management Private – Retail Store (Official)

You can park over night in the far north parking lot.

4. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations – Cracker Barrel

Address
1480 W Maloney Ave, Gallup, NM 87301
Gallup, New Mexico
GPS: 35.52859, -108.76387
Elevation: 6490′

Management (Official)

The road in is Paved. After the movie, we drove back to Cracker Barrel and pulled into a spot next to the dumpster, which had a tall wall and shrubs. It was quiet and there was just one other RV a few spots away from us. We set up camp and went to sleep, and didn’t wake until morning when someone was taking out the trash at 6am.

5. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Painted Cliffs Rest Area

Address
Lupton, Arizona
GPS: 35.353307, -109.057208
Elevation: 6188′

Management Public – Rest Area (Official)

The road in is Paved. Painted Cliffs Rest Area is open year round. The maximum RV length at Painted Cliffs Rest Area is unlimited. You may stay overnight at Painted Cliffs Rest Area.

6. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Spots – Second Mesa Hopi Reservation

Address
Shungopavi, Arizona
GPS: 35.806984, -110.528748
Elevation: 6363′

Management Public – City Park (Official)

Second Mesa Hopi Reservation is open Year Round. Dry camping near the Hopi Cultural Center.

7. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations – Roadside Option (south side)

Address
GPS: 37.009094, -109.015413
Elevation: 4898′

Management Public – Ute Mountain Reservation (Unofficial)

The road in is Gravel and roadside turnout miles from a paved road. Roadside Option (south side) is open Year-round. The maximum RV length at Roadside Option (south side) is unlimited. You may stay overnight at Roadside Option (south side).

8. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Roadside Option (northside)

Address
GPS: 37.00961, -109.01672
Elevation: 4888′

Management Public – Ute Mountain Reservation (Unofficial)

The road in is Dirt and just off hwy 160 miles from a paved road. Roadside Option (north side) is open year round. You may stay Use your judgment at Roadside Option (north side). North side of highway, access road to private property (gated). Dirt track immediately turns west off the highway and away from the gate. Fairly flat, no signs prohibiting overnight parking and away from car headlights

9. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Spots – Fire and Rock Navajo Casino

Address
249 Hwy 66, Church Rock, NM 87311
Rehoboth, New Mexico
GPS: 35.53247, -108.62877
Elevation: 6617′

Management Private – Casino

The road in is Paved. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited.

10. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations – Truck Stop Gas Station

Address
Sanders, Arizona
GPS: 35.190581, -109.432744
Elevation: 5771′

Management Private – Truck Stop

Large dirt lot directly behind (next to) the gas pumps. Right off Hwy 40 and 191. The lot is hard and easy to drive on. Well lit and safe. Downside, it’s right next to the train tracks.

11. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Navajo National Monument-Sunset View Campground

Address
The end of State Highway 564 off of US Highway 160.
Shonto, Arizona
GPS: 36.675304, -110.538597
Elevation: 7294′

Management Public – National Park Service (Official)

The road in is Paved. Navajo National Monument-Sunset View Campground is open Year Round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 28 Feet. You may stay 7 days at Navajo National Monument-Sunset View Campground.

12. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Spots – Shonto Marketplace

Address
Shonto, Arizona
GPS: 36.461192, -110.692145
Get Directions

Private – Gas station / store (Official)

13. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations – Bisti Badlands

Address
Farmington, New Mexico
GPS: 36.259249, -108.25165
Elevation: 5771′

Management Public – Bureau of Land Management

This area, Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness, is a favorite with photographers for its hoodoo formations, the wilderness is a remote, desolate area of colorful badlands. Time and natural elements have created strange rock formations leaving the area with some of the most unusual scenery in New Mexico.

14. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Mexican Hat Boondocking

Address
Mexican Hat, Utah
GPS: 37.172547, -109.847076
Elevation: 4296′

Management Public – Bureau of Land Management

The road in is Dirt. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. Free dispersed camping on BLM land near the Mexican Hat formation north of the ton of the same name. The BLM is bordered by private and Native American land, so mind where you camp. Both the formation and the campsite marker are located on BLM land.

15. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Spots – 191 off 400

Address
Fort Wingate, New Mexico
GPS: 35.42214, -108.55003
Elevation: 7503′

Management Public – Forest Service (Official)

Dispersed campsite. Stayed here on a 42 foot toy hauler best one for this size was the first one to the left straight in all the way to the gate. After March 31.

16. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations – Quaking Aspen Trail

Address
Quaking Aspen Trail
Fort Wingate, New Mexico
GPS: 35.410365, -108.551326
Elevation: 7690′

Management Public – Forest Service (Official)

Dispersed camping, no water, no toilets (though they had bathrooms at the trailhead at the entrance to the campsites). Tent and RV camping

17. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Free Campsites – Valley of the Mortally Inspired

 

Address
Mexican Hat, Utah
GPS: 37.197993, -109.846705
Elevation: 4346′

Management Public – Bureau of Land Management (Unofficial)

The road in is Dirt and 1-2 miles from a paved road. Valley of the Mortally Inspired is open Year Round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet.

Top 4 trails To Hike at Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly National Monument Hiking Trail #1. Canyon de Chelly National Monument Scenic Drive

1 Canyon de Chelly Canyon de Chelly National Monument

This spectacular scenic drive is about 24.9 kilometers. If you enjoy hiking, this is the place to be. You not only enjoy scenic driving but also can take endless photos at different stopovers. The paved drive is open year-round and kid-friendly. However, you’re not allowed to carry dogs.

Length: 15.5 mi
Elevation gain: 1,574 ft
Route type: Point to point

Kid friendly, Scenic driving, Paved, Views, No dogs

Canyon de Chelly National Monument Hiking Trail #2. Mummy Cave Ruin Trail

Mummy Cave Canyon de Chelly National Monument

The trail is about 15.8 kilometers. The trail is usually used by those who like hiking. Mummy cave ruin is found along the North Rim Drive. As you walk along the trail, you will enjoy viewing the rugged landscape and different vegetation types. You will know you’re approaching near the overlook when the trail transitions to sand. You just have to do a mummy cave Canyon de Chelly tours.

Upon reaching the cave, you will see the Anasazi cliff, inhabited close to a thousand years. It’s believed that the place was abandoned when a severe drought struck the area in the 1200s. To get a closer look, you will need a pair of binoculars. Did you know that the place was named Mummy Cave after the archaeologists discovered two mummies? Now you know. If you keenly check the central tower, you will discover that the buildings there are not as old as other rooms.

Length: 9.8 mi
Elevation gain: 1,450 ft
Route type: Out & back

Hiking, Cave, Views

Canyon de Chelly National Monument Hiking Trail #3. Spider Rock Viewpoint

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument

You can enjoy hiking at the Spider Rock Viewpoint if you’re using the South Rim Drive. The trail will lead you to a place that overlooks Canyon de Chelly and a monolith. The trail derived its name from Spider Rock which was believed to be the home of Spider-Woman. This 15.5 miles trail is the last stop of the South Rim Drive. You know you’re near the ruins when you start seeing several spotting tubes along the way. This concrete trail is wide enough and wheelchair accessible.

Upon reaching the ruins, you will be welcomed by scenic sandstone, a few brush types, and some junipers. The Spider Rock can be seen from all overlooks, and you can take as many pictures as you want. If you move forward, you can now easily view different canyons.

Length: 0.4 mi
Elevation gain: 22 ft
Route type: Out & back

Walking, River, Views

Canyon de Chelly National Monument Hiking Trail #4. Tsaile Lake Trail

Tsaile Lake trail

Tsaile lake trail is a lightly trafficked trail located near Tsaile in Arizona. The trail features a fine 1,142 –feet elevation and you need to have a guide. The trail is kid-friendly, and you can take lots of nature trips. You can take as many photos as you want as you walk through the forest. There is a lake nearby where you can enjoy fishing or doing other recreational activities. The trail is 3.4 kilometers in length.

Length: 2.1 mi
Elevation gain: 95 ft
Route type: Out & back

Kid friendly, Hiking, Nature trips, Forest, Lake, Views

Best Paid Accommodations and Dining near Canyon de Chelly Monument

1. Thunderbird Lodge

Thunderbird Lodge is located in the Canyon de Chelly national park. The lodge is located near the Sliding Rock Overlook and the Antelope House Overlook. You have an option to choose different guest rooms that fit within your budget. The lodge provides parking, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, free breakfast, housekeeping services, a restaurant, a fully-equipped bathroom, and personal protective equipment. The hotel charges roughly $123 per night. This is just one of the Canyon de Chelly hotels to pick from but is our favorite from all the reviews our readers have given us.

2. Best Western Canyon De Chelly Inn

The Inn is located in the Canyon De Chelly national park near the Sliding Rock Overlook and the Antelope House Overlook. You can enjoy watching the serene environment while at the White House Overlook trail.

The Inn is equipped with popular amenities such as a pool, free Wi-Fi, parking, spa, gym, restaurant, air conditioning, housekeeping services, business services, and a 24/7 front desk. The hotel Inn offers outdoor activities like the picnic area and BBQ grills. You will roughly pay $102 per night.

3. Holiday Inn Canyon De Chelly

Holiday Inn Canyon De Chelly is located in a rural area near the Sliding Rock Overlook and the Antelope House Overlook. The Inn offers popular amenities such as parking, gym, breakfast, free Wi-Fi, business services, laundry, air conditioning, room service, and housekeeping. The Inn charges roughly $123 per night.

4. Spider Rock Campground

Spider Rock campground is situated at the Tse Ho Tso Plateau and features 30 spacious RV and camping sites. Each tent at the campsite costs roughly $15 per night, but the rates are cheaper if you’re in a group of 7-14 people. They offer free Wi-Fi, espresso drinks, campfires, solar-heated showers, and a grocery store where you can buy drinks and snacks.

Canyon de Chelly Canyon de Chelly National Monument Boondocking Locations

Canyon de Chelly Destinations

1. The Visitor Center

There are many things to do once you reach the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Apart from the spectacular views in the area, you will glimpse the traditional Native American life. Once you reach there, the first place to visit is the visitor center. Before you get into the center, you will be welcomed by a hexagonal structure made of logs that the Navajo people use as their ceremonial center.

At the visitor center, you will find a small museum where you can explore the area’s history. The best part is there is a silversmith who will demonstrate how the Navajos people make their jewelry. You will also enjoy the interpretive programs that run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There are different activities you can enjoy while there, ranging from the natural-history programs to the campfire programs.

After exploring the visitor center, the next stopover should be at the canyon by car. You can either use the 16-mile South Rim drive or the 15-mile North Rim to enjoy different views of the monument’s system. Regardless of the rim road you use, there are different stopovers where you can rewind and learn more about the monument.

2. The South Rim Drive

If you like hiking and have time for only one Rim Drive, it’s recommended you use the South Rim Drive. Not only will you have a chance to view the spectacular Spider Rock, but also you will have an opportunity to hike down the trail.

Driving along the South Rim Drive should be slow and steady. The first stopover should be at the Tunnel Overlook. Here, you will enjoy watching the narrow canyon feeds flowing into the Chinle Wash. Chinle wash was formed by several streams that flow through the canyons in the national monument. When you gaze down from above, you will see the Tsegi Overlook.

3. The Junction Overlook

The Junction Overlook should be your next stopover. It was named Junction Overlook because it directly overlooks Canyon de Chelly National Monument and the Canyon del Muerto. At this point, you will get the opportunity to enter the Junction Ruin that has10 different rooms and a kiva. The area is famously known because it’s where the Ancestral Puebloans occupied during the Great Pueblo period. While there, you can also view the First Ruin, which has 22 rooms and two kivas.

The next place to stop over is at the White House Overlook. There are 80 rooms in the White House Ruin, and it’s the largest ruin site in this canyon. The area was inhabited from 1040-1275. While here, you can choose to descend through the White House Ruin trail without a guide. You will descend 600 feet down using the trail before you get to the White House Ruin.

4. The Whitehouse Overlook

At the Sliding House Overlook stopover, you will see about 30-50 different rooms built on a narrow shelf that slides down into the canyon. The area is believed to be inhibited from 900 to 1200. The overlook is over 700 feet above the canyon floor and has sheer walls that give it a foreboding appearance.

5. Face Rock Overlook

The last access road leads you to the Face Rock Overlook that gives a breathtaking experience to gaze around 1,000 feet down. The next overlook is the Spider Rock Overlook that has the most spectacular view. You will get a chance to see the monolithic pinnacle that rises 800 feet above.

6. The North Rim Drive

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of this area, this is your best Rim drive. The first place to stop over is at the Ledge Ruin Overlook. Upon checking the opposite wall, you will see the Ledge Ruin. The Puebloans between 1050 and 1275 inhabited the area. As you explore the area, you will see a circular ceremonial building known as a kiva.

7.Antelope House Overlook

The next interesting stopover is at the Antelope House Overlook. Here, you will not only enjoy hiking at the rugged Rim-rock landscape but also see impressive cliff walls, rock arts, and the general beauty of the ruins. Countless antelope paintings were believed to have been there since the 1830s. You can also view the remains of the pit house that are dated AD 693.

8. Tomb of the Weaver

There’s a Tomb of the Weaver across the wash, where the well-preserved body is stored. While at the Antelope House Overlook, you will see the Navajo Fortress made of red sandstone. It’s believed the where Navajo people used to hide there from the attackers.
The next stopovers should be at the Mummy Cave Overlook, where archeologists discovered two mummies. There, you will find two caves with around 80 rooms which were occupied 1,000 years ago. The walls are still colorfully decorated.

9. Massacre Cave Overlook

The last stop is at the Massacre Cave Overlook, where the Spanish military killed over 115 Navajo warriors while encroaching their land. While at this overlook you will see Yucca cave which was occupied by the Navajo people over 1000 years ago.

What to Pack for your visit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument

What you wear depends on the month you’re visiting. If it’s during summer, you can carry light clothes but if you visit the place during winter, carry warm clothes. Here is a general list of things that you need to pack.
• A plug adapter
• A Working SIM card
• Phone
• A pair of binoculars
• A backpack
• A water bottle
• Pajamas
• Hiking shoes
• Clothes
• Footwear
• Sunglasses
• Camera
• Money or credit cards

If you want to have a more personalized experience, it’ advisable to rent a jeep as a group and tour the area. Regardless of your age, there are endless things to do while at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. You can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and camping. While hiking at different trails, it’s advisable to hire a guide often available at the visitor center.


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