Navajo National Monument, Arizona

North America | | December 30, 2010 at 12:05 am


Arizona is the land of many natural monuments such as the Grand Canyon, which pull thousands of visitors each year. Today, I will take you on a tour of one such wonder called the Navajo National Monument nestled on the northern Arizona’s Shonto Plateau that looks over the Tsegi Canyon in Navajo. The Navajo National Monument is known among the tourists for its three most integral cliff dwellings that belong to the ancestral Anasazi tribe of the Puebloan folks who resided here in the 13th century. Currently, the Navajo inhabitants here refer to these ancient people as only ‘Anasazi’ meaning the ancient people.


The monument offers a visitor center, two small campgrounds, two short self-guided mesa trails, and a picnic area. On my trip here, I followed the 1.6 km round trip Sandal Trail facilitating the self-guided walk for soaking into the vistas of the majestic canyon lands as well as the rocky terrain close to the visitor center. On the way, look for the interpretive symbols that actually tell you about the indigenous flora as well as on more topics. Finally, the trail culminates at a vantage point of the Betatakin ruins across the deep Betatakin Canyon.

Although the trail can be self explored, it is recommended to go for a guided hike for a closer look at the ruins. The hiking tour to Betatakin starts at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays as per the weather conditions in winter (mid-September to late May). Talking of the remaining months, they happen daily. In this ardent hike, the 5-mile loop trail at a good elevation will take over half of your day.


One of the famous sites in the Navajo National Monument is of the Betatakin ruins. The term ‘Betatakin’ in Navajo dialect refers to the ‘Dwelling on a Ledge’ and this really is seen in its ruins. In Hopi, this site is called Talastima that means the “Site of the Corn Tassel”. As compared to the close by Kiet Siel, Betatakin is smaller boasting over 100 rooms since the time of desolation of which only 80 rooms are seen today. All thanks to the rock falls within the niche! Made in a vast alcove, this is assumed to be the home of 125 people. However, there is only one kiva here.

More enormous and the home of several kivas, the nearby Kiet Siel that means ‘broken house’ in Navajo is in the Tsegi Canyon of the Kayenta area. This is a well preserved cliff abode that was believed to be first inhabited in 1250 AD. Most of these constructions belong the period between 1272 and 1286 AD, which hold the capacity of 150 people. As per several archeologists, Kiet Siel is among the ideally maintained larger ruins in the Southwest America. The extreme dry climate as well as the overhanging cliff has contributed to the excellent conditions here, which have preserved the artifacts.

The third spectacular cliff dwelling is the Ts’ah Bii’ Kin that means the ‘Inscription House’. However, this one is currently not open to the public. However, it is still a part of the Navajo National Monument.

To take a glimpse at the two ruins, rangers will guide you for free to the Kiet Siel as well as Betatakin ruins of cliff dwellings.


No matter what is the season or time, the Sunset View campground is ready to serve you. Here, you can expect over 30 sites each of which is equipped with picnic tables, parking spaces, restrooms, charcoal grills, and running water. There are RV’s, but are confined to 28 feet. One more recommended campsite is the Canyon View campground that is only available from late May to mid-September. Here, there are 16 sites offering charcoal grills and pit toilets. However, for water, you have to walk until the Sunset View campground. But, still this spot is famous among the tourists for its soothing night skies and tranquility.

Good to know

The Navajo National Monument that is on the National Register of Historic Places, is at 7,000 feet. So, be ready to face less oxygen and bring lots of water as well as sunscreen. Further, here, the mountain daylight time is followed. If you are coming in winter, be prepared to face the chilling temperatures as perhaps snow also.


8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Entry fees

None, not even for camping.

Reaching here

The Navajo National Monument is at the end of the Highway 564 that at 20 miles from Kayenta meets the Highway 160.

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