Monday, April 13, 2009

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located in the Northeastern portion of Arizona in the Navajo Nation near Chinle Arizona. The National Parks Service and the Navajo Nation work as partners in managing the park resources. There are two ways to see the park; visitors are allowed to drive the rim and stop at the various overlooks or actually drive into the canyon itself however you must have a guide for this. Canyon de Chelly has both a major historical and spiritual significance to the Navajo people.
Before going any further I wish to thank Timothy Halwood, owner Twin Trail Scenic Tours for guiding and showing a beautiful area in the Southwest. While Tim currently doesn't have a working website he nevertheless can be reach either at 928-349-5560 or via email at

Sandy and I have lived in Arizona since 2004 and pass through Chinle on our way to either Monument Valley or Moab; this was always on our "to do" list but just never got around to doing it till now. Sandy decided to sit this trip out so I met our good friend Ken Doo (KenDooPhotography) in Chile after he finished a photo shoot in Monument Valley. We wanted to see the canyon both from the rim as well as inside and decided to contact Tim for his guide services. You have several options in visiting the inside of the canyon; group tours in large vehicles or private tours in either the tour company vehicle or your own.

The first thing we saw after passing through the entrance was what looked like a river; it's the wet season with snow melt from the higher elevations which makes for a lot of running water. Tim got us out onto the water and gave us directions on where to drive on the "road".
"First Ruins"

...past First Ruins on our way to Mummy Cave

Jeep parked in front of Mummy Cave

View of Mummy Cave from the North Rim Overlook:

We left Mummy Cave and attempted to go into the South Canyon where Spider Rock is located however conditions prevented us from getting there (we'll be back in August).

As much as I would have liked photographing Spider Rock from ground level we did however get several images from the overlook.

Photo Tip: I feel the best time to photograph Spider Rock is at sunset.

After visiting the North Canyon and attempting to get further into the South Canyon Tim invited Ken and myself to visit his wife's ranch which is located inside Canyon de Chelly. Ken and I are only a small hand full of non Navajo's that have ever seen this area. Tim told us that he is in the process of offering this area as a private tour for photographers.

Tim and Ken outside the slot canyon


Here's a couple of the water crossings:

All in all despite the cold and wind of the first day and not being able to make it all the way into the South Canyon and Window Rock and Spider Rock the trip was a great success. My only regret is not doing this a couple years sooner.

Canyon de Chelly is located in a semi-remote area of Northeastern Arizona in the Navajo Nation and is well worth the effort of getting there. Once you get there take both the North and South Rim drives and if you have the time contact Tim and let him guide you into the canyon - you won't regret the experience.

I know this was longer than normal however there was just so much to share.


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