Desert Escapes

Ride a sudden whim or a sturdy steed to arid expanses where solitude reigns

Oct 8, 2001
Outside Magazine

Horsepacking in Navajoland
Drop over the South Rim and ride along the sandy floor of Arizona's Canyon de Chelly National Monument, where the sparse grass is studded with cactus and 800-plus-year-old Anasazi ruins cling to the wind-scoured red cliffs. Make camp among the cottonwoods at the head of adjoining Canyon del Muerto, 800 feel below the rim, and watch the last light bounce off red rocks, painting white horses pink.

You'll tour these ancient canyons on the first portion of a three-stage horseback trek through the Navajo country of Arizona and Utah. Outfitter Hel Heaton carries the load with pickups and horse trailers, so you can leapfrog across the landscape to ride only the most spectacular country. Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border, the quintessential Western landscape, is the next stop for two days of riding among the towering rock spires. A two-hour road trip brings you to 10,388-foot Navajo Mountain in Utah for another two days of riding northward into the maze of canyons that comprise the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area watershed. Along the way, you'll pitch your own tent, groom and saddle your horse, do the dishes after a hearty meat-and-potatoes meal, and scale plenty of rocks to gain sweeping views of the countryside. The coda for the trek: You'll descend the rocky wash of Piute Creek to the San Juan River, swap your horse for a speedboat, skim the last 50 miles on Lake Powell, and return to Page, Arizona.
The eight-day trip beings and ends in Page and runs around $170 per person per day. Call Mel Heaton's Honeymoon Trail Company (520.643.7292) or Equitour (800.545.0019).

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