The Navajo Nation covers 27,000 square miles and has become a great spot for adventuring. But don’t expect brewpubs and outlet malls. Instead, get ready to embrace a vast expanse of high desert studded with incredible terrain and markers of the region’s deep history and culture. Spend your days exploring and your nights celebrating with the people who call the area home. Here are five essential stops.
Explore Monument Valley
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is one of the most iconic spots in the United States and has appeared in countless movies and cartoons. It’s easy to see why. The 91,000-acre valley, known locally as Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, includes dozens of 400- to 1,000-foot buttes and spires that reach up from the canyon floor, creating a breathtaking view. To get up close to the rock formations, hire a Navajo guide for a jeep trip along the canyon floor.
Learn About the Code Talkers
Next to the Navajo Interactive Museum in Tuba City, the National Navajo Code Talkers Museum commemorates the band of Navajo military radiomen who used their language to transmit information and orders during World War II. Enemy code breakers were never able to decipher the signals sent by the code talkers, thus giving the United States a major advantage in the war. The museum shares the code talkers’ story and displays their equipment and memories of the war.
Mountain Bike the Chuska Mountains
The Chuska Mountain Bike Route is a 90-mile traverse from Roof Butte to Mexican Springs that follows the flat-topped Chuska Mountains on the Arizona–New Mexico state line. This is the only MTB route on Navajo land that is open to the public, and it rolls along single- and doubletrack through green pastures and pine forests and past rocky overlooks with stunning views of distant buttes and spires.
Follow the Little Colorado River Gorge
If the Grand Canyon is wide, expansive, and serene, the Little Colorado Gorge is its opposite. The narrow gray canyon, at the eastern end of the Grand Canyon, is deep and steep. There are several places to get a glimpse of the Little Colorado’s flow before it joins the mighty Colorado, including Shadow Mountain and Hoyee’ Adeetiin. Adventurous hikers can get even closer to the river at Grand Falls, a muddy flow of water once known as the “Chocolate Niagara.”
Photograph a Slot Canyon
If you’ve ever seen a photo of a slot canyon so otherworldly that you thought it might be photoshopped, it likely came from Antelope Canyon, on Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park. Make your own photographic memory of this stunning spot during a guided tour that will take you through narrow passages where rock walls rise 120 feet above the stream below, and light filters in to create a cathedral-like atmosphere. The native guides will also share the history and significance of the canyon and talk about how they use the mystical space today.