Wondrous Canyon de Chelly is a hidden gem

For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons among four mountains sacred to the Navajo.

Spider Rock
Spider Rock, at Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona, is one of the most popular attractions at this national monument. The rock is 800 feet high and made of sandstone. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

CHINLE, Ariz.--Of all the places I've visited on Road Trip 2007, I don't think any have been quite so far off the beaten path as Canyon de Chelly.

This is a truly wondrous place. For nearly 5,000 years, people have lived in these canyons among four mountains sacred to the Navajo. Even today, the Navajo still live here.

Still, the reason most people--including me--come, has got to be more about the scenery than the history, sad as that may be.

Truth be told, I had never even heard of Canyon de Chelly until reading about it in my Southwest guide book. It compared this place favorably to the Grand Canyon for pure scenic beauty. And I have to say, I can't see how they're wrong.

To get here, of course, you have to go far out of your way. It's not very near to any other popular destinations, though it's probably only a couple hours from Interstate 40, a heavy-traffic highway.

But it's so worth it. Here, you have canyon walls 1,000 feet high. You have Spider Rock, an 800-foot pillar of sandstone. And you have thousand year old cliff dwelling ruins. And then canyon views that are truly out of this world.

There are two arms to Canyon de Chelly: A north rim, and a south rim. I only drove the south rim, because I was short of time. And it was spectacular. I can't speak personally for the north rim, but I'm sure it's fantastic.

Either way, I suggest that you find your way here. And in the meantime, I expect to post a gallery of pictures of Canyon de Chelly (along with some of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

White House
These ruins, called White House, were built by the Puebloan people more than 1,000 years ago. The cliff dwellings are still visible, and visitable. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com
 

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