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Cliff Dwellings in Navajo National Monument in Arizona: Worth the visit?

navajo national monument sign

Navajo National Monument is a national park site located between Page, Arizona, and Monument Valley. It’s worth the slight detour to visit this underrated little park on your way between these two areas.

Thought not nearly as impressive, or as easily accessible, as Mesa Verde National Park, it is a nice place to view cliff dwellings with virtually no crowds.

Getting there

Navajo National Monument is located about an hour away from Monument Valley and 1.5 hours away from Page.

To get there, turn on either Rte 564 or Rte 221. Note, however, that Rte 221 is a dirt road between Shonto and Navajo National Monument, and is pretty sandy and rough in certain parts. I used this road to shave off some backtracking, but if you’re at all concerned, it isn’t that much farther to just use Rte 564 in and out.

Tsegi Overlook

If entering via the more common Rte 564, you’ll encounter this overlook before you even arrive at the visitor center.

This is worth a stop, providing a great view of the beautiful Fir Canyon.

Visitor Center

navajo national monument

The visitor center has a gift shop and some nice displays inside, with replicas of the cliff dwellings that you’ll be able to see from afar in a few moments. There are some computer activities for kids as well.

Hikes

Via NPS

From the visitor center, there are three “self-guided” hikes you can do. Only the Sandal Trail leads to an overlook of the cliff dwellings.

While I’m sure the others provide nice views of the canyon, and could easily be explored with more time, we only had enough time to see the ruins.

Sandal Trail

The hike to the main viewpoint is 1.3 miles roundtrip. It’s a slight downhill grade, which means you’ll be climbing a bit on the return trip. The path is paved and accessible.

navajo national monument

navajo national monument

Betatakin Overlook

Sandal Trail ends at the Betatkin Overlook, from which you can see the cliff dwellings across the canyon below. It’s a beautiful viewpoint even without the cliff dwellings, but seeing them tucked in the alcove below is just an incredible site.

The cliff dwellings are far away, so they provide binoculars to look into. However, if you have your own binoculars, I highly recommend bringing them. These weren’t all that great.

navajo national monument

I regret that I didn’t bring my camera with a zoom lens, so I was only able to obtain some grainy images with my phone.

navajo national monument

navajo national monument

Here’s a nicer image from Canva.

Guided Ranger Hikes

The view from Betatakin Overlook is the only way you can see the cliff dwellings on your own. However, the park offers guided ranger hikes that will take you down the canyon to the ruins.

These hikes are 3-5 miles long, depending on which hike you choose. Since you are hiking down into the canyon, they are very strenuous. Plan on 3-5 hours, and prepare diligently for the heat and strenuousness of the hike.

Cheryl and I would love to get back here to do one of these guided hikes someday.

Navajo Home Replicas

Just behind the visitor center are some Navajo Home replicas, called Hogans.

When to visit

We visited in early September, and it was still pretty hot (90 degrees). In this part of the country, try to visit in March/April or October-ish for the best weather. Know that in the summer it gets insanely hot, and in the winter it does receive occasional snow and ice, making the trails a little dangerous.

We visited in the morning, and you can see from my photos that the alcove is casting a shadow over the cliff dwellings. Perhaps if you visit later in the day the sun will provide more light for better viewing.

Daylight Saving Time

Be aware that during the summer, Arizona does not observe daylight saving time, like nearby Utah does.

However, the Navajo National Monument does observe daylight saving time. Though this is a national park site and not a Navajo-owned site, the park is located within the Navajo Nation, which observes daylight saving time.

This normally won’t be an issue for you here at Navajo National Monument, unless you’re hoping for the visitor center to be open or you have a scheduled guided hike.

Campground

Navajo National Monument also has two first-come, first-served campgrounds. These campgrounds are free and do not require registration. See the park camping page for more details.

Is Navajo National Monument worth visiting?

Yes! For us, it was definitely worth the side trip to visit Navajo National Monument on our way from Monument Valley to Page, Arizona. I wish I would have given ourselves more time to hike the other day-hikes in the park. Also, we really want to return to do a ranger-guided hike to the ruins.

Things to do nearby

We visited nearby Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon on the same trip we took through the Southwest.

Additional Resources

ABOUT US

We’re Matt and Cheryl, and we’re in the Rockies. :) We are both teachers. Cheryl teaches special ed, and Matt teaches American history. We love the American West and the national parks. We want to help you have a great vacation on your next trip to the Rockies.

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