The best Navajo Nation sightseeing
The Navajo Nation is a semi-autonomous territory that spans portions of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. This massive area primarily belongs to the Navajo Native American Tribe, and it’s the largest reservation in the country. Today the Nation has a sophisticated three-branch government, with its own legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
But, perhaps even more importantly, the Nation works to preserve public lands throughout the Southwest. Thanks to the Navajo Nation you can experience a variety of important Navajo Indian sites. Get up close and personal with the American Southwest’s fascinating history by visiting these top spots.
1. Monument Valley
Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park. Here, bright red sandstone sprouts up from the ground of the desert, and the image is dramatic. This area is the ancestral home of the Navajo and so it holds an important place in Navajo history.
If you choose to book a tour of the area, Navajo guides will typically join you in important places like Monument Valley, and they offer a unique perspective that you’re bound to appreciate.
This tall rock has an important place in Navajo mythology. The rock is the focal point of various legends, but the primary tale explains how the ground morphed into a bird that brought the ancient Navajo people north to the Southwest. These ancient people were fleeing from a different tribe, and this bird that sprang up from the earth was the answer to the Navajo shamans’ prayers for rescue. While resting after the long journey, the Bird was trapped by Cliff Monster, and a bloody battle followed to try to save the Bird. After the great battle, the Bird was turned to stone as a reminder of this great sacrifice.
Fascinating, right? Try to imagine these stories while visiting this scenic place.
3. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
People have lived in the canyons surrounding Canyon de Chelly for almost 5,000 years. For some perspective, that’s longer than anyone else has continuously lived anywhere in the Colorado Plateau. Families still reside here today, too.
While visiting you’ll be able to see pueblo sites, rock art, and beautiful scenic overlooks. For even more perspective on Canyon de Chelly, and other important Navajo sites, look into organized tours designed to offer travelers an in-depth look into the area.
4. Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
A visit to the Navajo Nation wouldn’t be entirely complete without a trip to the trading post. Hubbell’s is the oldest trading post on Navajo land, so it’s the perfect place to go to get a feel for what acquiring goods must have been like many, many years ago.
The post is as active as it has ever been, and you can purchase a variety of Native American arts and crafts… including stunning, authentic Navajo rugs and textiles.
5. Antelope Canyon
Perhaps one of the best-known Navajo Nation sites, Antelope Canyon is a must-visit. While you’re photographing the colorful canyon walls from different angles, trying to capture the best light, try to visualize how this sacred place looked hundreds of years ago. Herds of antelope once wandered through the canyon, grazing throughout the winter. We can’t be certain when people first discovered the canyon but we do know that the Navajo name for the Upper Antelope Canyon is Tse’ bighanilini, which means “the place where water runs through rocks.”
Antelope Canyon can only be visited with a Navajo licensed guide. This brings in tourism revenue for the tribe, but it’s also an important safety precaution – the canyon isn’t a place you want to be if a flash flood occurs, and experienced guides ensure you’re safe.