If you want to see some of our nation’s most amazing cliff dwellings, Navajo National Monument is a great place to do it. Our original plan was to backpack to Keet Seel here, one of the most well preserved cliff dwellings. The National Park Service allows for a certain number of permits to do this daily, and we were fortunate enough to have one, but we decided to cancel it after getting an additional night at Havasu. Because you have to hike in with all your water, we decided that the kids had earned a break after doing Havasu, so we didn’t want to push them so much by taking another backpacking trip.
We opted to spend the night in the amazing Sunset View Campground. Did I mention that it is free?! Amazingly, it was one of the nicest campgrounds we have stayed in! We pulled in well after dark, with plenty of available spots.
After a quick night of sleep, we signed in to the visitor center for the first guided tour of Betatakin (there are only 2 tours each day because it is very hot there, so we knew the first tour would be best). The tours to Betatakin are also free, and extra special because the native Navajos who share this land with the National Park Service give the tours. We learned so much about plants, nature, and their culture on this tour! It is a short 3 mile hike roundtrip. However, the trail goes down 700 feet to the bottom of the canyon floor, where Betatakin sits. Because they are trying to keep Betatakin well preserved, you are not able to walk into the dwelling, but the information on the tour was so very interesting.
Braden was amazed that they only used the area for a couple hundred years before leaving for unknown reasons. It was also interesting that they threw their bones in the area, which you can still find today, along with many pieces of pottery. Ethan found it fascinating that the plants could be used as medicine or tea, and that some plants if used in excess, could kill you. In this ancient society, they marked their territories using their tribal animal symbols.
At the end of the tour, the guide offered to let people go up at their own pace due to the difficulty and number of steps, and of course, the Hoff kids did not disappoint. They went racing up the steps, closed up the cliffside tour door, got sworn in as junior rangers, and got ready to head off to our next destination.
This was a great stop, and we will be sure to head back to backpack Keet Seel someday soon! (travel dates 7/5-7/6/18)