Navajo National Monument

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Navajo National Monument, located in northern Arizona, offers vanlifers a unique opportunity to explore ancient cliff dwellings, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural history. Nestled in the Navajo Nation, this lesser-known gem is perfect for those seeking a blend of adventure and tranquility in a truly unique setting.

Overview

Navajo National Monument preserves the ruins of three significant Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings: Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. The monument offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the fascinating history and culture of the people who once inhabited this region. With its beautiful high-desert scenery and quiet atmosphere, Navajo National Monument is an ideal destination for vanlifers looking to explore off the beaten path.

History

The cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument date back to the 13th century, built by the Ancestral Puebloans who farmed the area and created complex communities within the natural alcoves of the sandstone cliffs. These dwellings were mysteriously abandoned in the late 13th century. The site was declared a national monument in 1909 to protect and preserve these remarkable ruins. Today, the monument serves as a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the ancient inhabitants of the region.

Hiking

Hiking in Navajo National Monument offers visitors a chance to explore the stunning landscapes and view the ancient cliff dwellings up close. Popular trails include:

  • Betatakin Cliff Dwelling Trail: A guided hike that takes visitors down into the canyon to see the Betatakin ruins. This strenuous hike requires a ranger-led tour, which can be reserved at the visitor center.
  • Sandal Trail: A short, paved trail that offers a breathtaking overlook of the Betatakin ruins, perfect for those looking for an easier hike with stunning views.
  • Keet Seel Trail: For the more adventurous, this challenging 17-mile round-trip hike leads to the well-preserved Keet Seel ruins. This hike also requires a permit and a ranger guide.

Camping

Vanlifers can enjoy free camping at Navajo National Monument’s Sunset View Campground and Canyon View Campground. Both campgrounds are first-come, first-served and offer basic amenities such as picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms. The campgrounds provide a peaceful and scenic place to rest, with stunning views of the surrounding high-desert landscape.

Tourist Information

Before embarking on your adventure to Navajo National Monument, it’s essential to stop by the visitor center. The center offers valuable information about the monument, including maps, trail guides, and details on ranger-led tours. The visitor center also features exhibits on the history and culture of the Ancestral Puebloans, providing a deeper understanding of the significance of the cliff dwellings.

It’s a privilege to have the Navajo National Monument for our enjoyment, so please practice Leave No Trace principles.

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