If you want to experience “the real thing” - both wilderness camping and a window into Navajo culture, stay at Spider Rock campground. Spider Rock is located in a forested setting near the rim of Canyon de Chelly. A short and private trail leads visitors from the campground to an overlook a thousand feet above the canyon floor. Although the campground itself is unpaved, it is reached by a well-maintained, paved road. We arrived in April with our 30’ travel trailer and found a nice spot among the pinon and juniper trees.
The campground is 10 miles from the nearest (small) town, and at night all we could hear was delicious and total silence. In the morning as we stepped outside to have coffee on our picnic table, soft Navajo flute music drifted toward our campsite.
The best part about Spider Rock Campground was its host, Howard Smith. Howard, a Navajo, grew up herding sheep in Canyon de Chelly and knows it intimately. On our second day, we arranged for a jeep tour of both Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto with Howard. The two canyons have hundreds of cliff dwellings and thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs. Many are hidden away in the canyon’s remote crevices. Howard stopped not only at the better-known sites, but also the less visited locations that few people see. Along the way he answered our many questions about the Navajo way of life. We also had an opportunity to talk with several Navajos who live within the canyon’s walls.
The following day we arranged to hike from the rim down into the canyon with Howard, and it was an equally incredible experience. He took us through an area farmed for generations by his family for a close-up view of Sliding House Ruins.
We came away from our stay at Spider Rock Campground not only with wonderful photos of cliff dwellings and rock art but also with a real sense of the Navajo people and their way of life.
- Also Known As:
- Spider Rock Campground Hotel
- Spider Rock Campground Hotel Chinle