canyon de chelly: spider rock & other overlooks

Four sacred mountains enclose what is known as Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona.  The Diné, or Navajo people, still live here today, calling it Tsegi, their physical and spiritual home. The landscape nourishes the people, and the land and language weave together to create the people’s culture, spirituality, and identity. This sacred land is considered the epicenter of Navajo culture.

After driving the North Rim, I drive on the South Rim Road (37 miles round-trip) to Spider Rock Overlook, which looks over both Spider Rock and Face Rock at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon.

Walking out to the overlook, the trail is quite deserted.  Someone hidden from view is playing a Navajo flute and the notes dance over the junipers and narrowleaf yuccas.  The scenery below is breathtaking.  Spider Rock, an impressive 800-foot sandstone spire, rises from the canyon floor.  The deep reds of the canyon walls and the greens of snakeweed, sagebrush, sumac and juniper make for painterly views.

Spider Rock is a sacred place to the Navajo, home of the mythical Spider Woman, or Na’ashje’ii Asdzaa.  She lived at the top of Spider Rock and lowered her home-spun silken web to the ground. With that web, she snared misbehaving children and devoured them. Navajo children were told that the top of Spider Rock was white from the unbleached bones of naughty Diné children.

She also taught the native people how to destroy all the monsters that roamed the land.  Because she protected the people, the Diné revered and worshiped her.

Other variations of the legend report that Spider Woman taught her people the fine art of weaving on a loom.


Spider Rock Overlook

From the lookout, I can see the volcanic core of Black Rock Butte and the Chuska Mountains on the horizon.


Spider Rock

Face Rock is a prominent fin, projecting from the north rim a little way upstream.


Face Rock


Spider Rock


Gnarled juniper & Spider Rock


Spider Rock

Sliding House Overlook overlooks Sliding House Ruin, a medium-sized site in a shady alcove built on a sloping surface. It appears to slide downwards. The overlook is situated on a projecting section of the canyon rim edged by sheer cliffs on three sides, so it allows different views from each edge.



Sliding House Overlook


Sliding House Ruins


Sliding House Overlook

On the South Rim Drive I pass a couple of horses and a colt making their way along the canyon rim.


Horses along South Rim Drive


Horses along South Rim Drive

Junction Overlook has views of Chinle Valley and the intersection of Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly.  Up on the rim, I encounter a dog who seems lost and frightened; he is running to and fro whining and whimpering.  I can’t help but hope he finds his way home.


Junction Overlook


Junction Overlook

At Tsegi Overlook, I have sweeping views of Navajo farmlands on the canyon floor, as well as a 4WD kicking up dust on the dirt roads.

Tunnel Overlook is a short, boulder-filled side canyon. Here I have a partial view down to the main gorge, which is quite shallow here, only about 250 feet deep.


Tunnel Overlook

*Wednesday, May 16, 2018*


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: La Collina Verde to Moncarapacho.