Canyon de Chelly reminds me of the Grand Canyon in some ways. When you go to the canyon, you drive across the desert and it seems like you are on this large plain. Then suddenly, there is a canyon and the world just drops away.
People have lived in Canyon de Chelly for thousands of years, and still live there. Since the canyon includes people's homes, you can't just wander through it. If you want to go into the actual canyon, you must hire a local guide. Since we had just half a day to see it, we decided to take the South Rim Drive.
The canyon starts at the visitor center. As you drive up the South Rim Drive, the canyon becomes deeper and deeper. It's very wierd seeing a relatively level desert to your right as you drive up the Drive, and a very deep canyon to your left. As you drive, it becomes deeper and deeper.
In the canyon, you can see some houses and farms, and you also can see ruins of adobe dwellers, including some cliff dwellings. There are trails that take you to the edge of the canyon, but there is only one place where you are actually permitted to enter the canyon from the rim, at White House Overlook.
If we visit again, we will take the advice of several other friends we talked to and hire a guide.
On our way to Canyon de Chelly, we passed Four Corners, the only place in the US where four states meet at one spot. Unlike our last visit 29 years ago, the place is now run by the Navajo Nation. That's neither good nor bad. You can still stand on the four corner spot, and there is no pressure to purchase any gifts or souvenirs although plenty are available.
In this part of Arizona, there are many monuments and places to see. We had heard of some of them before but didn't have the time this trip to see all of them, so we will return. The week before Memorial Day turned out to be a good time to visit as it wasn't crowded or too hot yet.
We stayed at the Cottonwood Campground, which is a nice place with large campsites. There is water only at the dump station, and there are restrooms located throughout the campground. We were prepared for the dry camping here, so it worked well for us. We looked for a campsite with some shade, and found a little at site 17. When we arrived around noon, the campground was mostly deserted, but when we returned from our drive, there were others in the campground. Still, there was plenty of room which was good as they don't take reservations.
The next morning, we decided to get an early start by going to the lodge for breakfast. At breakfast, your only dining option is the cafeteria, but the food was good and they cooked what you wanted to order and at very reasonable prices.