Note: The Glen Canyon landscape has changed significantly due to the ongoing drought in the American Southwest, and is an ever-changing and dynamic region. For the most up-to-date information on water levels and closures, we suggest you visit https://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/changing-lake-levels.htm.
Located primarily in the northeastern corner of Arizona, the Navajo Nation is a 27,000-square-mile area home to iconic natural features and significant culture. With so much to see and do, it’s a must on any road trip through the American West. We’ve broken it down for you into three parts: stunning outdoor sights, ancient dwellings and history, and unexpected adventure. May this guide be a source of inspiration for your upcoming trip to the Navajo Nation!
This story was created in partnership with Discover Navajo. All photos provided by the Navajo Tourism Department.
Some of the most stunning outdoor destinations in America
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
If you’ve ever watched an old western, you’ll recognize the most Hollywood-famous destination in the Navajo Nation: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Hundreds of movies have been filmed here, and for good reason. The backdrop of sandstone towers and cliffs are simply jaw-dropping. The best way to explore the area is with a guided tour. Try The View Hotel, the local operation and hotel whose guides will take you into hidden corners of the park for an exclusive experience—and the 4WD trip of a lifetime!
Another iconic destination in the Navajo Nation is Antelope Canyon, located outside the city of Page near Lake Powell. Only accessible with a guide, this is a must-see for all photographers and geology lovers. There are two places to visit in Antelope Canyon; the “Upper” canyon is famous for the rays of light, while the “Lower” is famous for the “Lady of the Wind” formation carved from the natural water flow and its blue hues. You’ll wind through narrow sandstone crevasses and wonder at beautiful rays of light shining down from above. Antelope Canyon is surely one of the most serene places in the American West.
Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park
Not only is Window Rock a beautiful example of desert geology, but it serves as a site of cultural significance for the Navajo people. The Navajo Nation headquarters were established here in 1936. And long before, Navajo culture explains the story of the Waterway Ceremony, when a medicine man made use of sacred water from a pond found beneath the arch. Today, visiting Window Rock is a good reminder that the landscape and Navajo culture are closely intertwined. Remember to treat all areas with respect. Learn more about Leave No Trace principles here.
Expansive and accessible ancient dwellings
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
One of the most notable sites of cultural significance in the Navajo Nation, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is unlike anything of its kind. People have lived here for 5,000 years. Today, 40 families still carry on the tradition. Visitors can enjoy the moderate White House Trail, a 2.5-mile roundtrip excursion that takes you down a series of switchbacks into the canyon. For those with more time, a guided tour is a great way to explore more of the area.
Navajo National Monument
If seeing a mind-bending cliff dwelling is on your checklist, don’t miss Navajo National Monument. The Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, and San Juan Southern Paiute people all thrived in this area at one time, and their stories live on today. Take some time to contemplate the extreme multi-story structures built into the canyon sides, and marvel at the pictographs and petroglyphs left by different clans on the walls.
Plenty of unexpected adventure
Fish from Antelope Point Marina on Lake Powell
Because the Navajo Nation is in the arid Four Corners region, fishing might not come to mind as a popular pastime. Guess again! There are plenty of rises to be found at Antelope Point Marina on Lake Powell. You can even rent from a huge selection of boats and kayaks, if that’s more your speed.
See the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks outside of Tuba City
Nothing gets the kids more excited on a road trip than mention of dinosaurs. This is no museum—here, fossilized dinosaur footprints are up close and personal. While paleontologists aren’t sure exactly which type of dinosaurs ambled through this area, they agree they passed through at least 200 million years ago. We recommend taking a tour with a local artisan for the most authentic experience (typically you’ll be able to find someone happy to help).
Watch Grand Falls during monsoon season
Depending on the time of year and weather, lucky travelers might get to view an awesome event outside of Leupp, Arizona: Grand Falls. This tributary along the Little Colorado River only runs during a monsoon or snow melt event. If you hear a crack of thunder and are in the area, you might just be in for a treat!
Explore Navajo Interactive Museum
The Explore Navajo Interactive Museum in Tuba City provides a window into Navajo lifestyle and culture. The four quadrants of the building represent the monumental directional symbols for the Navajo people. An escort will guide you through the museum in a clockwise direction, imparting stories of creation and meaning along the way. This special immersion into the Navajo way of life is not to miss!