Trekking to Canyon de Chelly National Monument in winter offers a number of pluses -- a respite from high summer temperatures, no crowds, and lodging rates well below summer's high-season pricing.
Located in northeastern Arizona, the monument strives to preserve "one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America," as the National Park Service puts it. A visit here offers a portal deep into the past, one complete with cliff dwellings, rock art, and hiking. Under a somewhat unusual arrangement when you consider other Park Service units, Canyon de Chelly is managed in partnership with the Navajo Nation, which to this day claims an active community within the landscape.
From now through the end of February, you can visit the monument with relatively little impact on your pocket, as the Thunderbird Lodge is offering nightly rates that are more than 40 percent below summer's high-season rates. Additionally, if you stay Saturday, Sunday or Monday nights you'll receive a complimentary continental breakfast, 10 percent off canyon tours, and 10 percent off gift shop purchases.
The winter rates are: $63 for a single room, $69 for a double, $75 for a triple and $81 for a quad. Suites are also available starting at $94.50 for two people. Rates do not include taxes.
Winter in Canyon de Chelly features low humidity, and temperatures typically range from 40 to 60 degrees with lows averaging around 20 degrees. While the monument does receive some snow, it is generally no more than a few inches.
The 74-room Thunderbird Lodge, which is the only lodge within the monument, sits on the site of a trading post built in 1896. Its cafeteria-style restaurant is located in the trading post’s original building. The lodge also offers authorized group tours into Canyon de Chelly in six-wheel drive touring vehicles operated by experienced and knowledgeable Navajo guides who explain the significance of the canyon to the Navajo Nation. The tribe views the canyon as one of the most sacred as well as historically and culturally significant places in the Navajo Nation. Guests see prime examples of Anasazi ruins, pictographs, petroglyphs and the sites of confrontations between the Navajo and the Spanish, Mexican and American governments.
During the winter, half-day tours leave from Thunderbird Lodge at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and take visitors into the lower halves of both Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto and last 3½ hours. Guests typically enjoy an open-air ride, but during inclement weather the vehicles can be covered with clear caps engineered by the lodge’s maintenance staff. With the exception of hiking the White House Ruin trail, travel in the canyons is permitted only with a park ranger or authorized Navajo guide.
Through March 1, 2010, rates for half-day tours are $46.00 for adults and $34.50 for children 12 and under. During the winter, tours are conducted only if at least six paid passengers participate. For reservations, call 1-928-674-5841 or toll-free at 1-800-679-2473. For more information on Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Thunderbird Lodge, go to www.tbirdlodge.com.
The monument is a 90-minute drive from Gallup, N.M.; three hours from Flagstaff, Ariz.; four hours from Albuquerque and approximately five hours from Phoenix.