Navajo National Monument: Hike To Incredible Ruins And Beautiful Canyon Views

I had been curious about Navajo National Monument for a while since we drove past the sign and turnoff a few times. Unfortunately, it was closed since I really knew about it because 2020.

Well, it finally opened up again mid-2021, at least the self-guided part of it, and we knew we had to go before we left Page. So, a few days before we left, we made a quick day trip here from Page.

I knew the ranger-led hikes weren’t running so we couldn’t go for that but we decided to check out the short self-guided hikes. First we had to stop at the visitor center for a mug and they actually had one!

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We collect the Deneen Potter national park mugs, should I do a post sharing all of them? I think I will just for funsies. So we got our mug then hit the trails.

We just did two of the short hikes, they’re all a mile or less round-trip, and started with the Sandal Trail. This one is one mile and takes you to an overlook where you can enjoy the canyon and Betatakin Ruin below.

It’s a pretty easy hike that is sort of downhill so you’re going back up a little on the way out. It’s not as steep as the Aspen Trail, the next one we did.

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I loved seeing the ruin from up here, it would be awesome to do the hike all the way down to it to see it up close. This is the only short hike you can see ruins from.

Next, we did the Aspen Trail that takes you down into the canyon a bit to a view of a quaking aspen and Douglas fir relict forest below. Since we were here in February there weren’t leaves on the aspens but I bet it would be great to see them.

It says this trail is strenuous but it’s not that bad. It has 300 feet of elevation gain and is 0.8 miles round-trip. This is a unique trail because aspens don’t usually grow at elevations this low.

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We didn’t do the third trail this time but we took a dirt back road back to Shonto before heading back to Page. It’s a beautiful little park with incredible canyon views.

I do wish there were more hiking opportunities that you could do on your own but I’m still glad we went. I also wish we could have done one of the guided hikes but it’s just more reason to go back.

I want to do the Keet Seel hike so bad and now I just have more time to prepare for something like that. I would definitely stop here on a drive between Monument Valley and Page since it doesn’t take too long and it’s beautiful.

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Navajo National Monument self-guided hikes

There are only three hikes you can do on your own here and they are all short. All of them start from right behind the visitor center. They may be closed in the winter if the trails are snowy or icy.

The one-mile round-trip Sandal Trail is the only one you can see ruins from (the Betatakin Ruins). I liked this one and the views from it are so good.

The Aspen Trail is 0.8 miles round-trip and kind of steep down into the canyon a bit. This one wasn’t bad but I liked the Sandal Trail a lot more.

The Canyon View Trail is also 0.8 miles round-trip taking you to the historic ranger station. This is the only one we didn’t do so I can’t say how I like it compared to the others.

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Navajo National Monument ranger-led hikes

They operate on Mountain time, not Arizona time. It will be the same time as in Utah here.

There are two free guided hikes, one to Keet Seel and one to Betatakin, and as of writing in April 2022, they are closed indefinitely. But I’ll still tell you about them now. You cannot visit these ruins on your own!

Reservations aren’t required and don’t usually fill up. They are limited to 25 people and are first-come, first-served. You can sign up the day of or the day before and you can call to check availability.

Tours run all summer and if you do one in peak season, it will be so hot. Bring a lot of water and be prepared for the heat. Here are a few warnings they have about hiking these trails, directly from the monument website:

Caution: If you have hip, knee, heart, respiratory problems or any recent surgery, please do not attempt any of the guided hikes.

Do not underestimate this hike. We have had people join tours who could not hike all the way to the bottom or had difficulty hiking back out of the canyon. You are putting yourself at risk in an area that is remote and is located an hour drive from the nearest medical facility. If you have any concerns, please contact NPS staff.

“DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE if you have any current injuries, major surgeries and medical conditions that would affect your ability to hike.”

About Keet Seel: The hike to Keet Seel is a 17 mile roundtrip backcountry hike and is very strenuous. The hike includes steep canyon switchback trails and sand dunes that are difficult to walk through. Crossing the stream is a common occurrence and can’t be avoided. Quicksand may be present during the summer monsoon season (July-August).

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Betatakin Ruin

Betatakin Ruin

There are two tours to Betatakin Ruin, neither enter the village because of rock fall dangers. One leaves at 8:15 and is a five mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain. The 10 AM tour is three miles round-trip and includes a 927 step staircase. Some spots don’t have handrails and might not be great if you have a big fear of heights.

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Keet Seel Ruin

This is a whopping 17-mile hike and is offered as a day hike or as an overnight trip. There is a mandatory orientation at 3PM mountain time the day before your hike so it can be started at first daylight the day of your hike.

There is a limit of 20 hikers per day in two groups of ten. If you’re hiking to Keet Seel, you need two or three days in the park no matter what.

Keet Seel hiking schedule:

Thursday-Sunday: Overnight and day hikes are allowed

Monday: Day hikes allowed

Tuesday and Wednesday: Closed to all hikes

You can see all of the information about hiking to Keet Seel on this page. There is a lot to know before deciding if this hike is right for you and to help you plan a trip there once it is open again.

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Where is Navajo National Monument?

Navajo National Monument is just under 1.5 hours from Page at the end of Arizona Highway 564. It’s off of Highway 160. It’s just over an hour from Monument Valley.

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How long do you need for Navajo National Monument?

If you’re doing the self guided hikes, two hours should be plenty of time. There are only three short hikes. If you’re doing a guided hike, probably most of the day because they are longer (but I would imagine worth it.) If you’re doing Keet Seel, you need 2-3 days here.

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How much is Navajo National Monument?

Free! There is no entrance fee for Navajo National Monument but donations are appreciated.

Is Navajo National Monument worth it?

I think so! We didn’t get to do any of the long guided hikes but I think that would make it even more worth it. It’s a nice little stop if you’re driving between Monument Valley or Moab and Page.

The short hikes are nice and won’t take up a whole day, or even half, especially if you’re stopping on your way somewhere else.

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