Navajo National Monument is home to two ancestral pueblo villages Betatakin and Keet Seel
. These villages date back to the 13th century, and are remarkably well preserved. The two villages are built in natural sandstone alcoves. They are very well preserved in their natural state with original architectural elements such as roof beams, masonry walls, rock art, and hand and foot holds. They offer a rich insight into the life, customs, culture and historical contributions of Ancestral Puebloans. They are open for visitors only during the park's summer season.
In addition to the heavily enforced scheduling process, visitors will want waterproof footwear for stream crossings, and will also need non-agressive shoe tread to visit the site. As water is unavailable at any point along the route, you'll also need to bring plenty of water. Shade is limited, so plan accordingly. During monsoon season the trail may be closed if flash flooding is likely, and visitors during this season will need to be prepared for storms and rising water.
Two guided tours for Betatakin are offered daily at 8:15 and 10:00 am, no reservations needed and they start at the visitor center. The tours use different trails, the 8:15 tour being the longest with a total 5 mile outing. For visitors that like moderate routes, the Betatakin tour could be sufficient to get a good insight about the Puebloans ancestors.
This trail leads to Keet Seel
, a remote site located 8.5 miles from the Visitor Center. The trail starts on Tsegi Point and follows an old road to the canyon rim. From here, it drops steeply for nearly 1000 feet (305m) to the bottom. From there, the trail will follow the ankle deep Keet Seel
stream for the duration of the journey. Along the next few miles, the trail will rise very gradually for about 400 feet (125m) in total. The trail will cross the stream 35 to 40 times, therefore waterproof boots or water going footwear is recommended. Along the way, the scenery is quite enjoyable. The whole trail can be completed in one very long day or if preferred, it is possible to camp overnight at a designated area near the site. Camping is in a secluded oak grove with picnic tables and a composting toilet. Several sites have views of the ruins.
On the day I spent on this trail, temperatures were quite hot: 108F (43C), therefore expect to carry lots of water, usually around 1.5 gallons per person. If you plan to tackle the trail in one day, it may be possible to lighten the load on the way by leaving (or hiding) couple of bottles of water at given intervals and pick them up on the way back. As a warning about the Keet Seel
stream, most of the trail is located outside the park area and crosses private land. This is important because the land is mostly used for cattle free range areas. The stream is very polluted with cattle manure, and is not potable, even with treatment.
Upon arrival at Keet Seel
, make contact with the Ranger and give them the perforated portion of your permit. There is a picnic area just before the site, where I waited until the Ranger came back from the site. The Ranger will take a maximum of five people at a time to tour Keet Seel
dwellings. The park requests that all visitors wear shoes with non-aggressive tread while visiting Keet Seel
While there are some logistical necessities to visiting Keet Seel
, visitors won't be disappointed. The cliff dwellings are incredible, and along the way, you'll gain an appreciation for how the Pueblo people lived. Further details and information on the route can be found at the Navajo National Monument