3 DAYS* in NAVAJO NATION
Navajo Nation… The name alone promises Native American mysticism, ancient spirituality and a musky whiff of l’eau de Wild West.
The large, semi-autonomous territory straddling the Arizona/Utah/New Mexico border is selling tickets to some of the U.S.’s most prized natural possessions: Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon and a few other gems that will blow your mind and put the stress over your most recent dental bill into perspective again.
Day 1* in Navajo Nation
Page (AZ) is an ideal starting point for your exploration. It has a tiny airport if a road trip extravaganza isn’t in the cards for you. Alternative airports that require a bit of driving are Flagstaff (~2 hrs) or Las Vegas (~4 hrs). 4-wheel drive is non-negotiable. I’ll tell you about my 2-wheel fail another time.
Built with a more pragmatic than artistic approach, Page doesn’t exactly scream cultural hub. Several hotels and fast food chains represent, more creative options of accommodation and food are slim. But hey… there’s a Walmart.
La Quinta Inn beat out the competitors in this round of hotel bingo. Price, service and comfort will make for a pleasant but forgettable one-night stay.
First item on the menu: Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon with two different access points. The Upper Canyon is more easily accessible and during the summer months houses a natural light-show while the Lower Antelope Canyon tour is less crowded and cheaper. Both are equally jaw-dropping.
Ken’s Tours led us through the Lower Canyon, an experience that can be compared to a drug-free psychedelic roam through Mother Nature’s innards. Low Season perk: just us and the concave/convex surroundings. Try and make it before noon when the light starts to wash out the contrast of the wavy sandstone walls. And get ready to get your mind blown…
For lunch I’d like to send you just a few miles down the road and onto the water. Lake Powell’s floating restaurant Latitude 37 in the Wahweap Marina was closed for the season, but if rumors are to be believed - it’s worth a visit, mainly for it’s aqua-jacent location.
During the summer months the options of afternoon activities are vast: waterskiing, wake-boarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, power boating or swimming. Winter – pick a hike based on your fitness level.
Keep an eye on the clock for magic hour at Glen Canyon’s Horseshoe Bend. The dirt trail towards the viewpoint doesn’t look like much, but once you get to the bottom for sunset — Mind Blown. Again!
The vibrancy of the colors makes everything look like the “Chrome” filter and the grandeur of the Colorado River snaking its way through these ancient rocks is truly a sight to behold.
So much beauty must be washed down with a craft beer at State 48 Tavern, a rustic gastropub in town. Food, drinks and service are all commendable and a spot at the bar is perfect for chatting up the friendly locals.
Day 2* in Navajo Nation
After a delightful La Quinta breakfast (yes, I’m being facetious) it’s time to put the pedal to the metal. Figuratively speaking only, because AZ is known for its strictly enforced speed limits. And if the idea of a relaxing glass of wine in Monument Valley tickles your fancy, buy one while you’re still in Page (Arizona). Utah has rather bizarre and strict liquor laws and the Valley is a dry zone.
2 hours later it’s: Welcome to Westworld. Yep, you guessed it: mind blown. After a bite at Goulding Trading Post I recommend trading your 150 horsepower in for one live one and exploring the park a la John Wayne.
Sacred Monument Tours provides more than just the dull nose-to-tail trail ride and is peppered with anecdotes about life in the Valley that gives insight into the Navajo culture.
When it comes to tonight’s abode book yourself into The View Hotel. Because, well… THE VIEW! Plant yourself on your balcony (remember, you have a bottle of Malbec in the car) during sunset as the setting sun brings out an otherworldly orange glow of the nearby rock formations.
It is truly impossible to take a bad photo and please don’t prove me wrong. Dinner at the hotel probably won’t ignite culinary fireworks, but the Navajo Green Chile Stew is tasty, homemade comfort food and has a nice kick that leaves you with a runny nose.
Day 3* in Navajo Nation
Early birds will catch the blacklight version of the famous mesas and a good window spot for breakfast. With several new dreamcatchers and Navajo bracelets in your luggage it’s now time to test the limits of your 4-wheel rental along the 17 mile scenic drive.
Thereafter, for a different angle of the park I recommend an excursion towards Mexican Hat. The observant eye will recognize this road from the movie ‘Forrest Gump’.
Skateboarding down the decline is not necessarily advisable, but it sure was fun and one more of my random personal bucket-list items.
Back in Page AZ you can squeeze in a quick work out at The Lord’s Gym (⬇️) or indulge in margarita and quesadilla at El Tapatio.
If you can stick around Page another night, consider a splurgy rest stop at nearby Amangiri resort, my personal luxe dream hotel.
For the nominal amount of ~$2000/night this exquisite desert abode can be your temporary home. I’d say it’s worth selling your firstborn for, but I leave that up to you.
Renting a houseboat on Lake Powell is a tempting alternative during the warmer months and especially with a slightly larger group a more economical option than nesting with the Aman Group (yes, they have more sanctuaries around the globe… One can dream!).
- Layers, it's the desert after all
- A good camera
- A bottle & opener, if you want to sip a glass of red while watching the sunset in Monument Valley
- Navajo Autumn by R. Alalen Chappell
- The Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- 365 Days of Walking the Red Road by Terry Jean