For those that love to take a scenic drive, there are (officially) ten overlooks for visitors to stop and enjoy along the way. Seven are along the South Rim Drive while the other three are along the North Rim. All overlooks are either right next to the road or not far from it, and stopping at all ten shouldn’t take more than four hours without feeling rushed.
All the overlooks are worth your time, but some stand out more than others. The South Rim Drive is more popular among tourists simply because of the incredible natural beauty and scenic views. However, the North Rim Drive is better suited for those that have an interest in Navajo history and ancient structures or ruins.
For example, on the North Rim there is the Ledge Ruin Overlook, which as the name implies, features the Ledge Ruin – a remnant of the Pueblos that lived there nearly 1,000 years ago.
There is also the Antelope House Overlook, which features ancient ruins and wall art after a quarter mile hike over rimrock. The antelope paintings along the cliffs, which gives the ruins their name, are truly fascinating and well preserved.
On the South Rim, there is Junction Overlook, where Canyon del Muerto joins Canyon de Chelly. There are two sets of ruins visible, near the foot of the north rim walls – Junction Ruin, and First Ruin. Also two Anasazi villages are visible from the overlook.
The next stop from Junction Overlook is White House Overlook, which – again as you might have guessed – allows you to see the White House Ruin, the largest ruin in the canyon. What makes this overlook special is it is the only opportunity to hike into Canyon de Chelly without hiring a guide – a 600 foot journey right to the White House Ruins which – again – date back nearly a 1000 years. Outside of this one trail, access to the floor of Canyon de Chelly is prohibited unless accompanied by an official guide or tour.
And of course there is the Spider Rock Overlook — which at an elevation of 7,000 feet – offers the most breathtaking view of all the overlooks. From here, you look out over the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. An 800 foot monument known as Spider Rock can also be seen with two free-standing towers forming a natural monument. Spider Rock is the spiritual and geographic center of the Navajo. It is where Navajo tradition says is the home of the Spider Woman, the constant helper and protector of humans. And who legend says taught the Dine the arts of weaving and agriculture.
Legend also says that Spider Woman would let down her web- ladder and capture misbehaving Navajo children, and carry up to her home to eat them. The Dine children often were told stories about how the top of Spider Rock was white from the sun-bleached bones of those children, which not surprisingly stopped many Dine children from misbehaving.