In December my wife and I were walking around a local park with our backpacks on, conditioning for our vacation. We passed a man who asked, "Where are you going?" What a deep philosophical question, I thought. But I could tell he knew we were just practicing, so I told him we were preparing for a trip to Arizona.
"Canyon de Chelly," the stranger said.
"Canyon de Chelly," he repeated. "Spelled like the name Chelly, with a C-H, but pronounced 'Shay.' You have to go there, it's amazing."
"Oh yeah? We'll check it out."
You get advice from some of the strangest places. In this instance, it happened to be a stranger in county park in Independence, Missouri.
We stopped at Canyon de Chelly on our way out of AZ. It was totally worth the 3 or so driving hours out of the way!
Trailhead at 15:00, down to canyon bottom in about 25 minutes. The windswept rock is indeed amazing. The trail is good, no loose footings, and there's a good footbridge crossing the river (I was thinking we'd get our feet wet, but nope). Saw all the same sights everyone else has documented: old Navajo woman, sheep, stunning sun-bleached rock dwelling (this was late afternoon, mind you), beautiful rock sculptures in every direction.
We took some pictures, perused the merchandise tables set up near the shelter, then headed back. It was kinda funny coming out. Seems like locals enjoy the trail for exercise! We passed three or four Navajo families who were just there for the down-and-back walk (we saw them later up at the parking lot). It takes some of the mystique out of the experience, but that's healthy, too. One man's awe-filled adventure is another man's treadmill.