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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Betatakin, AZ

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Guide 9 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Northeast > Hotevilla
3.9 of 5 by 7
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,221 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Interest Ruins
Backpack No
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
7  2012-10-06
NE Arizona tour
14  2011-07-29 IsAli
12  2011-06-10 squatpuke
6  2011-06-05 Johnnie
3  2010-10-09 toddak
33  2010-07-12 PaleoRob
Author pierad
author avatar Guides 1
Routes 0
Photos 4
Trips 10 map ( 47 miles )
Age 55 Female Gender
Location Ridgefield,N.J.
Associated Areas
list map done
Navajo Nation Reservation
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:06am - 6:27pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Best preserved ruins
by pierad

Likely In-Season!
If you are interested in seeing ruins then you will enjoy the Betatakin (meaning ledge house) cliff dwelling. You may not enter the trail unless you have a guide. There is no permit necessary and the guide is free. There are no pets allowed. When we went the visitor center was giving two tours a day, one at 8:15am and another at 11:00am. We arrived at the visitor's center the day before and put our names on a list for the 8:15am tour the following day. We were told the guide takes 20 people at a time, so if you can't get there the day before to reserve a spot try to get there early; reservations are on a first come first serve basis.

We hiked this trail on July 26. There were only nine other people with us, maybe July is slow. All the rangers are Navajo Indians; a while back the park decided Native Americans would be the best people to give the tour. Our guide Kayto informed us every ranger that works at the Navajo National Monument must have a four year college degree. He gave a very descriptive account of the Anasazi people and how they used to live. He showed us where they grew their crops and ground their corn. There are even remnants of coal and corn cobs from 800 years ago left untouched. He showed us the sleeping and the garbage areas and the footholds they used to climb up the side of the cliff. Kayto told us these are the best preserved ruins because they were built underneath an alcove so they are protected from rain. Kayto also took us to an area on the cliff walls where pictographs were drawn. You will be able to get a close look at the ruins. Nothing is fenced off so please respect the rules.

Because it is a canyon, you will be going down in the beginning so remember to reserve some water for the way back up. It is an easy decline for about the first mile but the grade becomes steeper after that. The trail description says strenuous, steep switchbacks and it is strongly discouraged for anyone with health problems; good physical condition is necessary. At least two liters of water is recommended, as well as snack and comfortable hiking shoes. I think the most difficult section is only for about 1 1/2 miles. We followed Kayto down at a relatively fast pace passing juniper trees along the way. Once at the bottom we walked through a forest. There are very clean outhouses several yards away from the ruins. They were built far enough away and, with plenty of cover from the trees, they are hidden from view. After the tour you are allowed to return to the top at your own pace. The guide is always the last one out. Be warned there is some poison oak near the pictographs and mosquitoes in the woods at the bottom.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2003-08-24 pierad

    Navajo NM NPS Details
    Tour Schedule:Contact the Visitor Center for schedule information regarding summer ranger-lead tours.
    Availabilty: 25 tickets are given out on a first-come, first-serve basis the morning of the walk.

    Betatakin (meaning ledge house ) is a large cluster of well-preserved cliff dwellings thought to have been inhabited by the Anasazi during the latter 1200s. Betatakin is visible from an overlook on the Sandal Trail, but one ranger-led tour into the ruin itself is given each day in the the summer season (A second tour may be offered at 11:00 am if enough people are interested). The Visitor Center opens at 8:00 a.m. (Mountain Daylight time); tickets are given out on a first-come first-serve basis.

    The hike from the Betatakin trailhead is five miles round trip and is strenuous with steep switchbacks. The Betatakin tour is strongly discouraged for anyone with health problems; good physical condition is necessary. At least two liters of water are recommended, as well as a snack and comfortable hiking shoes. The tour begins at approximately 8:15 a.m. each morning and returns between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive early.

    Anasazi History:
    The Hisatsinom (or Anasazi) inhabited the Kayenta region; a territory defined from Glen Canyon to the Little Colorado to Grand Canyon to Canyon de Chelly. It has been determined through data gathered at the ruins of Betatakin and Keet Seel that these particular sites were occupied by the Anasazi during the latter 1200s. The Anasazi, in general, are thought by anthropologists to have originally descended from nomadic Paleoindians who hunted game and lived upon the mesas. As large animals slowly became extinct, the early cultures broadened their knowledge of native plants and continued to hunt smaller game. The Anasazi are classified in two categories: the Basketmaker and Pueblo.

    The Basketmaker period lasted until 700 AD, so named for the fine baskets they crafted. The Basketmaker people traveled frequently, storing game that was often hunted with the atladle or spear-thrower. As they became familiar with agriculture they depended more on corn and squash, settling near fields and building pithouses into the ground. The Basketmakers utilized the yucca plant's fibers for crafting sandals, strings and rope. The Kayenta Pueblo Anasazi are those designated as having lived in cliff dwellings such as Betatakin and Keet Seel. As the food supply from farming became more dependable, the people gathered together in more permanent communities. Buildings began to evolve above ground level, first for storage, and then as living space. The alcoves such as those seen at Betatakin and Keet Seel provided shelter, and the canyons offered springs and fields.

    Elaborate pottery was crafted during the Kayenta Pueblo period, often thought to be the most beautiful and creative of Anasazi ceramics. Some ruin walls were built with the jacal method, thick sticks standing upright and covered with plaster. Physically, the Pueblo Anasazi were short: 5'1" to 5'5" on average. The infant mortality rate was high at 33 percent and life expectancy was about 40 years. Corn ground in stone metates led to severe wearing of teeth. Babies were held down to cradle boards when born; the dead were often buried in a fetal position or placed in the midden if the ground was too hard in which to dig a grave. The Kayenta Pueblo did have several kivas at each alcove, thought to have been used for ceremonies and/or family gatherings.

    The Anasazi seem to have disappeared around 1280 AD, apparently leaving quickly without leaving many clues as to their motivation. Some believe there was a massive war, though violence is not overwhelmingly evident in their remnants. A few anthropologists believe the theory that the drought of the late 13th century caused abandonment. And still others cite different motives, including departure for a spiritual quest.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
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    I organized a trip to Keet Seel for the Tucson Backpackers Meetup. I didn't quit have a full group, so I posted an event on HAZ. In total there were six of us. It was nice to get to know squatpuke!

    We stayed at the Sunset View Campground in Navajo National Park. The campground has nice sites, running water, and toilet paper. The best part was that it is FREE!

    We got up early (Navajo's run on Daylight Savings Time) so that we could attend the 5-mile Betatakin tour that started at 8 AM. Our guide was a Navajo school teacher with a Microbiology degree. He had been working there about 3 weeks. We added a foreigner to our group before we drove to the TH, a German lady from Sweden.

    On the way down, he pointed out a few rock cravings and a hand-and-toe-hold trail.

    At the Ruins, we walked by the spring that was used by the dwellers. It was still flowing. Then we gathered in the alcove by the ruins. We were not able to go up into the ruins and look around. We were close enough to see the buildings - but not all the intricate details.

    We also wandered over to look at the petroglyphs that are on the right side of the alcove (when you are looking at the alcove).

    The hike out was a "GAYOP" so we took a break and then headed out. The later part of the hike I was with the German lady. She told me that her whole outlook of life had changed in the last few years as she was a cancer-survivor, like me. She now is doing everything she wanted to do (and dragging her husband and kids along for most of it). We both agreed that sometimes cancer is a good thing - it made us both go out and live a good life.

    In the afternoon, we attended the Keet Seel Orientation. Then we did Canyon View trail to the historic Ranger Station and I also did the Aspen View trail again.
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    I overslept and almost didn't make it! Thankfully my friend Maryellen rang the doorbell and 5:40. I quickly threw my crap together and we hit the road, getting to the Visitor's Center just after it opened. We put our names down and went back out to the truck to prep our packs. A few minutes later we heard the announcement to gather up in front of the VC, which we did. We met our guide for the day, a ~26 year-old Navajo woman named Cassandra Parrish. We caravan-ed to the trailhead, where we parked and formed the group. There was Cassandra, from Shonto/Kayenta, a group from Detroit, a group from somewhere else, a French-Canadian from Ontario, and Maryellen and myself from Page.
    We started down the trail, and made a few stops along the way, Ranger Parrish explaining various things about the route. While she was Navajo, she made it very clear and very obvious that she had deep respect for the Hopi people, for whom Betatakin is one of their ancestral places (called Talastima in Hopi). A particularly notable view was overlooking Tsegi (or as Cassandra said it, "Say-yat" - a pronunciation that is new to me) Canyon to the north, all the way towards Navajo Mountain.
    We descended down the old CCC/CWA stairs and switchbacks. We joked and talked, but knew that the ascent would be much less fun. Cassandra stopped us for a while below the rim, in the shade of a cliff, and we were told about many of the plants we'd seen, and how Navajos and Hopis use some of the plants. She also explained how many plants require special offerings in order to be able to harvest the leaves/seeds/berries/roots/etc. It was a fascinating stop and talk - Cassandra was obviously knowledgeable beyond simple book learning about such things. She was passionate about the subject.
    Eventually our little group moved on, descending a sand dune that would be our bane on the hike out. Before we reentered the Monument's boundary, Cassandra gave us one more talk about some more of the local plants, including Rocky Mountain Bee Plant and various types of yucca. Then we were on to Betatakin.
    While waiting to ascend to the ruin while a member of the group stopped at the bathroom, Cassandra and I talked for a little while. I asked her my usual question that I ask all rangers: "What is the stupidest question you've ever gotten here?" Her answer was one I've gotten before, out at the dam - people asking where to see "real Indians" wearing feathers and buckskin.
    We climbed up into the Betatakin alcove, a yawning mouth of stone in the Navajo Sandstone. The ruins were amazing - the profusion of wood protruding not just as beams and door supports, but ladders, wall reinforcements, and other unknown uses was awesome! The buildings seemed perfect in places! Now, obviously, I've been to a lot of these places by now, so seeing some pretty intact set of ruins is not uncommon for me, but I was still stunned by the completeness of Talastima. I knew that some restoration had occurred back in the 1920's and 1930's, but even that did not diminish my impression.
    We followed the old CCC trail to a ledge overlooking a set of mealing bins. It was on this part of the hike that I realized that I wouldn't get to go in and explore the intact, complete section of Betatakin, which was kind of disappointing. Cassandra set about giving some of the various stories about the region and Betatakin in specific, talking about Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni migration stories, in addition to the archaeological evidence. It was really a great talk - she presented all sides fairly and with much obvious respect. She mentioned what Betatakin means in Navajo ("House on a Ledge"), what Talastima means in Hopi ("Place of the Corn Tassel"). She also said another Hopi name for the place, which I cannot remember, but which meant "House Plastered Against the Rock". We wandered through the unrestricted section, admiring the views, and then headed down to the base of the cliff again, past the cool spring, and then up to another set of ruins. There were several clan symbols that the Hopi associate with along that section of cliff, Cassandra explained, including the Horn, Fire, Flute, and (if I recall correctly) Water Clans. That was it. The end. We were left to fend for ourselves at that point, and the 700' scrambled back up the cliff.
    Maryellen and I set off, talking as we hiked, and generally cursing the sand dune we were climbing. By the time we hit the switchbacks we were in front of everyone else, but we had to take a breather about halfway up in the scanty shade of a pinon tree. The French-Canadian passed us at that point, and beat us up to the top (though not by much). We took up hiking along together and discovered that he was a character. We stopped to see if could, as Cassandra had suggested, eat a yucca seed pod. The flesh was hard and unappetizing, but we did each eat a couple of the seeds. I do not recommend it - tastes pretty icky. Not inedible, but certainly not going to be high on my menu list.
    We made it back to the truck and hit the road to Kayenta, where we washed the taste of yucca out of our mouths with Burger King, and then headed back to Page. Another good trip in the books!

    Permit $$

    Navajo Nation Reservation
    Navajo Permits & Services

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take U.S. Highway 160, 50 miles northeast of Tuba City, AZ or 20 miles southeast of Kayenta, AZ. Turn north onto a 10 - mile paved road, Arizona 564, to the visitor center. After registering at the visitor center you will follow a Navajo guide down a dirt road to the trailhead. Parking is at the trailhead.
    $17 3L Hydration Bladder
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