We left Monument Valley behind, and headed to Chinle, AZ to spend the night. We chose to stay in Chinle because the Holiday Inn Canyon de Chelly had landed on the IHG PointsBreak list. At 5,000 IHG points per night, it was an easy decision to make. However, without launching into an extensive review of the property, I can confidently say that it was overpriced at 5,000 IHG points. It was an uncomfortable stay, to say the least.
If The Curtains Look Like This, Take a Guess What the Rest of the Room Looked Like
Since we got into Chinle a little earlier than expected, we took a quick trip to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument that was less than a mile from the hotel. The area is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, with early indigenous tribes, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples and Navajo having resided in the area.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
There is no fee to visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and the drive to the overlooks was paved and an easy one. Take the time to hike the White House Trail – your reward will be worth the effort.
The next morning, we started early and headed off to a place that was tricky for me to plan for. In preparing for this trip, I had read separately about both the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. Assuming that they were separate national parks, I was confused when I learned that they were a part of the same area! Both the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert are part of the same terrific drive through the Petrified Forest National Park.
Petrified Forest National Park
As described by the National Parks Service, the Petrified Forest National Park system is like traveling to 2 separate parks in the span of an hour’s drive.
Petrified Forest is a surprising place, offering far more than the world renowned petrified logs. You can see so much just from your car and a few stops at overlooks. There are fossils, badlands, buttes and mesas, ancient petroglyphs, wildlife and wildflowers depending on the time of year; vast vistas for more than a hundred miles! If you are craving some quiet solitude, the Painted Desert is perfect for hiking and contemplation.
As we were coming in from the north, we entered the park at the Painted Desert Visitor Center. Park hours vary by season, so make sure to check before heading out. Park fees were $20 per vehicle, and as part of the National Parks Service, you could enter for free on fee free days or if you have a 4th grader, as well as with your National Parks Pass.
The 28 mile drive through the park was magnificent. I strongly encourage all travelers to the park to make use of restroom facilities before your transit through the park. There aren’t many public bathrooms once you have left the entry of the park.
We took our time in the park. Even though we hiked only 1 full trail, we were in the park for over 3 hours. This certainly is a park where far more time could be spent.
A nice, unplanned surprise in the Petrified Forest National Park was learning that it is the only national park unit to protect a section of Route 66! For those unfamiliar, U.S. Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, and the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. Route 66 ran 2,448 miles from Santa Monica, CA in the west, all the way to Chicago, IL in the east. The highway existed from November 26, 1926 – June 27, 1985.
This was the last stop on our visit to Arizona, before heading back to Phoenix. Having covered some significant ground, from the Grand Canyon, to Horseshoe Bend, to Antelope Canyon, to the Four Corners Monument, and Monument Valley, we were unbelievably pleased with the trip.
Total distance driven to this point: 1025 miles.