Northern Arizona Road Trip

Northern Arizona Road Trip

In this blog post we cover our summer camping road trip through Northern Arizona, much of it across Navajo Nation Tribal Land. In three days we visited Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We used one day of PTO and the weekend to complete our trip, but if you have more time available, we highly recommend extending your trip. We’ll make some recommendations throughout our post.

To get around and camp, we used Arizona Camper Van’s newest Jeep Wrangler with a rooftop tent. The diesel powered Willys model was awesome! We were surprised by the great gas mileage and engine power with the larger tires fitted on the Jeep in combination with the rooftop tent and extra weight. As always we want to remind you to please Leave No Trace and be respectful of the land that you are on, the history preserved, and culture being shared. Most of our exploration and much of our driving was throughout the Navajo Reservation and this land is sacred to the Dine People, but also the other Native American Tribes that lived in the area prior..

Northern Arizona Road Trip Day 1
Northern Arizona Road Trip
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

On Friday we left at 6am to make the four hour drive to Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. This trading post is a part of the National Park Service and has been an active trading post since 1878. The trading post is still active today and you are able to purchase Navajo rugs, jewelry, pottery, and other items. For more information on the history and culture of the Hubbell Trading post you can check out this article from the NPS.

Hubbell Trading Post is on the way to Canyon de Chelly National Monument which is about a 40 minute drive north of the trading post. During our visit at the Trading Post we went to the visitor center and learned the history of the trading post and bought a Navajo turquoise ring. It is worth the stop! Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time to walk the grounds and had to get on our way. Because we were now on Navajo Reservation land, our clocks were on Mountain Daylight Savings Time, an hour ahead of Arizona.

Hubbell Trading Post important information:

There is no entrance fee. Hubbell Trading Post NHS and the Navajo Nation are on Mountain Daylight Savings Time between March thru November. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. So, if it is 9 am at Hubbell’s, then it is 8 am in Arizona. Summer hours: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily. 

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
Northern Arizona Road Trip
Canyon de Chelly National Monument

We weren’t able to spend a ton of time at the trading post because we had a 1pm Jeep tour in Canyon de Chelly. We had a quick Mountain House meal (use code FS23 for 10% off) before our tour started since we didn’t have time to stop and get food on the way to the monument. Canyon de Chelly is on Navajo land and they work in partnership with the National Parks Service to maintain the monument.

The only way you are able to see the inside of the canyon up close is with a guide. The inside of Canyon De Chelly is managed by the Navajo Tribal Parks; there is a fee per person that is required even for tours; our tour guide took us to the ranger station prior to entering so we could pay and get our permit. We booked our tour through a local company named Beauty Way Jeep Tours.

We had a 3 hour private tour of the canyon where we learned so much about the Native American people who once called this canyon home and the ones that still do. Our guide grew up in the canyon and he pointed out the house he grew up in! There are longer tours offered and guided hikes down into the canyon. After our guided Jeep tour we went to the viewpoints where you don’t need a guide. Our favorite was Spider Rock!

If you have more time, we suggest extending your visit to Canyon De Chelly. Maybe do a longer tour by Jeep or horseback. There is camping at the national monument and a lodge as well. We can only imagine how beautiful the night sky is!

Important Canyon De Chelly National Monument Information: 

There is no entrance fee for the park. The North and South Rim Drives with nine overlooks remain open all year to visit on your own. The roads are paved and accessible by vehicle (4-wheel drive is not required). The White House Overlook and Trail are closed. From March through November, the Navajo Nation observes Mountain Daylight Savings Time when the time will be the same as Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The rest of Arizona observes Mountain Standard Time all year. Please be respectful and Leave No Trace! For more information regarding the park please visit the NPS site.

Monument Valley Tribal Park & The View Campground

From Canyon de Chelly we drove 1 hour and 40 minutes to Monument Valley Tribal Park where we camped for the night. The campsites are in the Tribal Park, but are operated through The View Hotel. Navajo Tribal Park fees are $8 per person upon entrance for all guests to the Park and Hotel. The $8 is in addition to the camping or hotel fee. The park entrance fee also gives you access inside the valley and wildcat trail. Dog are not allowed at Monument Valley!

These campsites have an incredible view of Monument Valley. We arrived just before sunset! Since we had a rooftop tent with our rental from Arizona Camper Van we had to take an RV site. The RV sites have picnic tables, but there are no hookups for electricity or water. The tent sites are down a hill and are pretty close together, but they do have the best view. The maximum allowed tent size is 5’ x 8’. One tent per site. There are also hotel rooms and cabins. For more information check out The View’s website. There were restrooms and showers in the middle of the campground that are shared by all campers. Since we had just finished a pretty long day we opted to make Mountain House meals for dinner because they are quick and easy.

We didn’t have time, but there was a driving tour of the monuments and a hiking trail from the campground. If your itinerary allows, we suggest doing the driving tour. Each butte and rock structure has a Navajo name and is significant in Navajo culture.

Northern Arizona Road Trip Day 2
Northern Arizona Road Trip
Navajo National Monument

On Saturday morning we woke up and watched the sunrise over Monument Valley. Shortly after we picked our campsite and were on the road. We drove an hour in the southwest direction to Navajo National Monument. This was the final monument needed on our list to say we had visited all the National Park Service National Monuments in Arizona. It felt so nice to say we’ve been to them all!

Navajo National Monument is also on the Navajo Reservation. At the monument we hiked the Sandal Trail to Betatakin Overlook; it is 1.3 miles out and back. At the end of the hike there is an overlook of a large pueblo consisting of over 100 rooms. Descendants of the Hopi people who built these places are called Hisatsinom. Zuni, also pueblo builders, know that several of their clans began in this area. Later, San Juan Southern Paiute, famous for their baskets, moved into this area and lived near the cliff dwellings. Today, this place is surrounded by the Navajo Nation, as it has been for hundreds of years. They named the pueblo Betatakin which means “House Built on a Ledge” in Navajo.

We also hiked Aspen Trail which descends 800 feet and is 0.8 miles out and back. The hike leads down the edge of Betatakin Canyon and overlooks an aspen tree forest. At the end of this hike is how you get down to Betakin Pueblo, but a guided hike is required past this point. No dogs allowed on trail!

Grand Canyon North Rim

From Navajo National Monument we drove 3 hours and 40 minutes to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on the Kaibab Plateau. Yes, it was a “long” drive! We love the North Rim! It is so much different than the South Rim. We always recommend visiting the North Rim if you haven’t been before (check if open before going). We felt fortunate to snag a campsite inside of the National Park at the last minute a couple days before our trip. Once we arrived, we first checked into our campsite and then did a scenic drive we had not done before.

We drove Cape Royal Road and stopped at many of the viewpoints, including Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, Walhalla Overlook, and Cape Royal + Angels Window Viewpoint. On Sunday, after packing up we drove over to the visitor center parking and walked out to Bright Angel Point. The portion of the North Rim with services is a lot smaller than the South Rim but sits at 8,000 feet above sea level, about 2,000 feet higher than the South Rim. Bright Angel Point is the most popular spot on the plateau and has spectacular views, especially on clear days, but there is no view of the Colorado River. However, you are able to get views of the Colorado River at the lookouts on Cape Royal Road. 

The Kaibab Plateau and North Kaibab National Forest is one of our favorite places in the state. Driving through northern Arizona along the border of Utah or on the US-89 from Flagstaff to Page, the plateau seems out of place in what can feel like a barren desert. The plateau is full of pine trees, open meadows, aspens, and cooler temperatures. In fact, the formation of rock, also known as the Kaibab formation is very obvious when looking out into the Grand Canyon. You can see this additional layer that the South Rim does not have. This heavily marine limestone layer is lighter in color, porous, and full of ancient fossils! Keep a careful eye out and you might see one. Another awesome thing to think about is how these rock layers on display in the canyon can be found throughout southern Utah and nearby national parks!

Important information about North Rim Camping:

North Rim visitor services, lodging, restaurants, and campground, are generally open May 15 through October 15, depending on snow conditions. The campground is very close to the rim and there is a trail that goes along the rim that you can pick up from the campground. We watched the sunset and sunrise here! The canyon’s rustic and less populated North Rim is home to abundant wildlife, hiking trails, and unparalleled views of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The facility is at an elevation of 8,200 ft., with pleasant summer temperatures and frequent afternoon thunderstorms. There is a separate entrance fee on top of the camping fee. We used our America The Beautiful pass to get in. Book a campsite here and learn more about the North Rim here


We did this road trip at the end of June. The highs were in the mid to upper 80s and lows dropped down to the 60s and upper 50s at night. As always, we kept sun protection and sunglasses on during the day. When we got to Canyon de Chelly it was warm and breezy. We were comfortable with shorts and a t-shirt. We got to Monument Valley just before the sun was about to set and it felt a lot cooler out. The thin and dry desert air cools down quick! We kept warm with a light jacket and joggers. Camp fires are not allowed at Monument Valley. The Kaibab Plateau is higher in elevation but has more trees. The high was in upper 70s and lows in the upper 50s. We felt comfortable in shorts and t-shirt during the day and a light jacket or sweater at night. We were able to make camp fire that night.

Food & Water

This is a very dry part of the country and sweat evaporates very quickly. We made sure to bring plenty of water and stocked up on more water at gas stations during our trip. For food, we ate plenty of Mountain House freeze dried meals; they’re easy to make and easy to clean up. We brought our jet boils with us and and they can boil water in about a minute. On our last night we made some ramen meals, still using our jet boil and the next morning we made pancakes with the Coleman stove included with the Arizona Camper Van Jeep. Between Navajo National Monument and the Grand Canyon we stopped in Page, AZ. At the Safeway grocery store we bought lunch food and stocked up on firewood.

Full Northern Arizona Road Trip Map
Full northern arizona road trip

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