Hikes & Excursions
Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. The Center for Disease Control states that in many areas, people can visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air, and stay active. While these facilities and areas can offer health benefits, it is important that you follow the steps below to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Simple guidelines include:
Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
Wear a mask.
Wash your hands often and don’t share items with people you don’t live with.
One of the advantages of Membership is the ability to participate in guided hikes to archaeological sites. Watch this page for announcements of upcoming hikes. Most are free but a few have small fees to cover expenses.
All participants must agree to follow the VVAC Hiking rules, click HERE to download.
A visit to Homolovi, the mysterious pueblos at the “Place of the Little Hills” as the Hopi word aptly refers to this important ancestral home.
Constructed late, and short-lived in the northern Arizona pueblo world, this series of seven villages represent the flowering of large village architecture, farming, trade, and the new Katsinam religion. Between 1260 and 1400 these pueblos thrived along the fertile yet unpredictable Little Colorado River.
We begin our visit at the modern State Park Visitors Center at 9:00am. We will then drive to Homolovi II, the largest of the pueblos, with 1200 rooms and ceremonial kivas. A paved walking trail with benches winds through the ruin. On a clear day we will easily see the San Francisco Peaks 40 miles to the west, the pastel Painted Desert north, and imagine the LCR (Little Colorado River) ancient cotton fields below. We will then explore a little-known rock art site about 1 mile from Homolovi II. Be prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and proper hiking shoes.
Before we return home we will stop at the grand Fred Harvey railroad-era Hotel, La Posada, in Winslow. We will have a reservation at the Turquoise Room, where participants can purchase lunch at this iconic Route 66 restaurant. There will also be opportunities to explore Winslow afterwards, a visit to the Winslow Arts Trust Museum in the old train station will give us more clues to understanding Homolovi.
Click HERE to register. MUST be a VVAC member to participate.
Join guide Peter Blystone for a day hike among the San Francisco Peaks! Escape the summer desert heat on this 2 mile long loop trail. The trailhead elevation is at 8600 feet. There is also a historic cabin and water well house.
We will meet at 9:00am at the dirt parking lot at the intersection between Snowbowl Road and Fort Valley Road, then carpool up to the trailhead.
Some may be challenged by the elevation. Walking sticks are good to bring, as well as lunch and water. Raincoat and hat are a good idea during July monsoon season, if we are so lucky to enjoy rain there. Peter will give a nice history of the site and overall historic settlement of the area, with basic ecology/geology of the San Francisco Peaks.
Click HERE to register. MUST be a VVAC member to participate.
Join us as we spend 4 days and 3 nights on an excursion to the Navajo Nation.
Click HERE for a flyer.
Click HERE to register. Fee: $550 for members; $615 for nonmembers
Day 1 Wednesday May 25th: Hubbell Trading Post & Home, Ganado
We start our visit in the afternoon, meeting at the oldest continuously operated trading post in the American Southwest, the Hubbell Trading Post. We will gather for an orientation by one of the National Park Service rangers, tour the historic Hubbel home and visitor’s center before heading to the Trading Post nearby.
We will then drive about 40 minutes to Chinle, check into our lodgings. Once settled, we gather for dinner (on us!), get to know each other, and enjoy some traditional local foods or standard fare. After our meal, we will meet with a traditional Dine´ storyteller and knowledge keeper, as we hear tales and cultural wisdom to connect us to this beautiful place.
Day 2 Thursday May 26th: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle
We will meet early, to be transported into this enchanting canyon, where we will spend the day with our Dine´ guides for a custom tour of this ancient place.
This 26-mile canyon of 30- to 1,000-foot cliffs is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Ancestral Puebloan people inhabited these peach-colored sandstone canyons for thousands of years, gradually replacing their pit house structures with ones of stone. Like many peoples in the area, the inhabitants left in the mid-1300’s A.D. The Hopi continue to have a relationship with this place.
Now part of the Navajo Nation, this canyon, Tseyi (“the place deep in the rock”), forms the backdrop for many of these ancient cliff dwellings, as well as for contemporary residences. Roughly 40 Navajo families make their homes, raise livestock, and farm the lands here. We will visit canyon residents, if available, who still live traditionally within these walls.
We will be returned to our inn to enjoy lunch on our own, explore Chinle for the remains of the day. At sunset, we will drive along the Canyon’s south rim, stopping at the overlooks to gaze down on where we had spent our morning, a photographer’s heaven. The light is breathtaking. A short drive further will take us to Spider Rock, a stone spire rising over 800 feet from the canyon floor, and the home of Spider Woman, sacred to the People. Dinner is on our own.
Day 3 Friday May 27th: Dine´Arts, Chinle
This morning, we will meet at the Canyon de Chelly Visitor’s Center to experience some of the fine arts the Diné are known for, as we chat with up-and-coming young artists. This may include silversmiths, weavers, moccasin makers etc. This is a wonderful opportunity to purchase directly from the source, and understand what goes into making their art pieces.
Afterwards, we will go to the historic Thunderbird Lodge shop to see examples of other arts of the area. Enjoy lunch on our own in the Thunderbird Lodge’s charming cafeteria.
After lunch, we will caravan about 15 miles to the Mummy Cave Overlook. From the overlook, we will view a 70-room cliff dwelling, the largest Ancestral Puebloan structure in Canyon de Chelly, nestled 300 feet above the canyon floor, and occupied for 1,000 years. Dinner is on our own. Take this time to buy gas for our trip tomorrow.
Day 4 Saturday May 28th: Betatakin, Navajo Nat’l. Monument, Shonto
We will leave early and caravan about 97 miles to the Navajo National Monument. With our archaeologist guide, we will hike the 3 mile round-trip trail to one of the three very well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings within this monument, high on the Shonto plateau.
Known as Betatakin, “house built on a ledge” to the Navajo, or Talastima, “place of the corn tassel” to the Hopi, it was built in an enormous overhang out of sandstone, mortar and wood. Its construction dates from 1267 to 1286, and housed about 125 people. Of the original 120 rooms, 80 rooms and a kiva remain.
We will follow our guide along the East/Tsegi Point Trail, a mildly strenuous hike with switchbacks, and a 600 foot descent to the site. The trail starts at 7,300 feet elevation and will be a good workout, but with rests as needed! We will remain at the site for about an hour, take a break for snacks, while learning about the place and the ancient people who occupied it. After about 3 to 4 hours, we return to our vehicles to head home. Our visit ends here. May you be filled with beauty.
We encourage you to make reservations for lodging as soon as possible in Chinle for the 3 nights of the visit. It is most convenient if we all stay in the same place.
I have reserved 12 double queen rooms in the Verde Valley Archaeology Center’s name for three nights (May 25, 26, 27) at the Best Western (see below).
Best Western Canyon de Chelly Inn 928-674-5875
100 Main Street
Please tell the reservation clerk you are with our group. Rooms are $119.99 plus tax per night. You can cancel two days prior to arrival without incurring any charges.
Covid-19 requirements, per the Navajo Nation’s guidelines, will be in place for this trip. Masks are required indoors, and vaccinations are recommended.
A detailed itinerary will be provided after registering for this event.