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Keet Seel - Navajo National Monument, AZ

Summary: A hike to one of the best preserved Anasazi ruins in the state. The buildings were constructed and occupied between A.D. 1250 and 1300 by people who farmed the plateaus and bottom lands of the canyons in the area. While there is no fee, reservations are required for the hike to Keet Seel. Call the monument at: 928-672-2700 to reserve a slot. Permits are limited to 20 people per day between Memorial Day through Labor Day. You must sit through an orientation to receive your permit. Orientations are held each day at the visitor center, at either 4:00 PM the day before your hike or at 8:15 AM on the day of the hike. The hike may be done as a day trip or an overnight hike.
Directions: Navajo National Monument is located east of Page or west of Kayenta on Highway 160. Between mile post 374 & 375 on Highway 160, turn north at the sign for the Monument on Route 564 and drive 9 miles to the Visitors Center. Surprisingly enough, there is no fee to enter, camp or hike in the Monument.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - paved all the way
Navigation: Moderate
Length: 17 miles
Date Hiked: May, 2006
Weather Conditions: Warm
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: From the Visitors Center you will drive about a mile to the Keet Seel parking lot, then hike the rest of the way down the road to the trailhead. The path follows an old road for the first part of the trip until you arrive at a sign which warns you as to the strenuous nature of the Keet Seel trip. The path becomes more of a trail at this point as it drops ~700 feet along a series of switchbacks. At the bottom of the descent you'll reach a trail junction at a white post - left for Keet Seel, right for Betatakin. Head left and follow the path down a 300 foot sandy hill to the creek bed below. From creek bed it's very level and easy hiking up a series of canyons. It is necessary to cross streams occasionally so be prepared to get your feet wet. Unfortunately the route is rather smelly, due to cattle grazing in the canyon bottom. The path is marked by white posts and mile markers at semi-frequent intervals. Follow these markers to the Keet Seel drainage then walk up this creek along an ATV track which frequently crosses the stream. Just past the 2.5 mile signpost (Note: the signs indicate the distance to the ruins, not the distance you've traveled) you'll reach a waterfall. Walk up a drainage on the right (facing up stream) to a path that leads to the top of the falls. Not long after the falls is a sign on the right which instructs you to follow a trail up and out of the drainage to travel along the bench above the watercourse. There are a few ups and downs in this section as the path winds in and out of some minor side drainages. Shortly after passing the 0.5 mile sign the path drops back into the streambed to a junction with a trail that branches right to the camp sites for those doing the hike as an overnight trip. To get to the ruins, stay to the left and climb a hill to a fence. Walk through the fence and you will see the rangers hogan on the left. Let the ranger know that you are there and hang out at some picnic tables until he's ready. The ranger will take you up a steep ladder at the entrance to the ruins and explain some of the history behind the area. When ready, return the way you came.
Rating (1-5 stars):
Though the hike itself is not terribly exciting, the ruins are really nice and offer insight into how people lived in the area (without the benefit of air conditioning, fast food and convenience stores) 800 years ago.
Maps: Provided at the orientation session.
Books: Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
View on the way to the ruins. Waterfall near 2.5 milepost.
Keet Seel Potsherds near the ruins.