Nearly 750 years ago one of the greatest population exoduses in prehistoric North America occurred in the desert Southwest of the United States. The ancestral Pueblo residents of the broader Mesa Verde region of Colorado began leaving their homes in the first half of the 1200’s. Fifty years later, around 1300 A.D, nearly the entire population had vacated their ancient homelands. Some moved southeast to the Rio Grande area of northern New Mexico, while others moved in a more southerly direction to the lands near the present day Pueblos of Acoma and Zuni and beyond. Still others moved in a southwesterly direction toward the spectacular canyons and mesas of northeastern Arizona.
One stop along the way for a group of the southwesterly migrating Puebloans was the area around Kayenta, Arizona. Some of their ancient homes are preserved in the cliff dwellings of the Navajo National Monument.
Navajo National Monument is the home to several impressive cliff dwellings. These include Keet Seel, Inscription House, and Betatakin. Inscription House can no longer be visited because of the fragile nature of the cliff dwellings. Keet Seel, is a long, nearly 20 mile hike or horseback ride through the beautiful Tsiege Canyon. The number of visitors to Kit Seel is controlled not only by the Park Service and Navajo Nation, but by the considerable effort required to get there.
Map of Navajo National Monument
That leaves Betatakin as the “easiest” to visit. Casual visitors can view the impressive alcove in which the cliff house is located from the nearby Betatakin Overlook. Or more adventurous visitors can take a half-day hike into Betatakin Canyon, accompanied by Navajo guides.