White House Ruin

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5638 - 6175 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: White House Overlook
Fee: none
Attractions: Cliff dwelling, scenic canyon




The White House Ruin trail is located in the Canyon de Chelly (sh-ay) National Monument near Chinle, Arizona. The trail begins at the White House Overlook and descends into the canyon to a spot  right below the White House Ruin. Hikers are treated to breath taking scenery as they hike into the canyon along a well constructed trail that passes through two tunnels en route to the ruin White House Ruin is the only trail within the canyon that visitors can hike without hiring a guide or taking a tour from an authorized Navajo tour company.


Canyon de Chelly is divided into the North Rim Drive and the South Rim Drive. The South Rim has 7 overlooks where visitors can gaze into the beautiful canyon and see ancient ruins and other points of interest. The North Rim Drive has 3 similar overlooks. The White House Overlook is at about the 5.7 mile point of the South Rim Drive. The road is paved and the drive takes only about 10 minutes if no other stops are made.


The area around the overlook is wheelchair accessible. The White House Ruins trail begins near the east end of the overlook.


From the overlook find your way to a set of steps near the rim of the canyon at the point that the descent begins.


As the trail starts out it passes through the first of its two tunnels.


The well constructed trail snakes around numerous switchbacks making the hiking much easier and enjoyable. The slideshow at the end of this post should have enough pictures to give a good idea of what the trail is like.


Portions of the trail are carved right out of the sandstone.


Near the lower end of the trail the second tunnel is encountered.


Once the floor of the canyon is reached the trail works its way toward the ruin which is along the north side of the canyon. A bridge allows hikers to easily get across Chinle (chin-lee) Wash. There is a wonderful sense of calm as you walk along the towering walls of the canyon.


White House Ruin gets its name from the obviously white room block in the cliff dwelling that is recessed within the alcove. The alcove is reminiscent of the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde while the ruin below it brings to mind the extensive ruins in Chaco Canyon.


Very distinct pictographs can be seen along the cliffs near the ruins.


Many of the overlooks and other sites in Canyon de Chelly have Navajo vendors selling their native crafts. Many of these items can be obtained nowhere else. Vendors that we spoke with said they had sold items over the internet in the past but couldn't keep up with the demand so now they sell their wares only in places such as this. We purchased the charmingly decorated canoe in the photo from one of the vendors near the ruin. Always ask permission before taking pictures of any of the Navajo people, their homes or their wares.


For those that are unable to make the hike into the canyon, or that would like to see many more of the ruins, you can get on with one of the authorized Navajo guide companies. Reservations should be made in advance when possible but when that doesn't work out you can usually hire a guide at the Sacred Canyon Lodge. That is where the guides pick up their fares and there are usually a few extra drivers waiting around for anyone that doesn't have a reservation. They depart somewhere between 7-9 am every morning. Sacred Canyon Lodge is also where we chose to stay while we were visiting Canyon de Chelly. Some people may remember the lodge by its former name which was Thunderbird Lodge.


The hike back up to the rim of the canyon can be made relaxing by stopping for a rest on one of the benches along the way. We only gave the trail a moderate rating but for those that aren't in good hiking shape it will probably feel much more strenuous. Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a majestic place to visit. All of the overlooks along both the North and South Rims can be seen in one long day but it is much better to spread them out over 2 days. If you want to do one of the canyon tours then you might want to add another day to your trip. However you plan your visit be sure to see the White House Ruin. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.