Massacre Cave Overlook

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 0.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 6771 - 6837 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Massacre Cave Overlook
Fee: none
Attractions: Historic site




Massacre Cave Overlook is located off of the North Rim Drive in the Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'Shay) National Monument. The cave is the site of a rock shelter where in 1805 a group of Navajo had fortified themselves in a battle against a Spanish military expedition led by Lt. Antonio Narbona.


It is 12 miles to the Mummy Cave Overlook Road along the North Rim Drive, Indian Route 64, measuring from its intersection with the South Rim Drive. After making a right turn it is about 1 mile to another fork where the right fork leads to the Mummy Cave Overlook and the left fork leads to the Massacre Site Overlook.


From the parking area there are two paths that lead to the overlooks. One of them has steps and the other is a wheelchair accessible ramp.


There are actually 3 separate overlooks to stop at. The first one is the Massacre Cave Overlook, the second is a canyon overlook and the third overlooks the Yucca Cave Ruins. While the first two overlooks are wheelchair accessible the trail leading to the third is more primitive in nature.


For this post we continued by the Massacre Cave overlook and stopped first at the canyon overlook.


Looking out over Canyon del Muerto you can see the third overlook along the rim below. This canyon is one of the three main canyons that make up Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The other two canyons are Monument and de Chelly.


The trail down to the third overlook is primitive in nature being made up of patches of sand and slickrock and a few rock steps.


The primary attractions at this overlook are an alcove that houses the Yucca Cave ruin and another that has a granary within it.


Zooming in on the Yucca Cave ruin reveals a structure made from rock slabs and smaller stones cemented together with mud that is reminiscent of the caliche used in the construction of the Casa Grande ruins.


To the left of Yucca Cave is a smaller cave with what looks like a large granary inside it.


Back at the Massacre Cave overlook you can look at Canyon del Muerto in the other direction. The Spanish and Navajo accounts of what occurred here are quite different from each other. The Spanish claim to have killed 90 warriors and a few women and children while the Navajo say that the men were away hunting and that it was all woman, children and old men that were massacred by the Spanish.


After reading the sobering account of the massacre we asked one of the Navajo vendors that we had bought a beautiful necklace from to tell us a happy story that relates to Canyon del Chelly. I don't remember what she related to us but it was evident that she had many happy memories of the place. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.