Round Trip Distance: 0.3 miles
Elevation: 6807 - 6851 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Mummy Cave Overlook
Attractions: Awesome cliff dwelling
Mummy Cave is located along the North Rim Drive in the Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'Shay) National Monument near Chinle, Arizona. The alcove complex contains an Anasazi cliff dwelling that shows evidence of having been occupied for nearly a thousand years. With over 70 rooms it is the largest Puebloan village that is preserved in Canyon de Chelly.
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 a right turn leads to the Mummy Cave Overlook.
As the short trail leaves the parking area it follows a cement path.
The trail transitions to sand and slickrock as it approaches the overlook.
The Mummy Cave complex looks like a miniature city clinging to the cliffs, 300 feet above the valley floor, opposite of the overlook. The cave was occupied until about 1300 when Puebloan life in Canyon de Chelly abruptly ended. A severe drought that began in the 1200's is thought to have led to its abandonment.
A pair of binoculars would come in handy to truly appreciate the ruins from this distance. The traditional Navajo name for the site is Tséyaa Kini which translates to 'House Under the Rock'.
In 1880 archaeologists discovered two well-preserved mummies which led them to call the site 'Mummy Cave'. A good bit of dirt has blown into the ruins but the outlines of multi story rooms, several kivas, and a large terrace can still be seen. The walls were decorated with white and pale green plaster some of which can be seen from the overlook.
The central tower is said to be Mesa Verde in style and appears to have been constructed at a later date than the rooms in the alcoves. Timbers can still be seen protruding from the walls.
The canyon itself is beautiful to look at and most every cave or alcove that you can see appears to have been used for something.
The Navajo people - The Diné, called the cliff dwellers Anasazi which means 'ancient ones'. Canyon de Chelly preserves many sites that even predate the Anasazi. These include sites from the Archaic period (2500-200 BC) and the Basketmakers (200 BC-750 AD). The Puebloans (750-1300 AD), as the Spanish called them, built the cliff dwellings and they were followed by the Hopi (1300-1600 AD) and later by the Navajo of whom presently live in the canyon. Some of that rich history is easily viewable from the Mummy Cave Overlook. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.