Round Trip Distance: 0.8 miles
Elevation: 6993 - 7223 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Visitor Center
Attractions: Scenic canyon views
The Aspen trail is located in the Navajo National Monument near Kayenta, Arizona. The trail begins behind the Visitor Center off of the Sandal trail where it partially descends into the head of Betatakin Canyon. The head of the canyon is a semi lush environment with a thick aspen and conifer forest that is watered by various seeps. The Aspen trail also serves as the main route to the Betatakin Cliff Dwelling. The cliff dwelling isn't visible from the Aspen trail but free guided tours are available twice daily at 8:15 and 10:15 MDT between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
To get to the beginning of the Aspen trail follow the Sandal trail for about 100 yards from behind the Visitor Center.
The trail is mostly lined with rocks that aid in the control of erosion and outline the route.
The steeper parts of the trail have rock steps to ease the way.
Interpretive signs with a Native American twist provide interesting information about various plants along the trail.
There are a couple of places that will stretch the legs more than others.
Views into the Betatakin Canyon open up as the trail crosses the rim above it. The mouth of the canyon opens up where it connects to Tsegi Canyon. Once in Tsegi Canyon the land passes from the Navajo National Monument to the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation. Hidden from view on the north side of the canyon is the Betatakin cliff dwelling.
The steepest part of the trail comes as it drops below the rim via a series of switchbacks. This is also probably the most scenic part of the trail.
The trail comes to an end at an overlook that is perched on the canyon wall above the forest's canopy. Only guided tours are allowed below the overlook.
The interesting thing about the small forest at the head of the canyon is that it is there at all. Water that soaks into the ground on the Shonto Plateau seeps back out at the head of the canyon where it reaches a denser layer of rock. The small forest may have been like an oasis to those living at Betatakin.
Most of the work on the Aspen trail begins once you turn around at the overlook and begin the climb out of the canyon.
The trail seems just as scenic climbing back up the switchbacks where the redrock cliffs and towering Douglas Firs surrounded by a lush undergrowth of green brush and colorful wildflowers provide an enjoyable scene. Being only a few tenths of a mile back to where the trail began brings the trail to a quick end. The Aspen trail is one of the easiest places in the Navajo National Monument to experience a little bit of time below the rim of the Shonto Plateau. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.