Cottonwood Campground, Canyon de Chelly National Park, Chinle, Arizona

We always love the National Park sites and campgrounds. Canyon de Chelly (pronounced "d' shay") is a unique park in that it is a cooperative union of the Navajo Nation and our National Park system. The park itself is spectacular, with sandstone canyon walls and interesting rock formations and of course the history of the Navajo tribes who still live within the canyon today. There are tight restrictions on visitors and touring of the canyon. The Cottonwood Campground is adjacent to the Visitor's Center and found at the entrance of the park. Arrivals are all first come, first served and we were concerned as these scenarios never seem to work out well for us,
however we arrived to find a fairly empty campground, even though it was Spring Break and peak season for the canyon had just begun. Campground fees are low, at $14 a night at the time of our visit. The camp sits among a grove of Cottonwood trees providing shade to most sites in Loops 2 or 3. Sites in Loop 1 are more open. Interior roads are paved, as well as site pads. Sites are primitive with no hookups, although potable water and a dump station is available. A Each site offers a picnic table, although we found we couldn't use ours or the space around our camp due to red anthills and cottonwood thorns throughout the site. Overall, the camp seemed neglected to us, with overgrown grasses and the ant issues. Even more disappointing to us was the inaccessibility of the canyon to the camp. We had hoped that we would be able to enjoy canyon views from or near to camp, but instead we found ourselves gazing at dilapidated buildings and trash adjacent to the property. We had originally intended to stay here two nights, but with such poor campground conditions, we decided to leave a day earlier and head to our next destination after viewing the canyon via a Navajo guided tour. Most camping visitors seemed to do the same and we noticed a lot of late arrivals and early departures in our 24 hours here.  A lodge (not as grand as some of our other National Park lodges) is adjacent to the campground, as well as a gift shop, horse tours and the Visitor's Center. Navajo demonstrations in the Visitor's Center were interesting to watch and learn about the craftsmanship skills of the Navajo. The main loop road, which is the only way to view the canyon without a guided Navajo tour, leads from camp to the rim of the canyon and travels to various viewpoints. A late spring, summer or early fall stay is recommended here, as winters are cold in this region.

Best Sites: Sites in Loops 2 & 3
Poor Sites: Sites in Loop 1
Hookups: None
Potable Water: Yes
Dump Within Facility: Yes