WESTERN NAVAJO COUNTRY

CAMERON

Built in 1916 overlooking the Little Colorado River, Cameron Trading Post (928/679-2231 or 800/338-7385, www.camerontradingpost.com) commemorates Ralph Cameron, Arizona's last territorial delegate before statehood. The trading post's strategic location near the Grand Canyon and extensive services make it a popular stopping point. Cameron Lodge ($89–99 d rooms, $149–179 suites, less in winter) offers attractive Southwest-style rooms, some with a balcony. A terraced garden adds refreshing greenery and flowers. An RV park ($15 w/hookups, no tents, no showers) lies across the highway. Antique furnishings and Navajo rugs decorate the excellent restaurant (daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $8–18). Diners enjoy views of the Little Colorado Canyon, and they can choose from many American dishes plus some Mexican and Navajo items—try the Navajo taco in meat or vegetarian versions. The huge gift shop in the main building has a Navajo rug section where you may see a weaver at work. If you're interested in museum-quality Native American crafts and art, don't miss the separate gallery in a stone building out front; ask to see the upstairs rooms, too. The trading post also includes a grocery store, post office, and a service station. It's on the west side of US 89, one mile north of the junction with AZ 64 and 54 miles north of Flagstaff.
    For Navajo Nation information and recreation permits drop by the Cameron Visitor Center (US 89-AZ 64 junction, P.O. Box 459, Cameron, AZ 86020, 928/679-2303, fax 928/679-2330); it's open about 7 a.m.–6 p.m. daily May–Sept., then 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri. the rest of the year. Navajo Arts & Crafts Enterprise (928/679-2244) next door offers a fine selection of Native American crafts. An RV park across US 89 is open all year with sites for tents ($8.50) and RVs ($16.50 w/hookups) as well as showers ($2), laundry, deli, and a store; check in at Simpson's Market (928/679-2532). The nearby Trading Post sells Native American crafts and supplies.

Vicinity of Cameron
You'll see colorful hills of the Painted Desert north and east of Cameron. To the west, the high, sheer walls of the Little Colorado River Canyon make an impressive sight. Viewpoints are 9 and 14 miles west of Cameron on AZ 64, about halfway to Desert View in Grand Canyon National Park. You'll also have a chance to shop for Navajo jewelry at the roadside stands in the Cameron area on US 89 and AZ 64.
   
At Gray Mountain, 10 miles south of Cameron on US 89, you can stay at the motel rooms of the Anasazi Inn (928/679-2214, $49-79 d, less in winter). The restaurant (across the highway, daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $7-14) cooks up American and Mexican items plus Navajo tacos. The adjacent Gray Mountain Trading Post sells Native American arts and crafts.

Backcountry Areas
Experienced hikers can explore remote and beautiful areas in the western Navajo lands. The Cameron Visitor Center sells the required permits and has some information; hiking guidebooks have more detailed descriptions. Navajo permits can also be obtained from staff at the Navajo Parks and Recreation office in Window Rock. If you'll also be camping in Grand Canyon National Park, get hold of permits from the Backcountry Information Center there.
    Navigating the unsigned back roads to many of the trailheads may require as much map reading skill as does hiking the routes. When it's not in flood, you can hike along the Little Colorado River all the way from Cameron down to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, though deep pools, quicksand, and flash floods can make the way difficult. The Little Colorado Canyon can also be entered via the Blue Springs Trail, Hopi Trail Crossing, and Hopi Salt Trail, all very challenging and only for knowledgeable canyon hikers. Marble Canyon has difficult rim-to-river routes at Eminence Break, Shinumo Wash, Salt Water Wash, and Jackass Canyon. Northeast near the Arizona-Utah border, Rainbow Bridge rates as one of the best hiking destinations on the Colorado Plateau.

Tatahatso Point
Spectacular views of Marble Canyon greet adventurous drivers who negotiate the confusing network of roads out to the rim. The name comes from the Navajo dida'a hotsa'a, meaning "the edge or top of it is big." The rare visitor experiences the precipitous edge, the vastness, and the solitude here. From Cedar Ridge on US 89, the route is about 20 miles to the Point Hansbrough overlook or 25 miles all the way to the end of the road on Tatahatso Point. High-clearance vehicles must be used, and you'll need 4WD if you drive all the way to the end of the point. The trip should be done only in dry weather with good visibility (to see the landmarks); topo maps will be useful. Bring water, food, and camping gear in case of a breakdown, and leave your plans with a reliable person. Although you can drive out in an hour or so, staying overnight will allow you to see the changing colors and patterns in Marble Canyon and on the plateaus all around. Arizona Highways did an illustrated article on Tatahatso Point in the July 1998 issue, though the directions seem suspect: "HOW far is it to the stock pond, Sam?"
    First obtain a Navajo permit, most easily done at the visitor center/ranger station in Cameron, then drive to Cedar Ridge on US 89, 40 miles north of Cameron, and turn west on an unpaved road marked by a cairn 0.2 mile north of Milepost 505. This is Indian Route 6110, a wide and bumpy gravel road. Soon the dark, forested Kaibab Plateau comes into view ahead to the west, then Shinumo Altar to the northwest. It's a good idea to look back occasionally for landmarks to help with navigation on the return drive. The route generally heads west, passing several miles south of Shinumo Altar, then at a point southwest of Shinumo, it curves northwest toward Tatahatso Point. Don't panic if you lose the way, as there's more than one way across the plateau—rather, be amazed if you don't make a wrong turn! The author counted one (1) sign on the entire drive! Just try not to disturb anyone at the widely scattered ranches out here.
    Keep right on 6110 where the road forks after 6.8 miles. After another 0.6 mile, take the left fork (a small earthen dam is on the left here). After 0.8 mile take the right fork, then a left fork after 0.3 mile; there's a little outcrop of white rocks to the south. Take a right fork after 1.6 miles, then a left fork after 0.2 mile, then right at the next two forks just 0.1 mile apart; Shinumo Altar is almost due north and the San Francisco Peaks rise to the south. The route continues west or slightly northwest 2.7 miles past several crossroads, then takes a right fork 0.3 mile down to a watering hole for local livestock. In another 0.3 mile take the right fork, then keep straight on the left fork 0.7 mile farther. After 1.3 miles, take the right fork, then keep straight on the left fork 0.2 mile farther. In half a mile the road veers to the northwest; there's an earthen ridge to the left in another 0.6 mile. Keep straight on the left fork 0.4 mile past the ridge. Marble Canyon reveals itself to the left after 0.7 mile; the road curves north in another 0.8 mile, then comes to a fork 0.3 mile farther. Turn left here and at the next fork, and you'll have arrived at a cairn marking the end of the road just 0.2 mile farther! The Colorado River makes a 180-degree bend around Point Hansbrough below your feet. President Harding Rapid lies directly below, though only the lower part can be seen. The little side canyon here and cliffs off to your right mark the Eminence Break Fault. Experienced canyon hikers can descend a rough trail from here to President Harding Rapid.
    This is the best viewpoint, but you can drive or hike out onto Tatahatso Point for additional views. A rough, steep section of rocky road at the fault requires 4WD—don't descend it unless you're sure that you can make it back up! Although just a short walk below the viewpoint, this rough spot is reached by retracing 0.2 mile back to the main road and continuing around and down to the left in 1.7 miles. Once past the rocks, it's an easy three-mile drive across the point, covered in sage, cholla, and Mormon tea, to an old tramway site at road's end. There's a good view downstream to Buck Farm Canyon. One could hike cross-country about 1.5 miles to the southwest corner of Point Tatahatso or drive half a mile north along the rim to the northwest corner of the point and a view upriver.
 

TUBA CITY

This administrative and trade center for the western Navajo commemorates Chief Tuuvi of the Hopi tribe. He had converted to the Mormon religion and invited members to settle here. Mormons founded a settlement in 1877, but could not gain clear title to the land, and the U.S. Indian Agency took it over in 1903. The town (pop. 7,612, elev. 4,936 feet) is a handy stop for travelers with several places to stay and some good restaurants. Attractive stone buildings in an oasis of green lawns and shade trees lie just north of the commercial district. Tuba City Trading Post, the first of these old structures, is worth a visit both for its unusual architecture and for the arts and crafts inside.

Sights Nearby
Dinosaur tracks
left by several different species lie preserved in sandstone 5.5 miles west of Tuba City off US 160, about midway between Tuba City and US 89. The turnoff is on the north side of the highway between Mileposts 316 and 317, marked by signs for "dinosaur tracks" and "Moenave." Navajo sell jewelry from stalls here. A guide will probably offer his services for a small tip, but you can find the several pathway sites on your own—look for the stone-lined paths to them.
    Elephant's Feet, a pair of distinctive sandstone pillars, stand near Red Lake, 23 miles northeast of Tuba City on US 160 near Milepost 345.

Accommodations
Under $50: Greyhills Inn
(928/283-4450 or 283-6271, ext. 142) provides one of the few inexpensive places to stay in the Navajo Nation; students of Greyhills High School operate the inn as part of a training program. Rates for rooms—all non-smoking and with shared bath—are $50 s plus $10 for each additional person; people with hostel cards can stay for only $22 s, $30 d. Guests have use of a kitchen and a TV lounge. You can make the recommended reservations by phone or mail with the Hotel Management Program, Greyhills High School, P.O. Box 160, Tuba City, AZ 86045. From the junction of US 160 and AZ 264, go east 0.5 mile on US 160 to just past the pedestrian overpass, turn left, and follow signs.
    $50-100: Dine Inn Motel (928/283-6107, $60 s, $65-75 d) offers basic rooms—all non-smoking—on the north side of US 160 one block east of the AZ 264 junction.
    Over $100: Quality Inn Navajo Nation (928/283-4545 or 800/644-8383, www.qualityinn.com/hotel-tuba_city-arizona-AZ815, $95 s, $110 d, less in winter) sits in the center of town behind Tuba Trading Post, one mile north of the highway junction. The comfortable rooms have a Southwest decor; guests can use a free Internet computer. The very attractive Hopi-styled Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites (928/283-4500, www.experiencehopi.com) recently opened on Hopi land near the turnoff for Tuba City with luxurious rooms; the website has information on Hopi villages and tours.

Camping
The Quality Inn's RV park ($12 tents, $20 RV w/hookups) offers shade trees, showers, and laundry.

Food
The octagonal Hogan Restaurant (next to the Quality Inn, 928/283-5260, daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $6-14) serves Navajo tacos, steaks, seafood, pasta, and Mexican dishes along with a salad bar; there's a lunchtime buffet.
    A half block to the east, Kate's Cafe (928/283-6773, daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $8-13) cooks up American and pasta dishes. The little Tuuvi Cafe (US 160-AZ 264 junction, 928/283-6767, daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, $5-13) prepares American food and Tuuvi tacos.
    The Toh Nanees Dizi Shopping Center, a half mile east on US 160 from the highway junction, has the Chinese Szechuan Restaurant (928/283-5807, daily for lunch and dinner, with a lunch buffet on weekdays, $6-8), Pizza Edge (928/283-5938, Mon.-Sat. for lunch and dinner, $4-16), and a Bashas' supermarket and deli.

Shopping and Services
The unusually shaped Tuba City Trading Post in the center of town offers Native American arts and crafts. The stone structure dates to 1870 and the two-story octagon was added in 1920. Van Trading Co. (1.5 miles west of town on US 160) sells Native American work, including dead-pawn jewelry, groceries, and most everything else.
    The post office is east 0.5 mile on US 160 from the highway junction to just past the pedestrian overpass, then left. Tuba City Public Library (928/283-5856, closed Fri.-Sat.) offers an Arizona collection, general reading, and Internet computers in an old stone building across from the Quality Inn.

On to Northern Navajo Country