Dine'Tah Among the People Scenic Road
Because the Dine' Tah "Among the People" Scenic Road crosses the border into New Mexico, it is broken into two segments in Arizona: from Chinle running northeast around Canyon de Chelly National Monument and then east to the New Mexico border, and a second piece from Lupton (on Interstate 40) running north through Window Rock to the New Mexico border. This is a scenic and historic 100-mile route through part of the Navajo Nation, leading past Ancestral Puebloan structures, cliffside dwellings and many sites of rock art. The countryside itself is spectacular rugged desert outback punctuated by mountain chains capped with verdant pine forests and cut by deeply eroded canyons.
At the northern end of the route is Chinle, also the gateway to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Just out of Chinle you'll come to the Massacre Cave Overlook, a spot where you can look down on the site of a Spanish attack on a number of Navajo women and children a couple hundred years ago. The route continues east from there through Red Rock countryside: mountains, spires, pillars and other formations of Navajo, Entrada and Chinle sandstone.
All the materials that make up the sandstones were laid down more than 100 million years ago, at times when this area was under water and during one long period when this was an absolutely barren desert covered with wind-blown sand dunes up to 1,000' feet thick. Over the millenia this area was covered over again and again with other materials, compressing that sand, silt and mud from long ago. Then about 65 million years ago, the whole area was suddenly pushed up as the Colorado Plateau and all that newer, softer material eroded away, leaving what we see now.
The road travels into New Mexico for maybe 40 miles, then returns to Arizona just above Fort Defiance and continues south through Window Rock and St Michaels on its way to Lupton. Window Rock is the capital of the Navajo Nation and is named for a prominent arch on the edge of town. St. Michaels is where the only Catholic school on the Navajo Nation was ever built. Today it houses a museum with displays and exhibits about reservation and missionary life around the turn of the 19th century. The route from St. Michaels to Lupton is along a valley bordered by more of those famous vertical red rock walls...
Typical Navajo sandstone formations
From an overlook at Canyon de Chelly
Dine' Tah Scenic Road area map