Navajo Mountain Archaeology and Navajo Culture

Join the Atene Family and guest archaeologist Sally Cole on day hikes at Navajo Mountain

Navajo Mountain culture and archaeology: Rare Opportunity to Explore and learn about Prehistoric and Contemporary Native cultures

navmtnhoganWith Navajo guides from the Atene family and archaeologist Sally Cole, we learn about prehistoric and historic cultures that have occupied the lands around Navajo Mountain for centuries. The mountain sits on the border of Utah and Arizona.The Navajo (Dine’) call this mountain Naatsis’ aan (Head of Earth Woman); Paiutes call it Paiute Mountain.

Rock art expert and archaeologist, Sally Cole,  will  highlight prehistoric research done in this area in the 1930’s, as part of the Glen Canyon Survey in the 1960’s and more recently 1980’s road surveys.

Our hiking takes place between Navajo Mountain and the San Juan River, an area seldom explored except by the families that live there.  We visit nearby sites featuring Archaic, Basketmaker and Pueblo III cultures, many of which are working landscapes still utilized by  modern-day Paiute and Dine (Navajo). The beauty and remoteness of this area have long inspired artists and writers and historians.

Our trip meets the first evening at Recapture Lodge in Bluff, Utah for orientation (there is an option to start with the CFI crew earlier in Moab.) We travel the next day to Navajo Mountain, highlighting geography, geology, and historical features along the way, including a short hike late afternoon to a major PIII ruin site. We will spend several nights tent  camping at near the traditional home of Rose Atene, well known weaver and gracious grandmother. Our facilities are rustic (latrine/outhouse, drinking water, dining shelter are provided.) Participants may opt to put up their own tents for privacy or share the hogan which will also serve as gathering and teaching place.

This trip’s itinerary remains somewhat exploratory in nature, varying with time of year and interests.  Most of the hikes are short walks but there may be a longer hike up to 4 miles round trip. Walking will be on old roads or cross country in washes, old stock trails or on slickrock. Participants may opt to sit out a hike and read from our trip library. We return to Bluff by 4 p.m. the last day (or for those going on to Moab,  arriving there about 6:30 p.m.)

“I had long wanted to explore the Navajo Mountain area. This trip turned out to be the perfect way to do it I was again in touch with the Colorado Plateau but experienced a new part of it…Highlights of the program? Being with members of a local Navajo family made the land come alive in a way that would be impossible without their personal knowledge and perspective. The place and the people are woven together… And the congeniality of the group. I enjoyed this group, both guests and staff. ”

– Tom Wylie, 2011 participant and National Park Service retiree, Denver, Colorado.

Guest faculty:

Sally Cole is a renowned archaeologist and author who has documented rock art patterns throughout the Four Corners region over the last 40 years. CFI Founder  Karla VanderZanden, has explored and led CFI trips with the Atene family in the Navajo Mountain/Rainbow Bridge area since 1988.


  • Where: Navajo Mountain, Arizona/Utah Border
  • Number of Days/Nights: Four nights, four days which includes first night lodge stay and orientation in Bluff, then three nights camping with truck support with Navajo family.
  • Time: Evening day one through afternoon last day
  • Group Size: Minimum 5, maximum 8
  • Age Group: Adults and youth 16+
  • Deadline for Signup: Cancelled
  • Cost per Person: $1670/person; or CFI Member $1587.50 plus $48 Navajo Nation fees
  • Deposit: $300 (non-refundable) applies to total due
  • Notes:
    • Trip meets and ends in Bluff, UT  (option to meet and end in Moab and travel with CFI guides.)
    •  Activity level moderate/active (with an optional easier walk or reading time in camp.)
    • CFI Members receive 5% discount off seminar fee.
    • Fees include &100.00 donation towards Navajo Mountain Youth Outreach and Trail projects.
    • CFI activity level is moderate/active with some easier options.
    • Read our cancellation policy.
    • Tent and sleeping gear rentals available