Navajo Mountain Archaeology and Navajo Culture

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

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

navmtnhoganJoin CFI and Navajo guides from the Atene family on this very special trip at Navajo Mountain. Navajo Mountain  (Naatsis’ aan) sits on the Arizona and Utah border and rises to a height over 10,000 feet. Navajo Mountain is considered sacred by many; Paiutes that live here call this Paiute Mountain;  the Navajo call this place Naatsis’aan, which means “Head of the Earth Woman.” A guest archaeologist will join us for part of the trip to 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:

CFI Founder  Karla VanderZanden, has explored and led CFI trips in the Navajo Mountain/Rainbow Bridge area since 1988. She will be joined by a guest archaeologist and several Atene family members.


  • Where: Navajo Mountain, Arizona/Utah Border
  • When: September 15, 2020 through September 19, 2020
  • 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: Two weeks prior to start
  • 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.)
    • CFI Members receive 5% discount off seminar fee
    • Fees include &50.00 donation towards tuition assistance for CFI youth programs
    • Read our cancellation policy
    • To register, click Register Now button, email us at or call 800-860-5262 or 435-259-7750
    • Tent and sleeping gear rentals available