Betatakin Ruins: How to Visit America’s Real History

Jim sits cross-legged as he traces a circle in the dirt. “Everything is clockwise,” he says. He motions to the east of the circle. “In the east, there’s an open doorway. That’s where you meet the Father Sun. But when we pray we say ‘Mother Earth’. The first one you mention is Mother Earth.”

We are seated in an alcove at the Navajo National Monument in Arizona. Jim, our guide, is taking us to the Betatakin Ruins, an ancient cliff settlement dating back to 1250 AD. The ruins were home to the Anasazi tribe, also known as the Ancestral Puebloans, for around 300 years. Then, for reasons not entirely known today, they left.

We’re traveling through northern Arizona and southern Utah on an amazing adventure sponsored by Corning® Gorilla® Glass (see our disclosure statement here) while we use the new and exciting Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ equipped with Corning Gorilla Glass 4, which dramatically improves protection against drops. Our first trip is to visit this ancient settlement carved into a rock cliff. To get there, you have to hike five miles over a mountain – a real tough experience, to say the least.

Our guide, Jim. Image by Raymond Chee.
Our guide, Jim. Photo by Raymond Chee.

In the alcove on the way to the ruins, Jim tells us about ancient Anasazi culture, a matrilineal society related to the current Hopi tribe. He teaches us to us enter the alcove as was traditionally done for centuries – in a circular fashion, walking clockwise, always entering and leaving through the east, like birth and death. The time in between your entrance and exit is your life, divided into pie slices to illustrate childhood, middle age, retirement.

Jim walks in a circle in the alcove, illustrating Anasazi tradition. Image by Beth Santos, taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device.
Jim walks in a circle in the alcove, illustrating Anasazi tradition. Photo by Beth Santos, taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device.

After sitting (men cross-legged, women in a seated kneel) we venture forth to see the ruins that have captured many hearts. So often I am told that America has no history, that we are so young. I’m accustomed to feeling like the real history of America extends no further than the New England towns of my upbringing, yet today I am proven so very wrong. There is real history beyond our country’s colonization, and every American should take a moment to visit it.

Getting to Betatakin

Image taken by Beth Santos on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device.
Photo from above, taken by Beth Santos on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device.

To get to the ruins, you’ll want to rent a car. We flew into Phoenix – from there, the ride is about 4.5 hours. However, if you’re not in a rush, consider stopping in beautiful Sedona for a bit. The city is about two hours from Phoenix and is a great way to break up the ride.

To find the Navajo National Monument, take State Highway 564, off of US Highway 160, or get directions here.

What to Do

If you want to hike to the Betatakin Ruins, you’ll need a guide to get there. Image taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device.
If you want to hike to the Betatakin Ruins, you’ll need a guide to get there. Taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device.

The best part of the Betatakin Ruins is that once you arrive, it’s free to visit. Visits are guided by a park ranger and leave twice per day in the summer from May to September on a first come, first-serve basis. You can opt for the 8:15am five-mile hike around the Tsegi Point Trail or the 10am three-mile hike along the Sandal Trail. Get more information about the tours here.

There are also a number of unguided activities that you can do as well, including camping. Check out those details here.

What to Bring

A gorgeous view on the way to the ruins, taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device by Beth Santos.
A gorgeous view on the way to the ruins, taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ device. Photo by Beth Santos.

Like much of Arizona, weather patterns can change rather quickly and the high altitude means that a day can shift quite easily from very hot to very cold. Make sure to bring lots of layers so you can warm up and cool off as necessary.

Also don’t forget:

  • A pair of binoculars. You can’t go right up to the Betatakin Ruins so this will be a great way to see things close up
  • Trekking poles if you want the stair climbs to be easier on the knees
  • Lots of snacks and lunch – remember to carry out everything you carry in!
  • An amazing camera to capture it – might we recommend the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+?
  • A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for the ample sunshine

How Difficult?

Some would say that these hikes are no walk in the park (even though that’s exactly what they are). Expect steep inclines which often take shape as stairs. As is true in most hiking, the difficulty level depends entirely on how quickly you go. Jim stopped us often to explain Anasazi history or point out a plant that was used for medicinal or cultural purposes, so we had lots of opportunities to take a breather. One of our hikers had been experiencing knee issues before the trip, and although she had some mild pain she still felt the excursion was doable.

Beth and Beth.
Beth and Beth.

We were also accompanied by an amazing woman named Beth, who was nearly 70 years old and had never left her home state of Virginia. One day, Beth decided she wanted to leave it all behind and bought an old RV. She’s been traveling the world ever since. Though she moved slowly, Beth was able to keep up with us and tell us amazing stories about her trips across the USA driving her RV solo. I couldn’t help but take a picture with her to commemorate the moment.

“Storm” with us — and Win a Ticket to Costa Rica!

The Gorilla 4, plus our equivalent team of three bloggers from China, posing at the amazing Betatakin Ruins.
The Gorilla 4, plus our equivalent team of three bloggers from China, posing at the amazing Betatakin Ruins.

This holiday season is your chance to be the best friend/mother/daughter/neighbor/niece/aunt ever by surprising a special woman you know with a trip of a lifetime. That’s right!! In our final giveaway, we’re giving you the biggest prize of all : a trip FOR TWO on the Wanderful/WHOA Travel Costa Rica Escape!

It’s a Twitter Storm

On Wednesday, November 18th at 9pm Eastern, we’ll be getting on Twitter to chat all about tough experiences and Gorilla Glass. Anyone can ask the questions — and anyone can answer them! It’s a TWITTER STORM and one lucky winner will win the trip of a lifetime.

Here’s how it works:

  • Get on Twitter at 9pm on 11/18 and use the hashtag #gorillaglass4sweeps to filter content just like you would with any other Twitter chat during our one-hour chat session
  • Participate by answering our questions or check out the prepared questions on Facebook so you can help ask them at the right interval
  • Tweet like a maniac and invite your followers to the fun
  • On Thursday, RT one of our #gorillaglass4sweeps images to confirm your entry
  • On Friday, November 20th, we’ll announce the winner. How easy is that?

What You’ll Win

  • A FREE trip for two to the Wanderful/WHOA Travel Costa Rica Escape on January 16-23, 2016
  • A travel voucher for a round-trip flight for each to Costa Rica for the trip
  • A Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ for each traveler to record it all!

Stay Tuned for More Great Stories

We can’t wait to see your Tweets come in! In the meantime, stay tuned for more adventures coming to you from the “Gorilla 4” – Kelly Olexa of FitFluential, Juliana Dever of Clever Dever Wherever, and Leticia Barr of Tech Savvy Mama and our own Beth Santos of Wanderful!

Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed
More Stories
Virtual Visit: 30 Minutes in Quito, Ecuador