Travel the Trails
Trip 12: US-160 East: Kayenta to Four Corners
78 miles (126 km) from Kayenta to Four Corners National Monument
Disclaimer: NANACT trip guides are based on information from Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo & Hopi Nations, 2nd Edition by Fran Kosik (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2005). Some information may have changed since the publication of the book. While NANACT will attempt to maintain current information, consider verifying the current operation/existence of businesses, accommodations, dining and similar interests before planning your trip.
Maps, photos and text used by permission of Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo & Hopi Nations, 2nd Edition by Fran Kosik (Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2005).
Scenic & Historic:
MM 400 Church Rock and Comb Ridge
Heading east on U.S. Highway 160 from Kayenta, you will see an excellent example of an igneous intrusive rock formation to the north. Like Agathla Peak, it formed when the sedimentary material surrounding the hardened volcanic plug eroded away, leaving the remains of a vent or cylinder eerily exposed in the general shape of a church and steeple.
Behind Church Rock is Comb Ridge, one of the larger monoclines in the world. This seventy-mile (112 km) ridge of Navajo Sandstone extends from Kayenta to Blanding, Utah.
Comb Ridge shows the characteristic pink, light orange, and gray colors that make up much of the beauty of the Southwest. Navajo Sandstone is simply compressed ancient sand dunes. If you look closely, you can see the way the wind was blowing from the directions of the lines on its surface. This makes it a favorite for photographers.
Many Navajos think of Comb Ridge as the backbone of the earth. They also see it as one long arrowhead, set on edge, one of four that protects the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.
MM 407 Baby Rocks Mesa
This assortment of spires and knobs to the south resulted from the erosion of the Entrada Sandstone formed during the Jurassic Era. Navajos use this mesa to teach their children values. One story tells of a big sister who refused to give blue corn bread to her baby sister. To put an end to the big sister’s fighting and selfishness, the Holy People punished her by turning her to stone here, where she lives as one of the Baby Rocks.
Junction of US HWY 191 North to Bluff, Utah
MM 450 Red Mesa
This incredibly red mesa to the north gets its color from mud sediment found in the Carmel Formation, part of the San Raphael Group formed during the Jurassic Era, 135 to 180 million years ago. It is mostly red, brown, and gray mudstone and sandstone.
MM 464 Teec Nos Pos
T’iis nazbas means “cottonwoods in a circle” in Navajo.
Teec Nos Pos Rug Design Usually a very large rug, the Teec Nos Pos design has an intricate center and wide borders, which many find similar to Persian rugs. Because of their intricacies and size, they can be very expensive.
Four Corners National Monument
The monument lies 5.8 miles north of the junction with U.S. Highway 64. There is a small entrance fee; National Park Service passes are not valid here. This is a Navajo tribal park, and camping is not allowed. If you stand in the center of the circle you will be able to tell your friends that you were in all four states at the exact same moment. In 1875, the first surveying marker was placed dividing the territories—later to become the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. But it was not until 1962 that a paved road made the monument accessible and a plaque commemorating this surveyor’s dream was dedicated. Each of the four states has its seal on the monument. The inscription reads, “Here Meet, in Freedom, Under God, Four States.” You will find jewelry and food vendors here.
Sleeping Ute Mountain
In the distance to the north (in Colorado) is a landmark in traditional Ute territory known as Dzil Naajinii, or “black mountain sloping down” to Navajos. It’s possible to see a human figure when you look at the mountain from the east. The story is told that a Ute chief is buried here. His head lies toward the north with his face to the sky. His arms cross over his chest and his feet point to the south.
Accommodations (Hotels/Camping/RV Parks):
Food & Dining:
MM 436 Mexican Water Restaurant
Open 7 a.m.–10 p.m. According to locals they make a good Navajo taco.
What is a Navajo Taco?
The Navajo taco, voted the State Dish of Arizona in a 1995 poll conducted by the Arizona Republic, is an amalgamation of beans, chopped lettuce, sliced tomato, shredded cheddar, and an optional green chile sitting atop a piece of crispy frybread and eaten open-faced. Frybread cooked on the Navajo Reservation simply must be made with Blue Bird Flour from the Cortez Milling Co. to be considered authentically Navajo. The precise reason is ineffable, but it’s believed its higher gluten content holds the dough together better than other flours when flipped between palms to achieve the round, tortilla shape for cooking. Then the dough is fried in Crisco or lard in a heavy iron skillet. Now thought of as a “traditional food,” frybread actually came from the Bosque Redondo era, when some eight thousand Navajos spent four years imprisoned and were given little more than white flour and lard to eat.
Art & Culture (Galleries/Trading Posts/Museums):
MM 464 Teec Nos Pos
The trading post lies about a quarter mile (.4 km) west of the turnoff to Four Corners on the north side of the road. Open 7:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. DST.
- Trip information is condensed with permission from Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations, by Fran Kosik, Rio Nuevo Publishers, Tucson, Arizona, 2005. Trip numbers generally coincide with chapter number in the book. Fran's full book contains much more wonderful information on traveling our Native roads. For more detailed information, the book can be purchased from:
Museum of Northern Arizona bookstore, 3101 N. Ft. Valley Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001; phone #: 928-774-5213 or direct 928-774-5211 + Ext 261. Or, contact the publisher, Rio Nuevo Publishers, PO Box 5250, Tucson, Arizona 85703; phone #: 520-623-9558 or 800-969-9558. Trip numbers generally correspond to chapter numbers.