Betatakin [Bitát'ahkin] (meaning "ledge house" in Navaho [diné bizaad] is the large set of "ruins" visible from a canyon rim trail in Navajo National Monument. Tree-ring dating has revealed much about Betatakin [Bitát'ahkin]. We know that about AD 1250 a few persons moved into the cave and that in 1267 several more families arrived. Though its agricultural fields lay a mile away, this alcove was a good place in which to build: it was deep and faced south. In late summer 1269, while the crops were ripening and there was time for other chores, the villages cut and stockpiles many timbers. They apparently knew that others were coming to join them, perhaps from a place threatened by arroyo-cutting. In 1275 the group arrived, and there was a burst of construction, using the stockpiled timbers. Over the next few years more rooms were added, perhaps for new arrivals but probably also for natural increase. At its height, about 1286 when the last building took place, Betatakin [Bitát'ahkin] could have held about 125 persons. The village was abandoned about 1300. Birth, life and death all took place within less than 50 years.
The towering red sandstone walls of Betatakin Canyon also shelter a pocket of quaking aspen, Douglas fir, scrub oak and box elder. The trail to the ruin leads through this small grove in the canyon bottom - a shady haven in the midst of stunted piñons and junipers that surround the canyon.
The ruin was discovered in 1909 by Byron Cummings, a pioneer archaeologist of the Southwest, and John Wetherill, a rancher and trader who, along with his older brother, Richard, "discovered" many of the major Anasazi cliff dwellings in the San Juan region. Betatakin was stabilized in 1917 by Neil M. Judd of the Smithsonian Institution.
You may see Betatakin [Bitát'ahkin] from the viewpoint at the end of the Sandal Trail at any time, without a guide. The 1 mile round trip walk takes about an hour. Binoculars will prove useful.
You may visit Betatakin [Bitát'ahkin] only with a park ranger. Scheduled tours, limited to 20 persons each, are conducted in spring, summer and fall, weather and personnel permitting. The round trip hike takes about 3 hours and involves strenuous climbing on the way back. Because the canyon is 700 feet deep - equal to a 70 story building - and the altitude is 7,200 feet, the hike can be tiring. If you have heart trouble, don't attempt it. Even if you are physically fit, move slowly, rest often.