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Where to See the Great Outdoors on Native American Land.

Arizona, Montana, Minnesota, Florida

Where to See the Great Outdoors on Native American Land

By: Valerie Conners

Mark Byzewski/Flickr
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  • States:
    Arizona
    Montana
    Minnesota
    Florida

From curving canyon walls to rugged mountains, some of the most picturesque wilderness in the United States stretches across Native American land.

Visitors traveling throughout the country will experience the natural beauty of regions that have been occupied by Native American people for hundreds — and, in some cases, thousands — of years. Here are five beautiful tribal lands you should visit.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Arizona

Deep within Arizona's Navajo Nation, red sandstone walls rise hundreds of meters from Canyon de Chelly's floor, where natural spires rise dramatically toward the sky. Tucked within the canyon's crevices lie hundreds of ancient pueblo ruins. Inhabited for nearly 5,000 years by tribes, including the Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo, the canyon in this Southwestern state is still home to Navajo families. The land is managed through a partnership between the Navajo Nation and National Park Service. Visitors can view the canyon from North or South Rim Drive, or travel into the canyon accompanied by a park ranger or get an insider’s perspective with an authorized Navajo guide.

View of Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

View of Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
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Antelope Canyon

Arizona

Exploring Antelope Canyon, a winding slot canyon located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona, leads visitors past vibrant reds, browns and oranges of the canyon's twisting, narrow folds. Formed by erosion, the canyon has become a popular landmark for photographers who seek to capture the play of light on the canyon's colored walls. (Special photo and sightseeing tours are available for those who want to photograph the canyon when it is less busy.) Many tourists visit Upper Antelope Canyon, which is more easily accessible than the Lower Canyon, which can only be reached by climbing steel ladders. Visitors must schedule a tour with an authorized Navajo guide.

The famed curves in Arizona's Antelope Canyon.

The famed curves in Arizona's Antelope Canyon.
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Blackfeet Indian Reservation

Montana

Stretching for about 607,000 hectares across northwestern Montana, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is home to 10,000 people, most of whom are descendants of the Blackfeet Tribe. Bordered by Canada and Glacier National Park, the reservation lies along the Rocky Mountains' eastern slopes. Drive Highway 2 through the reservation to admire sweeping views of snow-capped mountain peaks and valleys filled with pastel-colored wildflowers. Anglers can obtain a tribal fishing permit through a licensed outfitter to cast lines in the sparkling lakes and mountain streams that slice through the land. Pause at the bison reserve to snap photos of the grazing woolly beasts, or set up camp at Duck Lake or another designated campsite to appreciate the landscape at sunset.

Campers set up their tents with an impressive view in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Campers set up their tents with an impressive view in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
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Troy Smith/Flickr
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Grand Portage National Monument

Minnesota

Set against a backdrop of Lake Superior's scenic northern shore, Grand Portage National Monument lies within Minnesota’s Grand Portage Indian Reservation. This Midwestern monument protects the 27-kilometer Grand Portage footpath, home to Ojibwe Nation and part of a route used by 18th-century European fur traders. Linking a historic depot on Lake Superior and Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River, the Grand Portage footpath winds through Sawtooth Mountains wilderness and offers panoramic views of Grand Portage Bay. Look for a dam and boardwalk along the route; from the boardwalk you can glimpse a large pond — and the beavers that call it home.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Florida

Driving through Big Cypress National Preserve on the Tamiami Trail is like taking a voyage through a land before time. Hop off the trail onto the unpaved, 43.5-kilometer Loop Road Scenic Drive for up-close views of tall cypress trees draped with dangling Spanish moss. The towering cypress trees seem to sprout eerie growths, which are actually clusters of massive air plants clinging to their bark. The trees rise above swampy marshland, where travelers can spot alligators and spindly birds like egrets, anhingas and herons. The preserve protects about 295,000 hectares of swampland, which Florida's Miccosukee and Seminole tribes have been granted permanent rights to occupy. The tribes also have rights to set up businesses in the region, including airboat tours that bring visitors deeper into the wilderness.

Canoeing in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Canoeing in Big Cypress National Preserve.
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NPS Gustave Pellerin/Flickr

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