Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations

Lee Allen

Fill the vehicle up with gas, pack the cooler, bring the maps, and grab your copy of Native Roads, because we’re taking a trek through lots of square miles of Indian Country—at least through terrain occupied by the Navajo and Hopi nations.

Author Fran Kosik has lived in and traveled throughout these lands for nearly 30 years and brings an element of expertise in this third edition of the guidebook.

“Even in the ancient lands of the Hopis and Navajos, things change,” Rio Nuevo’s publishers note. “Time may pass more slowly along Native roads, but phone numbers get changed, websites are created, and companies open up and go out of business. That’s why we asked the author to retrace her routes and report back her contemporary findings.”

The update makes excellent sense as a form of travel insurance when following thousands of acres of sometimes poorly marked—and oftentimes totally unmarked—roadways. The author’s references to history, culture, landscapes and visitor options make this more than just a map from Point A to Point B.

“I wrote this book to give road travelers a better understanding of where they are in context of the two nations, the geologic formations they will encounter, and the history of the area,” Kosik said. “Each significant mile marker gives a snapshot of the important events that helped shape this part of America.”

While corroborating that traditional high season for tourists on the Colorado Plateau runs from April through November, seasons and events may change for many reasons.  Inclement weather may arrive early or traditional festivities may get underway much later than advertised.

“Visitors should be aware that most Native American cultures do not view time on as strict a schedule as others do,” writes the author in subtle understatement.

In explaining the standard seasons for visitors, Kosik outlines some of the travel perils that might be encountered, like the fact that while the Plateau is considered arid with less than 10 inches of rain each year, most of it comes in two seasons—winter (December–March) and summer (July–August), when monsoons dump about two thirds of the year’s moisture. 

Common dangers associated with the inclement weather patterns include flash flooding from the heavy rainfall and thunderstorm-associated lightning as well as dust storms that may precede the liquid sunshine.

Having given the precautionary warnings, the book goes on to detail travel etiquette.

“Your respect for traditional belief systems and your gentleness with all things you touch, walk on, or look at is appreciated,” Kosik writes.

With the preliminaries out of the way, the remaining 280 pages of the traveling companion take visitors through the communities of Cameron, Tuba City, Keams Canyon, Window Rock, Kayenta, Shiprock, and along some of the lesser-traveled Navajo Routes to places like Many Farms, Spider Rock, Tsaile and Chinle. In addition to state-of-the-art statistics for the GPS-guided traveler (remoteness of some areas can prove problematic for satellite transmissions), the book also contains some pearls of wisdom from the first and second editions.

“When confronted by a closed trading post, drive to the rear of the facility, honk persistently, and wait patiently,” Kosik advises. This is, after all, Indian Country—operating on Indian time.

For the sake of accuracy, editor Jim Turner was asked to retrace the author’s well-planned routes.

“The books directions are clear and distances exact,” he noted in his report. “Without Native Roads, I would have driven by many legendary landmarks.”

Travelers, both seasoned and neophyte, as well as armchair tourists, will love this book because it provides thumbnail cultural histories as well as road warrior travel tips.

Native Roads is chock-full of the kind of information that makes reading it like eating salted peanuts,” one reviewer noted. “You just can’t stop.”