Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site – AZ – A Blanketed Crossroads

Ganado, Arizona

Hubbell Trading Post has long been an intersection and gathering place in the remote stretches of the southwestern United States, and it is still open. It has been a crossroads of learning and art since it was established in 1878, and is the holy grail of stops for those interested in Navajo rugs. These works of art are mesmerizingly intricate. A reflection of the natural world, they contain within them nature itself. They are made of specially dyed wool, hand-woven and contain a beauty beyond the visual. They are the perfect intersection of nature, humanity, and technology. Picture an entire room of Navajo rugs, months in the making, to choose from. It’s the stuff of fever dreams. The colors they contain are earthy and reflective of the surrounding area. They are pure and priceless. Deft hands have memorized the pull of each wool fiber in a real and figurative way, each strand with precession and pattern is endless in time. They contain a past filled with generations beyond what we can comprehend. Too beautiful to be tread upon, hang them on your wall.

Master Weaver, Ruby Hubbard, wove at the Visitor Center. Watching her create was well worth the stop – it was everything. I was enchanted by the rapidity with which she started the rug. She uses finely spun wool that she re-spins herself to get the exact weight and strength she prefers. Having done this for over 40 years, the precision and dexterity with which she placed each strand was astounding. Despite her speed, these works of art are months in the making. They are special and unique, and often commissioned works of art.

Park Ranger Burbank was an absolute treasure, with so much knowledge and an eagerness to share what he knows, there could be no better person to guide and teach in this place. He explained to us the displays in the visitor center, which included an adorable child sized play trading post.

Ranger Burbank gave us a special tour of the old Hubbell House, which provided great insight into the prominence of this place in art history. A tender reverence is apparent, stories have been woven here. Artists like Elbridge Burbank took up residence for a time. His painting of Geronimo is probably the most famous, and still hangs in the house. But his portraits of many Navajo who worked and lived around Hubbell offer a unique intimacy. Faces line the walls of the home, and imagining what this place was for them is easier through the artist’s eyes. The Long Walk, a forced march of the Navajo in 1864 of over 300 miles in 18 days, left many dead. In 1868, they were allowed to return to their ancestral homelands, and the area of Hubbell. That they had endured, that they were surviving, is hard not to mistake on the Burbank profile faces.

Extra Tips:

Follow posted speed limits. This area is remote, but also patrolled. There are also wild and domesticated animals that are found on the roadways. Be attentive.  

Plan for at least an hour, enjoy the visitor center and then head over to the still operational trading post. In addition to rugs, there are other art forms, books and snacks available.


Be courteous and curious. I am frequently astonished by the lack of knowledge the average person has regarding Native American history or present-day sociology. These cultures are vibrant, alive and still creating art. They are college educated and modern. They also suffer from many of the ills that have impacted all of our rural areas. Ask questions.

Where to Eat:

Eat any place you can find a Navajo Taco – food trucks or restaurants. Fry bread smothered nacho style; these are an absolute delicacy. If you’re lucky, you might find one made with lamb.

When to Go:

Spring is a lovely time to visit.

Where to Stay:

Gallup, New Mexico is located about 1 hour from Ganado, Arizona (where Hubbell is located). Gallup offers familiar hotel chains and restaurants.

Posted on May 3, 2023

Visited March 2023


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