|A Navajo woman weaves a rug on a traditional loom. (HILARY NANGLE FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)|
CAMERON, Ariz. - Trading posts in the Southwest were historically gathering places, economic bridges between ranchers, Native American artisans, and passing traders. That spirit continues at the Cameron Trading Post. Founded by brothers Hubert and C.D. Richardson in 1916, the trading post now comprises a modern hotel with Southwestern decor, RV park, restaurant, gift shop, gallery, and gardens, but it remains a place for cross-cultural interaction.
Located on Navajo land edging the Little Colorado River Gorge, just south of Tuba City, the setting is akin to stepping into the pages of a Tony Hillerman mystery, not only for the desert landscape but also for the cultural authenticity. From here, it's an easy day trip to Grand Canyon National Park, or Vermilion Cliffs, Sunset Crater or Wupatki National Monument, as well as Lake Powell and sites on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. That's assuming you decide to leave historic property.
The gallery is a treasure, featuring museum-quality Native American artwork: Plains Indian beadwork, chief's blankets and rugs, exquisite jewelry, and ancient pottery. Tucked behind it is a garden oasis of sandstone and greenery tiered with chrysanthemums, roses, and daisies.
Less pricey treasures fill the sprawling gift shop, including jewelry, Navajo sand paintings, pueblo pottery, Hopi kachinas, and kitschy souvenirs. Artwork also accents the oak-trimmed, tin-ceiling dining room. Gather with locals, tourists, and passing traders and begin the day with Navajo fry bread for breakfast or end it with a Navajo taco for a true taste of Southwestern community.
Cameron Trading Post, Highway 89, Cameron, Ariz. (54 miles north of Flagstaff), 800-338-7385, camerontradingpost.com. Winter 7 a.m.-9 p.m., summer 6 a.m.-10 p.m.