Monument Valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege of visiting last year. Located on the Arizona-Utah state line, this iconic landmark is widely popular in Hollywood Western movies yet it still remains behind the scenes, next to the gargantuan national parks in Utah. Most people recognize the “Mittens”-The East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte that look like hands, which can be viewed panoramically via the Visitor’s Center. This was one of the attractions we included in our itinerary for our Utah Road Trip last year.
We arrived early in the morning hoping to catch the sun rising behind the Mittens. Unfortunately, we were greeted by a thick fog and were unable get a clear view. To pass time, we checked out the Visitor’s Center and Gift shop, where they sell beautiful and intricate handmade crafts and jewelry made by the Navajo tribe. After an hour or so and with the fog still predominant, we decided to get a closer look and do the scenic, self-guided valley drive. Luckily, we drove a truck, which made it easier for us to do the 17-mile unpaved dirt road.
Things to know before you do the self-guided tour:
- Scenic Drive Hours: Summer (May-Sept) 6am-8pm; Winter (Oct-April) 8am-5pm.
- The 17-mile scenic drive is included in the General Admission fee of $20 that you will be paying at the entrance and it comes with a free Monument Valley map.
- If you don’t have a truck, it’s best to schedule a Jeep tour with a Navajo guide to avoid abusing your car tires. It really was a bumpy ride for us! Plus, there’s also some other landmarks that can only be accessed via the guided tour. Visit this link to see the list of the guided tours: Guided Tours
- There are no restrooms along the way. Make sure you go before you leave for the 17-mile drive.
- If you don’t have time to do the whole scenic drive, there’s several pullout points where you can turn around and drive back. The road starts as a two-lane dirt road and becomes a one-way loop around Rain God Mesa. We didn’t drive all the way and ended up stopping at John Ford’s point, which I believe is the last pullout point before the road becomes narrow and you’re unable to do turn around.
- The allotted time for the whole scenic drive is from 2-3 hours, which includes stops at the viewpoints.
- For more information and detailed guides of the viewpoints/stops, check out American Southwest.
Scenic Drive Guide Lines:
- Stay in designated route, unless escorted by a Tour Guide.
- Use of ATV or off-road vehicles on restricted roads is prohibited.
- NO Rock climbing.
- Obtain permission and give gratuity when photographing a local resident.
- Respect he the privacy of residents and live stocks.
- Flash Floods can occur between June-August. Check with the park staff for potential weather hazard conditions.
We stopped at some of the viewpoints along the way, including the Elephant Butte and The Three Sisters before reaching John Ford’s Point. It is named after the Hollywood director who made John Wayne famous. Some of his popular works include, Stage Coach, The Searchers and Cheyenne Autumn. It has been said that this point was his favorite place to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Monument Valley. Hence, it was named after him.
After enjoying the breathtaking scenery and taking a lot of photos we were beyond excited to recreate the iconic image of a lone man on a horse standing at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the valley below. We spotted a Navajo man who allowed us to ride his horse for $5. He was very polite and told us that he is one of the Navajo people that still lives in the valley floor. I originally didn’t want to do it because I was scared that the horse might move and jump off the cliff (I don’t know why I thought that) but after some words of encouragement from my friend, I finally did it! It was definitely thrilling to be at the edge of the cliff! My husband and my friend’s boyfriend were also a bit reluctant to do it but after seeing our amazing photos, they decided that they had to join in on the fun as well.
We drove back with high hopes of seeing the The Mittens unobscured by the fog. To our heart’s delight, the sky cleared up and we were gifted with a stunning view of the famous rock formations. I sat there, just taking it all in..obviously smitten by The Mittens. We didn’t have enough time to do the Wildcat Nature Walk but if you decide to do it, I’ve listed below some basic information along with useful info on where to stay and other nearby attractions.
Straddling the border of Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is one of those surreal places that leaves you in awe and inspires you to seek beauty in unconventional places. I hope someday you guys get to explore this one of a kind US landmark.
Wildcat Nature Walk:
- The wildcat trail is a scenic 3.3 mile hike that begins from primitive campground and makes a loop around the West Mitten Butte.
- Allow 2-3 hours to complete the trail.
- Make sure you bring your own water. There’s no drinking water available on the trail.
- Wear clothes appropriate for the weather and wear proper footwear.
How to get here:
- By Car: Accessible via Hwy 160 from the South. At Kayenta, turn north towards Hwy 163. If you’re coming from Moab, take Hwy 191 towards Blanding and then take Hwy 163 towards Monument Valley.
- By Plane: Page Municipal Airport in Page, AZ; Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, AZ;
- By Train: Nearest train station is in Flagstaff, AZ via Amtrak.
Where to stay:
- The View Hotel (the only hotel built within the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park).
– Call for room availabilities and rates: (435) 727-5556
- Goulding’s Lodge and Campground
– Call for room availabilities and rates: (435) 727-3231
Where to eat:
- The View Restaurant
– Breakfast: 7am-11am
– Lunch: 11am-2pm (dining room is closed from 2pm-5pm)
– Dinner: 5pm-closing
- Deli Express & Salad bar open during closed hours of 2pm-5pm
- Four Corners Monument- 102 miles
- Mesa Verde National Park- 151 miles
- Antelope Canyon– 116 miles
- Horseshoe Bend– 116 miles
- Natural Bridges National Monument- 67.6 miles
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument- 93 miles
- Address: PO Box 360289, Monument Valley, UT 84536
- Phone: (435) 727-5870
- General admission: $10 per person (ages 9 and under free); $20 per vehicle up to 4 people.
- For all other info regarding Permits, Visitor Center Hours, other fees such as detailed Park Entry fees and Commercial fees, visit: Monument Valley.
- National Park passes are not accepted.
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Utah Road Trip Guide: Monument Valley
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