Monument Valley truly is a majestic place that symbolizes the American west. This famous destination is recognized worldwide because photos of this landscape adorn nearly every western travel publication. The red rock pillar landscape was the backdrop for many classic Hollywood western films and plenty of viewers found the looks of Monument Valley to be even more captivating than the actual storyline. Monument Valley is the land of tall red sandstone pillars that touch the sky and there is no other place like this anywhere else on earth!
Monument Valley is one of many scenic destinations that are located in the Navajo Nation. There are a couple of ways to get to Monument Valley and each offers plenty to do along the way. When traveling on Interstate Highway 70 through northern Utah, heading south on U.S. Highway 191 will take visitors past Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Bears Ears, Mexican Hat and Natural Bridges on the way to Monument Valley. Visiting each of these destinations along the way will add up to at least one week of vacation time.
A second popular travel route to Monument Valley involves going east from the Grand Canyon on Highway 160 to Kayenta, which is the gateway to Monument Valley. The Tuba City Dinosaur Tracks, Hopi Village and the Navajo National Monument are located along this scenic route. From Kayenta, U.S. Highway 163 runs north and this highway is called the Kayenta Monument Valley Scenic Road for a good reason. This road offers spectacular views of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park for over 20 miles on either side of the Arizona-Utah Border!
When touring remote areas of the Southwest, it is best to book accommodations in advance, because during a busy holiday weekend the lodging and campgrounds can be at full capacity. Accommodations with all modern amenities can be found in Kayenta and Monument Valley. Oljato is a small community located at Red Door Mesa across the road and this is where Goulding’s also offers comfortable lodging and camping with great views of the valley. Goulding’s is where John Wayne’s Cabin can be seen and there is a great restaurant at the lodge. Several RV campgrounds are located in this area too. There is also a high pressure car wash in Oljato and this is good to keep in mind, because the touring the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park involves driving on red dirt roads.
If waking up to a panoramic view of Monument Valley in the morning sounds like a dream come true, then booking a stay at The View Hotel in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is by far the best option. The View Hotel is a modern Southwestern resort that overlooks the entire Monument Valley. Premium cabins must be booked ahead of time, because this is one of the most popular lodges in the west. Campgrounds, RV camping, a general store and trading post are on site too. The restaurant at The View Hotel is famous for native cuisine and astounding views that extend to the horizon.
Some of the hiking trails require permits, so it is best to check with guest services before blazing a trail on foot. Registration for hiking acts as a protective measure, because this is a pristine wilderness area and it is sacred ground. Guided tours of Monument Valley are also available and there are several touring modes to choose from. Horseback tours of Monument Valley are a great option for those who prefer earning a few saddle sores, while the caravan vehicles offer a smoother ride.
Personal vehicle tours of Monument Valley do require a permit fee, which goes for a reasonable price. The dirt roads are very well maintained and I was actually able to drive a low ground clearance muscle car on every road in the Navajo Tribal Park with no problem, although the going was carefully slow. The roads are well marked and maps are available at the entrance gate. As mentioned earlier, the pristine beauty of this environment is highly protected, so venturing on the virgin ground by foot from the road is taboo.
There are plenty of scenic overlooks located throughout the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park dirt road system. Each tall red sandstone butte has a name and often the name has a story to tell. The Mitten Buttes look like hands touching the sky. The shape of Elephant Butte and Camel Butte resemble those respective creatures. The Hub rock formation looks like a wagon wheel laying on the ground. Rain God Mesa is in the center of the park and this majestic red rock formation certainly has some character on an overcast day. Further into the park, there is a red butte sandstone butte that has separated into three tall pillars that is called The Three Sisters. The Thumb, Totem Poles and The Yei Bi Chei are a few more picturesque red sandstone formations to look for while doing the dirt road tour.
There are commemorative sites and historic markers along the automobile touring path that are well worth checking out. Memorials for fallen Navajo war heroes and the Code Talkers do command respect and many visitors leave flowers at these locations. Old remnants of the John Wayne Hollywood film sets can be seen too. Near the commemorative area is where the facilities, snacks, horseback trail rides and Navajo artisan vendors can be found inside the park.
One of the greatest spots to visit in the park is Artist Point. The view of Monument Valley truly is majestic at this scenic overlook. On any given time of day, several artists can be seen painting the inspirational landscape on canvas at this place. Artist Point is also a western landscape photographer’s dream come true, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride!
Experiencing Monument Valley simply must be done at least once in a lifetime! The Monument Valley Tribal Park is international tourism friendly and this place offers plenty of opportunities to learn from cultural exchange. Spending one day at the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park somehow never seems to be enough time and a longing to return will surely occur. Monument Valley is an ancient sacred place where the Mother Earth Spirit touches the hearts of all who set eyes upon this panoramic landscape. The Monument Valley Tribal Park is a Southwestern destination that is well worth planning an entire summer vacation around, because there is so much to experience in this majestic place!
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