Millions of years and layers of sediment, wind, & water formed the wonders of Monument Valley, ancestral home of the Navajo people.see more »
Monument Valley lies south of Bluff via Highway 163 on the Utah/Arizona border.
Distances: Moab to Monument Valley 148 miles/3 hours. Bluff to Monument Valley on Highway 163 is 48 miles/1.5 hours
Beyond the scenery, the park offers a taste of Navajo Culture at historic Goulding's Trading Post as well as great Monument Valley hikes and off-road travel. Navajo guided tours can be arranged through local outfitters, call the Tribal Park Headquarters for more information, (435) 727-5870.
Monument Valley, an iconic symbol of the American West, is the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation. In some ways, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the definitive West. The rugged, disruptive landscapes are infused with ancestral spirits yet are hauntingly familiar thanks to Hollywood's long love affair with this land.
Any visit to southeastern Utah must include a visit to Monument Valley — but be warned; this remote, inspiring place demands a closer look. You can take the scenic drive for a half-day visit and hit overlooks on the main highway, but you'll find yourself longing to stay, to get closer to the monumental buttes that tower as much as 1,000 feet (300 meters) off the valley floor. From gateway communities like Monticello and Bluff, or a Monument Valley hotel or campground within the Navajo Nation Tribal Lands, there's plenty of accommodations to help extend your stay in Monument Valley. See an itinerary sketch below to help guide your preparations for this unique destination.
Here's another way to look at it: Monument Valley is like a national park, but falls within the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation's 27,425-square-mile (71,000 square kilometers) territory in the Four Corners region of the United States. Of that 17 million acres, more than 91,000 acres are set aside as Monument Valley Tribal Park, a space larger than Arches National Park.
Monument Valley Itinerary
Set an alarmto wake up before dawn and get on the road early, whether you're leaving from a gateway community or staying within the tribal park. It will be worth it. The stillness of the desert in the early morning is magical.The long shadows of early light bring out the sinuous curves of a landscape sculpted over tens of thousands of years by forces largely invisible to us as we pass through. On drives like these, it's easy to let your mind wander and imagine what it must have been like traversing these lands a hundred and fifty years ago. No cars, no blacktop highway, no cell phones. Just the steady hoofbeat of your horse on the dusty earth, the creaking of the leather in the saddle and the sound of the wind beneath the wide brim of your hat.
Stop the car by the side of the road, turn off the engine and step out into the vast expanse of desert, you'll find the stillness and the solitude of the mesas and the canyons remains — just as it has for centuries. Pondering timelessness, the frontier and the mythology of the West is perfect for framing your visit to Monument Valley.
As you drive into the valley, you may feel as though you're driving through one of the classic Hollywood westerns. The feeling comes for good reason: hundreds of movies and commercials have been shot right here. And as you travel, you're following in the footsteps of legends like John Wayne and contemporaries like Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer.
When you arrive in Monument Valley, your first stop should be at the Goulding Film and Cultural History museum at Goulding's Lodge. It's the perfect introduction and educational resource for what you'll see in the valley.
The best way to experience Monument Valley is to take a half-day or full-day Jeep tour. You can tour limited parts of the park independently, but a Jeep tour saves your vehicle from the abuses of the rough roads, provides access to a much larger section of the park and introduces you to the park's cultural heritage. The tour guides are key to unlocking the rich history, archeology and traditions of the Navajo people who continue to live in traditional hogans, herd sheep and weave rugs as they've done for millennia.
Adapt the following Scenic Byway grand tour of the Four Corners region to your base camp.
Sidetrip Style: 400+ miles | 9-10 hours nonstop or 2-3 day tour | Map Counterclockwise 300+ miles | 8+ hours nonstop or longer tour | Map (Moki Dugway route)
From Monticello to Monument Valley, Blanding to Mexican Hat via Natural Bridges, or Bluff to Hovenweep with a wide swing east into Colorado and south into Arizona. There are many ways to tackle this important scenic byway.
Packed with scenic vistas and both archaeological and cultural intrigue, the byway encounters numerous examples of Ancestral Puebloan history in the Four Corners area. A tour of the Utah portion of the Trail of the Ancients includes Four Corners Monument, Edge of the Cedars State Park & Museum, Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and many other areas of interest. A more circular route hits the steep and spectacular Moki Dugway, comprised of white-knuckle inducing gravel switchbacks.
The narrow 11 percent grade is not recommended for trailers or larger RVs.
If you're a photographer, consider booking a sunrise or sunset tour to travel the park during the "golden hour" to capture the park's monuments, needles and spires in their full glory.
After dinner, step out on your patio to listen to the stillness of the night and bask in the brilliance of the night sky. Hundreds of miles from a major city, the stargazing here is simply breathtaking. For many, the vastness of the shimmering night sky, combined with the day's travels and cultural experiences, provides an awe-inspiring perspective on life that is both profound and long-lasting.
Monument Valley History and Summary
Monument Valley was set aside as a Navajo Tribal Park in 1959. The Navajo word Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii translates to "valley of the rocks" but the land has profound cultural significance. Like Arches and Canyonlands to the north, Monument Valley showcases eons of nature's erosive power, yet has distinctive formations unlike anywhere else in the world.
This iconic symbol of the American West is internationally recognizable, having appeared in countless movies. Both the park headquarters and visitor center offer information on the area and exhibit Navajo archaeology, arts and crafts. A self-guided scenic drive leads to overlooks of the park's famous formations, while further exploration is offered via guided tour, www.navajonationparks.org