Monument Valley, Utah, an iconic symbol of the American West, is the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation and the ideal setting for your next adventure in the warm, high desert climate of the American West. In some ways, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the definitive West. Ancestral spirits infuse the rugged, disruptive landscapes that feel foreign, yet distinctly familiar thanks to Hollywood's long love affair with this land. Enjoy hiking, jeep tours, horseback riding and stargazing, escorted and narrated by Navajo guides.
Any visit to southeastern Utah must include a visit to Monument Valley — but be warned: this remote, inspiring place demands a closer look and a quick drive through simply doesn't do Monument Valley justice. Take the half-day or full-day jeep tour, explore the area's backroads by car or step out into the night to appreciate the timelessness and wonder of the Milky Way. Stopping to appreciate the rhythms of this ancient, sacred land has the ability to change your perspective if you take the time to let it.
Gateways to Monument Valley
From gateway communities like Monticello, Bluff and Mexican Hat, 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 our proposed itinerary below to help guide your preparations for this unique destination.
Monument Valley Weather
Beautiful throughout the year, Monument Valley's climate is defined by high elevation and desert conditions. The peak season is May through September. During this time the visitor center and scenic drive have extended hours. Temperatures may reach mid-90s F in July and August. Average highs in the winter are in the 40s, meaning carrying layers and water for serene, sometimes snow-dusted panoramas.
Monument Valley lies south of Bluff via Highway 163 on the Utah/Arizona border. It's 148 miles or 3 hours from Moab Monument Valley. Bluff to Monument Valley, on Highway 163, is 48 miles or 1.5 hours. It's about 5 hours from Phoenix. Check ahead for current conditions and entrance fees.
Wildcat Trail Walking Tour
The 4-mile tour descends several hundred feet down to the valley floor and around the Left Mitten. Plan a couple of hours and carry plenty of water. If you can, set out before sunrise for the most dramatic light and best hiking experience.
The Goulding Film and Cultural History museum at Goulding's Lodge is the perfect introduction and educational resource for what you'll see in the valley.
Navajo guides take you on foot, horseback or by jeep through spectacularly beautiful and sacred lands. Call the Tribal Park Headquarters for more information, (435) 727-5870.
Set an alarm to 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 canyon 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 hoof beat 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, Utah.
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–it easily makes the list of the top things to see in Utah. 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.
Monument Valley is also a cornerstone of a trip along the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. Packed with scenic vistas in all directions 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 and many other areas of interest across the map. 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.)
Here's another way to look at it: Monument Valley is like a national park, but it 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 History and Summary
If you're a photographer, consider booking a sunrise or sunset tour to travel the park during the "golden hour" to capture photos of the park's monuments, needles, spires and other attractions 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 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. Put this incredible monument on your list of things to see in Utah!
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah 84536