Fear not, there are a number of jeep and van tours available for purchase in the park, some of which provide guided hikes and side trips to destinations that you can only get to with a licensed guide. After poking around the visitor center’s museum and gift shop, it’s time for a Navajo spirit and culture tour. Inquire inside or at the sheds in the parking lot about trips. You can book a tour of Valley Drive (which you can also drive on your own if you have the right vehicle) or a longer trek such as Mystery Valley, a popular Navajo Park attraction that is accessible only – as mentioned before – with a licensed guide. You'll ride in a safari-esque 4x4 Jeep built just for these off-road viewing excursions.
These tours are a great way to take in the surrounding landscape and iconic features of the Navajo Indian Reservation without needing to be out for the whole day. The bouncy Jeep rides and shorter tours are as much fun for kids as adults, so they’re great for families looking for something fun to do for the morning or afternoon. Remember to bring your camera, you’ll want to take lots of photos.
What Makes it Great
While nothing can really replace the awesome solitude and experience of hiking around the sandstone monoliths in person on trails like the Wildcat Loop Trail, a Jeep tour is a great way to take in the sites that may otherwise have been missed. Prowling over the dusty roads in the way-back of the park and bumping along to your heart’s content is fun.
If your tour takes you on the Valley Drive, you’ll pass, and potentially stop at, 11 different scenic viewpoints. These make great opportunities to take photos of the park’s incredibly scenic landscapes and rock formations. A point of note, if you take a photo of the local Navajo people, they will expect a tip.
Most other tours will also take you off the beaten path — where exactly will depend on who you book with and the trip you choose. Often, tours will drive deep into the park and make stops for walks to petroglyphs, arches, or whatever else is on the itinerary. One such majestic section of the park is Mystery Canyon. Areas like these that are only accessible with a guide really give you a bang for your buck.
Jeep and van tours can be booked in advance or on the day of. There is a steady stream of trips leaving throughout the day until about an hour or two before the park closes (times vary based on season). Hire a guide in the parking lot at the visitor center or from Goulding’s Lodge. There are many other native-owned guide companies and outfitters in the area as well.
What You’ll Remember
The bumpy bliss of traveling to remote locations only accessible via a guide; the tales of history and Native American myth your guide shares with you along the tour; seeing the most beautiful and iconic parks in the country. You'll see a lot in a little time, and take home memories of the iconic West, that of the silver screen, and of sacred lands. IT is easy to understand why filmmaker John Ford fell in love with this place, and why John Wayne once said that Monument Valley is "where God put the West."
GPS Coordinates, Parking and Regulations
Park at the visitor center. Here, you will find a number of guide services offering trips. If you choose a service not located at the main visitor center (such as Goulding’s Lodge), park as directed by the service provider.
The best and most comfortable time to visit is March through early-June and October through September; summer months can be too hot even to travel overland in a jeep. Take a tour any time of day for spectacular views, but try to catch it at sunset if you can; the long shadows and brilliant red hues will not disappoint, especially if the end destination is back to the lookout point above the Mittens.
Entrance fee into the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is $20 per vehicle up to four people with an additional fee of $6 per person over that allowance. Tours range in price from $40 and up. Dogs are allowed in the park and must be leashed at all times; inquire with particular guide services to see if they allow dogs on their tours.
To fully explore the Monument Valley, review the list of Jeep Tour Operators. Some may offer a discount for combining tours.
Goosenecks State Park
Located north of Mexican Hat, Goosenecks State Park is an easy-to-get-to area with a million-dollar view. The San Juan River begins in the mountains of Colorado and travels to its junction with the Colorado River at Lake Powell.
Hiking the Wildcat Trail
The Wildcat Trail is a 3.2-mile loop hike (4 miles total, including the return) into one of the most scenic areas that Monument Valley has to offer. This trail lets hikers feel like they stepped back in time into the Wild West.
Valley of the Gods
Perhaps one of the most intriguing names of all of the destinations in San Juan County is the Valley of the Gods. This special area, located nearby Bears Ears National Monument and Mexican Hat, Utah, attracts individuals looking for idyllic sandstone structures.