Who doesn’t know this picture? The silhouette of Monument Valley, which is characterized by three striking stone pillars, the so-called Buttes. A backdrop made for western movies.
For example, Monument Valley appeared in films such as The Lone Ranger, Easy Rider, Back to the Future 3 and Forrest Gump. The sight of this geological masterpiece is bound to give you goosebumps and take you back to the Wild West.
Arrival and entrance fee
The core area of Monument Valley is located in Arizona, east of #163 between Moab and Page – two other possible road trip destinations. From the #163 you drive onto Monument Valley Rd, where the entrance fee is collected at the entrance. As Monument Valley Park is administered by the Navajo Indians, the Interagency Pass does not apply there. You pay $20 per vehicle with up to four passengers. In the low season from October to April, you can collect money at the Visitor Center, which can be reached by following Monument Valley Rd to the end. In summer it is open from 6 am to 8 pm and in winter from 8 am to 5 pm. These times also apply to the individual Scenic Drive through the Valley.
It is possible to take a self-guided tour of the monuments in your own car. The starting point for the 27 km drive on the gravel road is at the visitor center. In extremely dry conditions, the ride can become very dusty and you should be particularly careful on this unpaved road, as driving on dirt roads with most rental vehicles is prohibited under the terms of the contract. If you decide to take the tour anyway due to a lack of incidents, you will receive a map with the interesting access points at the entrance or at the Visitor Center. The road first passes the three most famous stone pillars, West Mitten, East Mitten and Merrick Butte.
A recommended stop is John Ford’s Point. A tab for photos is always positioned there for visitors. It is also possible to get on the horse yourself for a photo; for a small tip of course. Afterwards, a one-way road around the Rain God Mesa leads visitors past the Thunderbird and Spearhead Mesa.
You also pass the North Window Overlook, from where you get an overview of the northern part of the valley, as well as Elephant and Camel Butte, which owe their names to their distinctive shape. All in all, you should plan around 1-2 hours for this self-guided tour.
with access to the countryside
Guided tour through Monument Valley
Another way to take a closer look at the monuments is to book a tour with an Indian guide. The advantage of booking such a tour is that you are driven to areas of the valley that you are not allowed to visit on your own. A 2.5 to 3 hour tour is available from $75 per person. Longer tours as well as sunrise and sunset tours cost a little more.
The tours are conducted with a larger off-road vehicle and start in the parking lot next to the Visitor Center. Usually you are transported in an open off-road vehicle. However, a closed vehicle can also be used on request and depending on the weather conditions. From my own experience, I can recommend the traditional Monument Valley Tour from Navajo Spirit Tours. We chose this provider because it had numerous excellent reviews. The expectations we had for the tour were more than exceeded.
Good to know: When booking, which must be done in advance by email, and choosing the time of day, please note that, unlike in Arizona, summer time applies in Monument Valley. This means that if you are traveling from the Grand Canyon or Page, it will be an hour later in Monument Valley. However, if you are traveling from Moab, the time does not change, as Utah also uses summer time.
Our tour with an Indian guide
We were the only guests on the tour we had booked for 3 pm, so we had an unplanned private tour with our Indian guide. The bumpy ride took us past the Mitten Buttes to John Ford’s Point. We then continued through the outback to the Sleeping Dragon and Ear of the Wind. We made photo stops everywhere and our friendly guide told us a lot about the monuments and the history of the Navajo. A fascinating insight that we would probably not have had otherwise. There were no other people to be seen for miles around, so we were able to enjoy the impressive surroundings to the full.
An absolute highlight was the stop at the Big Hogan and Eagle Eye. Due to the phenomenal acoustics there, our guide, accompanying himself on a drum, sang a traditional Navajo song for us. A unique experience that brought us a little closer to this culture. After about three hours, the tour ended back at the parking lot of the Visitor Center. Our conclusion: The guided tour is absolutely worth the money!
Hike in Monument Valley
Anyone who now thinks they can simply explore the outback on foot away from the freely accessible road is wrong. There is only one trail in the park that you can/may walk, namely the Wildcat Nature Walk. It starts at The View Campground and runs for 5.3 km around West Mitten Butte. I doubt whether the views make the hike worthwhile.
Camping in Monument Valley
There are three accommodation options in Monument Valley. There’s The View Hotel, which is located right on the edge of the cliff and where you can’t get a room for less than $260 a night in high season. Another option is the Premium Cabins. You can book one of these cabins for around $210. They offer the same amenities as the hotel room and more privacy at the same time. The cheapest and therefore our chosen alternative is camping in a tent. A campsite costs just $20 plus tax (pitch for RVs $40) and offers not only very well-equipped sanitary facilities and WiFi, but also a first-class view of the valley like all the other accommodation options. You can watch the sunrise behind the buttes from the front row in a breathtaking atmosphere.
Ultimately, it’s up to individual preferences and budget to decide how you want to explore Monument Valley and where you want to stay. No matter how you decide, it’s sure to be a highlight.
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