Imagine you are walking on an orange planet surrounded by towers and hills of different shapes – this is the kind of experience you’ll have while visiting Monument Valley Tribal Park. The iconic sandstone buttes and mesas found here have been featured in movies and gained the public eye for their singular magnificence. If this is something you’d like to see, here is a guide with all you need to visit Monument Valley.
Monument Valley at a glance
Contrary to what most think, Monument Valley isn’t a US National Park, as it’s located in the semi-autonomous Navajo Nation Reservation, which is the largest Native American territory in the United States. The area where most tourists have access is named Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and the region borders the states of Utah and Arizona.
Monument Valley impresses not only for its majestic features but also for its size – it’s bigger than the city of Portland, in Oregon. Also, the location is famous for being featured in a variety of movies, such as Mission Impossible 2 and Forrest Gump.
Where is Monument Valley
Monument Valley is situated in the Navajo Nation Reservation on the border of the states of Utah and Arizona. You’ll find the state line right before the visitor center.
How to get to Monument Valley
The best way to get to Monument Valley is by car. Though there are tours that will take you to the park from some cities in Arizona and Utah, you’ll want to have the flexibility to come and go as you please, or maybe even do a road trip through the Southwest region.
Because of its location, the park can be reached from different states, such as Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Here are the main distances to get to Monument Valley:
- Arizona: 180 miles from the Grand Canyon (South Rim), 125 miles from Page, and 320 miles from Phoenix;
- Utah: 380 miles from Salt Lake City, 150 miles from Moab, and 240 miles from Zion National Park;
- Nevada: 400 miles from Las Vegas;
- New Mexico: 320 miles from Albuquerque;
- Colorado: 500 miles from Denver;
- California: 640 miles from Los Angeles.
Best hotels near Monument Valley
Fortunately, there are some very good options of places to stay nearby. These two are the best hotels near Monument Valley:
- The View Hotel – is an excellent choice with cabins, suites, and RV camping. The View Hotel is the only hotel inside the Monument Valley Tribal Park itself. Apart from this one, you’ll find hotels close, but outside of the park, nonetheless.
- Goulding’s Lodge – is a great option because it offers great views of the Monument Valley Tribal Park and the surroundings. It’s where I stayed when I visited the park.
How long should a trip to Monument Valley last
You can visit Monument Valley in one day, even for a few hours, and be able to see the highlights of the park. However, I recommend sleeping at least one night in one of the hotels in the area, so you can see the park at different times of the day and explore the surroundings.
Things to do in Monument Valley
Drive through the scenic drive (Tribal Park Loop)
In Monument Valley, you can take a 17-mile scenic drive. The loop is on an unpaved road and it starts at the visitor center. Here you’ll be able to pass through the towering cliffs and mesas and stop to see the major features. Make sure to stop at the Mittens, John Ford’s Point, and Three Sisters.
Take a tour to see Monument Valley with a guide
The scenic drive (Tribal Park Loop) is the only thing you can do in Monument Valley without a tour. To visit the rest of the park, you’ll have to schedule a tour with one of the authorized companies. These tours with Native American guides take you further deep into the park, as these areas are only accessible by tourists with them.
If you choose to stay at Goulding’s Lodge, they offer a variety of tours inside the park.
Hike in Monument Valley
The Wildcat Trail is the only self-guided trail in the park. It’s a 4-mile hike (round trip) that starts at the visitor center.
For other hikes, you’ll have to go with a guide.
Checkout Forrest Gump spot
Do you remember the scene in the movie Forrest Gump when he finally decides to stop running? This scene was filmed in Monument Valley and you can stand in the same spot that Gump was.
If you also want to be on this iconic place, the GPS coordinates to the Forrest Gump spot in Monument Valley are 37.101393, -109.990973.
How much it costs to visit Monument Valley
To enter the park and do the scenic drive, you’ll have to pay $20 per vehicle at the visitor center. To visit other parts of the park that need a Navajo guide, you’ll have to pay for the tours, which range between US$ 50 and US$ 200.
Things to do around the park
Goosenecks State Park
Goosenecks State Park is one of the amazing state parks in Utah. Head there if you want to see the San Juan River cutting through the canyon, creating a fascinating attraction.
In case you want to be near the water, you can take some time to visit Lake Powell, the second-largest human-made lake in the United States. Here you can take scenic drives, go fishing, or rent a boat to navigate its waters.
Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods is like a miniature version of Monument Valley but in the BLM area. While driving in it, you’ll probably find yourself alone amongst the mesas and buttes with unique shapes.
Utah’s National Parks
After visiting Monument Valley, you can also continue driving to the National Parks in Utah, such as Canyonlands and Arches National Park.
Best tours to visit Monument Valley
- 2.5-Hour Tour with Backcountry Access
- 3.5 Hour Extended Tour & Backcountry Access
- From Sedona or Flagstaff: Full-Day Tour
Where to eat near Monument Valley
You can find restaurants in both hotels – The View Hotel and Goulding’s Lodge. You may also want to drive a little bit more to get to the Amigo Café.
Other services around Monument Valley
Near the park, you’ll also find a gas station, convenience store, and grocery – all located around Goulding’s Lodge.
Best time to visit Monument Valley
The best time of the year to visit Monument Valley are spring and fall. During the summer, the temperatures can be high with chances of thunderstorms; and the winters can be mild cold with chances of snowfall.
Where to go from here
If you want to combine a trip to the park with other places, or even take a road trip through the Southwest, make sure to add these spots to your itinerary:
- Canyonlands National Park
- Arches National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO VISIT OTHER NATIONAL PARKS:
Bryce Canyon National Park: The Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park: First-Timer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and 3-day itinerary to the park.
Utah Itinerary: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
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