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, Monument Valley is famous for being featured in some 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. There are tours that will take you from some cities in Arizona and Utah to Monument Valley, but 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.
Getting to Monument Valley by car can be done in different ways. 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:
- Getting to Monument Valley from Arizona: 180 miles from the Grand Canyon (South Rim), 125 miles from Page, 320 miles from Phoenix, and 240 miles from Zion National Park;
- Getting to Monument Valley from Utah: 380 miles from Salt Lake City and 150 miles from Moab;
- Getting to Monument Valley from Nevada: 400 miles from Las Vegas;
- Getting to Monument Valley from New Mexico: 320 miles from Albuquerque;
- Getting to Monument Valley from Colorado: 500 miles from Denver;
- Getting to Monument Valley from California: 640 miles from Los Angeles.
Where to stay in Monument Valley
Fortunately, there are some very good options of places to stay in Monument Valley. These two are the best ones in the area:
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.
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 Monument Valley since these areas are only accessible by tourists with them.
If you choose to stay at the 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 Monument Valley Tribal Park. It’s a 4-mile roundtrip 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. The GPS coordinates 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 Monument Valley
Goosenecks State Park
Head to Goosenecks State Park 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.
Where to eat in 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
In Monument Valley, you’ll also find a gas station, convenience store, and grocery, all located around the Goulding’s Lodge.
Best time to visit Monument Valley
The best times 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 Monument Valley
If you want to combine a trip to Monument Valley with other places, or even take a road trip through the Southwest, make sure to add theses spots to your itinerary:
Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
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