I’m sure by now you’ve seen pictures of Monument Valley. The desert offers breathtaking views that you can’t find anywhere else. I’ve lived in Arizona my entire life and it took me 23 years to finally visit one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. You’re automatically transported back to the age of John Ford’s Stagecoach or the time that Forrest decided that he wanted to stop running. If you’re traveling through Arizona/Utah and you have the time to stop overnight, I highly suggest you do.
Where to stay:
When planning this trip, we decided that we wanted at least one night where we would camp and after doing some research, we decided that Monument Valley was the perfect place. They’ve got a hotel, cabins, and campgrounds all that you can find online here. For only 20 dollars, you can snag a spot at the campground. The campgrounds are pretty close together so you might be able to get to know your neighbors pretty well. Unfortunately, there are no camp fires so you won’t be singing kumbaya as a group while roasting marshmallows. The plus side is that once that sun goes down, you will see more stars than you have ever seen in your entire life and it will in fact change your life. We spent the night drinking wine that we brought and stargazing.
You do have to provide your own tent although I did spot a couple of rental spots on the way if you don’t have a tent on hand or don’t have the room to bring one. They provide showers and bathrooms that are nicer than you’d expect so if you’re planning on staying for more than one night, you won’t have to worry about skipping out on good hygiene.
If camping isn’t your style, there are also cabins and a hotel that offer the exact same view as a tent, with a few more benefits. The hotel includes a flat screen TV, refrigerator, AC, and a balcony. The cabins have queen sized beds and a sleeper sofa and can accommodate up to 6 people. These are the way to go if you plan on having a larger amount of people in your group.
Heads up, regardless of where you stay, you are going to have to pay the 20 dollar fee (per vehicle) to get into the park due to the fact that it is a tribal park. The park itself is open from 8 AM to 5 PM from October to April and 6 AM to 8 PM from May to September. Unfortunately if you have a national park pass, it won’t work here and you will still have to pay. But it’s worth it.
Where to eat:
Because the Valley is in the middle of nowhere, food options are limited. Within the park, the View Hotel has a restaurant. It’s breakfast through dinner menu offers Navajo and American inspired dishes. We ate dinner there and I had a burger and it wasn’t too bad. Exactly what you’d expect of a burger. If you’re looking for something more on the go, they also offer an express restaurant that has sandwiches, coffee, cold drinks, and ice cream.
Whether you’re heading in or heading out, there is also a town called Kayenta located south of the Valley and here you can find fast food such as Burger King, McDonald’s, and Sonic.
What to do:
There are self guided tours that are available however we decided to opt out and do the 17 mile self-guided drive ourselves. First and foremost, the drive is a long very bumpy dirt road. We took my little honda civic who is not meant to go off roading. I think we drove about 5 miles an hour the entire time. If your car has low clearance, I would recommend driving a rental or taking a guided tour. If you feel like saying screw it and going anyways, go for it. Just be careful. There are 11 stops along the way (when you enter the park, they give you a map with said stops listed), all offering different views of different formations. We stopped at Merrick Butte, Artist’s Point, and John Ford Point to name a few. I’d have to say that my favorite spot was John Ford Point. Here you’ll find stands with snacks and Indian jewelry but best of all, there’s also a man on a horse who goes out to the ledge for photographs. If you’re brave enough (I definitely wasn’t), you can pay 5 dollars to get on the horse and have your picture taken on the edge. It makes for one hell of a picture
The drive itself probably took us about 2 or so hours. Not much time at all but still enough to see all that Monument Valley has to offer. If you’re short on time, I recommend getting up fairly early and doing the drive yourself. This gives you the freedom to stop and go as much as you want. If you have a little more time and can find an opening, take the guided tours and tell me how they are. Might have to go back and do it myself.
Chances are you’ve seen Forrest Gump (and if you haven’t, leave my blog right now and go watch it right this second) and you’re familiar with the scene where Forrest decides he’s tired of running and he’s going to head home. This scene was actually shot right outside of Monument Valley on highway 163 at mile marker 13. This point is about a 20 minute north of The View hotel and campgrounds. It’s pretty hard to miss because there tends to be a line of cars parked to get the perfect shot of the empty road and the mountains.
You might have to wait your turn to get the picture but if you’re patient and have the time, stand in the middle of the road and get that camera ready. Even if you aren’t a big movie person, you can’t deny that these views are pretty cool.
Although we didn’t personally hike, I do know that hiking is pretty popular while staying in the park. The Wildcat Trail is about 3.2 miles and according to the official site, can take about 1.5-2 hours. Be sure to bring your own water and snacks because it can get pretty hot depending on the season. If you don’t feel like walking, there are also multiple spots that offer horseback rides.
If you ever find the time to stop by, do so. It’s a truly stunning place that really makes you think about just how crazy nature can be. Have any of you been to Monument Valley? If so, what’d you do? I’d love to hear all about it. Until next time. XO2