Pros: A wonder filled place to enjoy and take photos if on your own.
Cons: would feel rushed if on a tour.
One of the highlights of a ten and a half day road trip in Arizona was our day spent in Monument Valley that skirts into the border of Utah. We were constantly in and out of our car taking photos and absorbing images.
I'll also give warning because we met people who were confused. This is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on the border of Arizona and Utah. National Park seekers will see another place, Navajo National Monument on the map that is some 60 miles away. (close on an Arizona map) That's not the Monument Valley of the Western movies. It's more dedicated to cliff dwellings.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
The area, a long time background to many American westerns with John Wayne in front of the camera for some and John Ford behind the camera directing many too, The landscape is very familiar and foreign at the same time. The ever changing landscape of open land, buttes and mesas offer foreboding, mysterious images in some light and at other instances the glorious and fascinating formations they are.
The valley and much of the land surrounding it is owned and operated by the Navajo Tribe. The road through the valley that stretches some 17 miles is a two way dirt road most of the way. At one point it does form a one way loop. Though there are turnoffs throughout the drive, people do stop most anywhere for taking a quick view of photo.
The surroundings are well marked on a pamphlet offered when arriving. There were a few other road signs dictating what was being viewed.
The tour can be taken by tour companies, Navajo run or you can challenge the vehicle you drive to an adventure, pot holes unknown.
Our Experience In Monument Valley
My wife and I decided to drive through on our own. We were renting a Jeep Compass and though the name Jeep is on it, the only particular good it had for these roads was a higher than a regular auto clearance under the carriage. That's important to have. I did see some guy in a motor home do the ride but, I would not suggest it.
The all dirt road is rough in spots with both hard rock and sand but a careful eye and patience got us through just fine.
The sites are amazing! Carolyn and I stopped the car perhaps fifty times to take images and just enjoy the land. There are formations that are easy to pick out like the camel and the elephant while others we had to use our imagination a bit more...a lotta bit more.
On the road were a couple of places to purchase Indian crafts and arts. At one place where a couple of young Navajo were taking turns using a lasso on a fixed bull head (a skill I picked up after purchasing a lasso on the road and now have my grand children trying) who would also bring out a mustang and set up for a photo. I had to get my wife on the horse, which she did and looked great sporting the western cowboy hat she purchased a couple of days earlier.
This was quite near Ford's Point, a place that director John Ford used as backdrop to many of his films. When there you could understand why. From what I have heard there are days when a horse and rider position themselves on a particular point for your photographic enjoyment. That day there wasn't so I took a walk out to the point and also took some photos of my wife out there. Very cool!
Carolyn and I spent some three hours doing that 17 mile stretch loving every bump and image of it. It was fantastic!!
The place has a fair amount of vehicles doing the trail yet we never felt we were in a "busy zone." It was a relaxing, though jarring at times, venture for us.
Afterward we spent time at the attached Hotel, Restaurant and Trading Post. We ate, we drank, we purchased some this and that and then moved on to the Lake Powel Region. If in the Lake Powel region I would strongly suggest taking the tour here rather than a long boat ride to Rainbow Bridge. What you see and experience at Monument Valley, I thought, was well worth the time and effort and the entrance fee was only $5 each.
I recommend Monument Valley. It's a HUGE WINNER of a site.
Arizona Sites and Reviews by popsrocks
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
Wupatki National Monument
Historic Cameron Trading Post, Cameron Az
Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, Yuba City Az
Aramark Lake Powell Tours: NOT RECOMMENDED Wahweap to Rainbow Bridge
Courtyard by Marriott, Page Az
Antelope Canyon Tours Upper Canyon, Page
Monument Valley Az/Utah