A Night in Monument Valley
When planning our trip to Utah, our focus was the national parks. Trying to fit 5 parks in an already condensed timeframe felt rushed, but my brother was adamant on adding Monument Valley to the mix. As a lifelong John Wayne fan, and a Western movie fanatic, this was his ultimate destination and we all obliged him in adding it to the itinerary. What we didn’t realize was that Monument Valley is a magical place. Known as the “Sacred Heart of the Navajo Nation,” it contains sandstone towers which are some of the most photographed objects in the world. The towers range from 400 to 1,000 feet and when framed by the sun at either sunrise or sunset are pretty majestic. I was naïve in thinking that quintessential shot containing three towers was in fact all of Monument Valley, but the size of the landscape was overwhelming. It took about an hour and half for us to drive through the 17-mile scenic drive (not including any back roads) and it was an incredible experience.
How to Get There: Monument Valley is located on the Utah-Arizona border, but the actual address is in Arizona. We visited in between Moab and Capitol Reef so detoured a little out of our way to get there. The drive is about 2.5 hours south from Moab and then back up to Capitol Reef National Park in Torrey, Utah is about 3 hours. It seemed a little daunting at first for one night, but we all agreed after the fact that it was worth it.
Where to Stay: The View Hotel is the only hotel within the Monument Valley Tribal Park and is Navajo-owned. We could not recommend the Premium Cabins there more highly. We ended up there by accident as we tried for the View Hotel, but they were all sold out for our dates. The cabins are located right on the property, a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The regular cabins are in the second row are just as nice, the only reason cabins are dubbed “premium” is if they are in the first row with an unobstructed view. And let me tell you, they are worth it! They are certainly cozy, with a double bed and a side room with bunk beds built into the wall. There is a small kitchenette which was perfect to make our coffee at sunrise.
Where to Eat: Options are limited in Monument Valley so unless you bring your own food, you will probably be eating at the View Hotel or at Goulding’s Lodge and Campground down the road. We went to the grocery store at Goulding’s to get some appetizers to watch sunset from our balcony and I’m glad we did! The food at the View Hotel is very basic – you are mostly there for the view! Also, important to note, they do not serve alcohol.
What to Do: You do not need much time in Monument Valley. The 17-mile self-guided tour takes about an hour and a half as you will want to stop and get out at different points. You can hire a Navajo tour guide to take you on a narrated tour or on the back roads (only accessible through guided tour), but we thought the self-guided tour was perfect. Different activities such as horseback riding, stargazing and hiking are also available. At night, if you are staying at the View Hotel, they project an old western movie on the side of the hotel if the night is clear. We were lucky enough to catch Stagecoach, filmed in Monument Valley in 1939, steps from where we were sitting. In the morning, get up early to watch the sunrise, it is pretty spectacular. For us luckily, that was no further than the porch of our cabin and if you are staying at the View Hotel, all rooms have balconies which look out over Monument Valley. There are many souvenirs on the Navajo land – either in gift shops or at roadside stands where they sell arts and crafts.
If you are in the southwestern part of the US and are driving distance to Monument Valley, I highly recommend a detour. Unlike many tourist attractions in the US, Monument Valley has been meticulously preserved as the iconic symbol of the American West.
Have you ever been to Monument Valley? Do you have any interest in visiting?