With its brick-red spindles, slender pinnacles and huge buttes – Monument Valley has long been a symbol of Southwestern USA.
The star of countless movies, classic Hollywood westerns, and ads rises majestically from the surrounding desert floor and is easily one of the top things to see in Utah.
Its beauty is heightened by the surrounding landscapes, the deep canyons and the naturally sculpted scenery around it, making driving into the valley an incredible multi-sensory experience.
The home of the Navajo Nation is an activities galore with plenty of things to do! That’s why I’ve created this article to walk you through planning a trip to Monument Valley.
How was the Monument Valley formed?
Quick history lesson here!
The Monument Valley is the result of millions of years of erosion and the forces of wind and water that have sculpted the landscapes into what you see today.
It has been home to the Navajo Tribe for years and is one of the most photographed places in the world.
How much does it cost to go to Monument Valley?
Expect to pay anything between $60-$135 per person depending on what type of tour you’ll choose.
You can take a Guided Tour of Monument Valley AZ and the price depends on the duration of your stay.
I highly recommend a guided tour in general – that added layer of history & culture will generally take your experience to the next level.
You also don’t need to pay any permits to drive around.
You will, however, need to pay the entrance fee of $20 per vehicle.
Can I drive through Monument Valley?
In fact, a scenic drive should be on top of your list of things during your trip.
There is a specific Valley Drive (that spans over 17 miles) running from the visitor center right into the heart of the valley. Expect stunning views all around you – from sandstone monuments to rocks with the backdrop of an infinite sky.
There are generally 11 buttes along the way that you’ll see on your drive.
Pro-tip: The roads are bumpy, but despite that, any passenger car will do. You don’t need to rent any special cars.
How long does the drive take?
Approximately two hours if you’re driving at a leisurely pace to enjoy the staggering nearby scenery.
Opening hours & days are…
May – September: 6 a.m – 8 p.m.
October – April: 8 am to 5 pm
What is Monument Valley known for?
The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. It offers some of the most magnificent views thanks to the sheer grandeur of its landscapes.
The Monument Valley scenic drives are the most popular way of discovering the top attractions including the Mitten Buttes, Three Sisters and the Totem Pole.
Top Things to do in Monument Valley
1. Hike the Wildcat Trail
Monument Valley hikes are some of the best in the US.
One specific hike, named the Wildcat Trail, will take you through some of the most scenic areas in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
This is actually the only self-guided trail that you can take in the valley.
2. Visit the Goulding Film & Cultural History Museum
This should be your first stop once you arrive at Monument Valley.
It will give you the perfect introduction to all the attractions that you’ll be seeing there.
3. Watch the Sunrise over Monument Valley
Nothing beats the stillness of the surrounding desert as the sun rises above the curves of the canyon landscape.
We highly recommend watching a sunrise once you’re there.
For the most dramatic sunrise, you will probably ever experience, head over to Totem Pole.
If you’d rather catch a sunset, then I recommend heading to Mitten View.
4. Check out the Mittens
The East & West Mitten Buttes are the two most popular buttes in Monument Valley.
They are symbols of spiritual beings that look over the valley and make for an incredible spiritual experience on your trip.
5. See the Totem Pole
The Totem Pole was a marker created by the tribes who lived there and has been carved from rock.
6. Stop at John Ford’s Point
This is the most popular stop at Monument Valley. This is where the Navajo people sell all types of crafts – from jewelry to pottery.
The Ford is named after John Ford, known for his Western movies and well – making John Wayne famous!
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to take the quintessential picture on a horse with the background of Monument Valley for $5.
Fun fact: Both Forrest Grump and Easy Rider were shot nearby!
7. See the Three Sisters & Elephant’s Feet
Both attractions make for a great photo stop.
The fact that nature has created such stunning sculptures is mind-blowing.
8. Go horseback riding through the valley
You could arrange a horseback riding tour through the valley from the Visitor’s center.
You can either take a guide or ride the valley yourself!
How long do you need in Monument Valley?
We highly recommend staying for more than one night. If you don’t really care about watching both the sunrise and the sunset, then one day (or even half a day) would be fine.
However, we recommend staying two nights to get the full experience.
When to go to Monument Valley?
April – May (Spring) – despite the fact that Monument Valley experiences milder weather during that time, it also can get very windy and dusty making the experience generally uncomfortable.
June-August (Summer) – The summer can get really dry and hot but it’s the most popular time to visit is when the valley gets the largest number of crowds.
September – October (Fall) – We highly recommend visiting during fall to avoid the summer crowds and take advantage of the stable weather.
November – March (Winter) – Temperature drops dramatically during the winter months and it may be uncomfortable to hike in the cold.
Tips for visiting Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park:
- Make sure you’re hydrated at all times during the summer months.
- Always have sunscreen on you if you’re planning on hiking. Hats are also highly recommended.
- Go to a bathroom before you leave the visitor center as there are no bathrooms along the drive.
- Always make sure you’re on the main road and don’t hike anywhere outside of the Wildcat Trail.
- Bring some snacks with you!
- Make sure you check the website before visiting to ensure you’re not visiting during a time where access to the park is prohibited.
You’ll fall in love once you see Monument Valley rising into sight from the desert floor while you’re driving there. If you’re driving Route 66, Monument Valley is an absolute must detour.
And who can blame you?
For the last few centuries, it has been one of the most incredible landscapes around the world!