If you’re traveling through USA’s Southwest – specifically through Arizona or Utah, you need to include Monument Valley on your itinerary. We took a road trip through Arizona and Utah and loved visiting Monument Valley. The views here are beautiful, and you can’t help but feel like you’re in an old black and white western film when you’re here!
So, if you’re planning a to pass through this part of the US, read on for everything you need to know about visiting Monument Valley!
What is Monument Valley?
Monument Valley or the Navajo Tribal Park is part of the Navajo Nation, the largest land retained by a Native American tribe. Monument Valley specifically is famous for being the filming location of many John Ford country films. It has also featured in many modern films, including Forrest Gump and even Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” starring Johnny Depp.
Monument Valley has featured so heavily in western films that people now think of Monument Valley when they think of American West. The area is recognizable for its massive sandstone “buttes” or monuments.
How to get to Monument Valley
The best way to get to Monument Valley is via car. If you’re visiting from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s about a 2.5 HR drive. The area is not accessible via public transport (it just doesn’t exist!) and there are very few tour options available unless you are on a longer tour of the Southwest.
The entry fee for Monument Valley is $20 per car. You pay your fee upon entry (remember that Monument Valley is not a National Park and hence you cannot use your National Parks Pass).
Make sure you look up opening hours beforehand, especially if you are short on time. If you want to sightsee, you will need to visit during 6 am to 8:30 pm (during peak season, May 1-Sept 30) or 8 am to 4:30 pm (during off-peak season Oct 1 – Apr 30).
Taking the Self Guided Driving tour of Monument Valley
There are two main ways you can get around or see Monument Valley. One of them is via a self-guided driving tour or a guided tour.
Upon entry to the Navajo Tribal Park, you’ll get a self-driving map with information on points of interest. The self-driving roads aren’t paved here (apart from in front of the visitors center) and can be incredibly steep.
If you have a small car or aren’t comfortable driving in such conditions, you may not want to do a self-driving tour. The roads are more suited to 4WD (though we did see a couple of sedans and small cars!)
Make sure you give your self enough time to take in all the sights if you’re driving yourself around. The recommended time is 3 to 4 hours. Also make sure you check out the hours that the self-driving road is open until (they close at 4:30 pm during off-peak season and 8:30 pm during peak season!)
If you’re planning a road trip through Arizona and Utah, make sure you download my free 7-day itinerary (which includes tips for places to visit!)
Taking a Guided Driving tour of Monument Valley
Another option is the backcountry tour. The tours aren’t as popular as self-driving, but, I highly recommend it! There are many parts of Monument Valley which are not accessible to private vehicles. You’re only allowed to access these areas with a guide, who will take you out on a 4WD.
We took a Backcountry group tour with Majestic Monument Valley Touring Co. and found the tour worth the cost. We ended up being the only people on our tour (the other couple canceled) and so our tour guide took our preferences into account when deciding where to take us. We love photography (as did our tour guide!) so we got to make regular photography stops. The tour went for 3 hrs (make sure you visit the toilet beforehand!)
As Australians who knew very little about the history of the Navajo Tribe or the experiences of Native Americans, we found the tour educational. I’m not sure whether our tour guide had taken around many visitors who weren’t from the US before, however, he was patient in answering our many questions. He even had questions for us about Australia’s history.
If you know very little about the Navajo tribe and you want to see the back roads of Monument Valley, I would highly recommend a backcountry tour.
The 4WD for our backcountry tour of Monument Valley
Where to stay when visiting Monument Valley
If you’re looking to stay the night in Monument Valley, you have a couple of options. The most popular (but also most expensive) is The View Hotel, which gives beautiful views of Monument Valley. We wanted to spend the night here when visiting, but booked our accommodation too late. It was booked out! Another option is Goulding’s Lodge.
If you’re on a budget there are also camping options for both The View Hotel and Goulding’s Lodge.
There are also a couple of towns nearby that you can stay in. If you’re heading onwards to Page (where Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend are located), we’d recommend staying in Kayenta. It’s a small town, but there are a couple of budget-friendly options available. Kayenta is also a great place to spend the night if you don’t want to drive all the way to Page on the same day.
Some wild horses we saw on our guided tour
Where to eat in Monument Valley
There aren’t many food options in Monument Valley. If you’ve got time, however, we’d recommend eating at The View Hotel. The restaurant has Navajo inspired food (and the portions are quite generous!) We really enjoyed the food and highly recommend it if you’ve got time. Make sure you get a window seat – the restaurant has beautiful views of monument valley!
If you’re planning a road trip through USA’s southwest or through Arizona and Utah, I would highly recommend a visit to Monument Valley. Regardless of whether you’re a movie buff or not, Monument Valley is a beautiful place that everyone can appreciate.
And if you’re planning a road trip through Arizona and Utah, make sure you download my free 7-day itinerary (including tips of what to see/do!) Just click the image below to download your free copy:
Are you planning a trip to the southwest?
Are you visiting Monument Valley?
Leave me a comment and let me know!