Visiting Monument Valley: A First Timers Guide
If you are on your way to visit Monument Valley, then you’re in for a treat! The desert scene of Monument Valley is the epitome of the American Wild West landscape. Most people also get intrigued by the coveted rock formation that has been featured in too many TV shows or movies to count. It’s definitely a great sight to visit.
Everything from the best things to do in Monument Valley to Monument Valley tours, we have a complete guide for any first timer looking to plan a visit to the beautiful and ever-impressive Navajo Nation’s iconic landmark.
Visiting Monument Valley
- Navajo Name | Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks
- Largest Butte | 1,000 ft (300 m)
- Elevation | 5,564 feet above sea level
- Land Size | 91,700 acres (37,110 hectares)
- How Was Monument Valley Formed | Millions of years of erosion
- Who Settled Monument Valley | First, the Anasazi. Then, the Navajo
Where is Monument Valley?
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park spans two states in the southwest of the United States. Located on the borders of Utah and Arizona, the entrance to Monument Valley is located directly off of U.S. Highway 163 in Arizona.
Highly visited sections of Monument Valley, like the Visitors Center and popular viewpoints, are located within the state of Arizona. For reference, the nearest towns to Monument Valley are Mexican Hat in Utah and Kayenta in Arizona.
Get our Ultimate Arizona Road Trip 2 Week Itinerary right here!
Getting To Monument Valley
If you are visiting Monument Valley, understand that Monument Valley isn’t close to anything. Meaning, wherever you are coming from, a rental car is needed to complete your trip to Monument Valley.
In addition, there is no public transportation, outside of taking a tour bus from Sedona, Flagstaff or Las Vegas, renting a vehicle is a must in order to get to Monument Valley.
—-> Check out the latest Van and RV rental pricing and availability at Outdoorsy!
Taking flights to the nearest international airports before renting a car is another easy way to get there. You’ll see more about flying to Monument Valley below:
What Are Some of the Nearest Airports to Monument Valley?
If you were hoping to fly your pretty little self right into Monument Valley, we’re sad to report, there are no commercial airports nearby.
Monument Valley’s closet airport is Pulliman Airport in Flagstaff, Arizona, located 3 hours away. If flying into Flagstaff doesn’t sound all that appealing, no worries! Below is a list of other nearby airports…
- Phoenix: 325 miles | 5 hours 8 minutes
- Albuquerque: 328 miles | 5 hours 21 minutes
- Salt Lake City: 390 miles | 6 hours 42 minutes
- Las Vegas: 430 miles | 6 hours 50 minutes
Once you land, make your way to your RV rental or car. Within a few hours, you’ll be staring at those iconic buttes of Monument Valley!
Monument Valley Nearby Attractions & Parks
When visiting Monument Valley, understand that it is conveniently located a few hours drive from popular attractions and National Parks.
Whether you are going to or coming from, below is a list of popular destinations that are near Monument Valley.
- Four Corners Monument to Monument Valley: 107 miles | 2 hours
- Antelope Canyon to Monument Valley: 122 miles | 2 hours
- Horseshoe Bend to Monument Valley: 130 miles | 2 hours 15 minutes
- Lake Powell to Monument Valley: 130 miles | 2 hours 20 minutes
- Arches National Park: 156 miles | 2 hours
- Grand Canyon to Monument Valley: 158 miles | 2 hours 45 minutes
- Zion National Park to Monument Valley: 232 miles | 4 hours
- Bryce Canyon to Monument Valley: 278 miles | 4 hours 45 minutes
If you’re heading to the Grand Canyon National Park or Antelope Canyon, be sure to read our travel guides for each destination!
Best Time To Visit Monument Valley
Even though Monument Valley is open all year long, the best time to visit Monument Valley is in the spring and fall. These two seasons serve as the peak season for visiting the valley, as the weather and the environment allow for a vast range of activities.
During winter, for example, certain fun experiences like mountain climbing and going for a valley drive is limited.
Also, due to a high number of people who may want to have a glimpse of the scenic views, doing an early booking during the peak times is highly recommended.
Here’s what you can expect during each season:
- Spring & fall: The spring and fall months tend to be cooler during the day and attract less crowds than the summer months do.
- Summer: During the summer, daytime temperatures get into the 90’s and with it being summer vacation, the summer months bring in lots or tourists and their families. Places like the Valley of the Gods that are in the desert parts can become unbearably hot during the summer. Most people will not want to be in these areas at that time. Nevertheless, they come with great amenities like bed and breakfast spots, and tourists can also erect their tents in allocated spaces.
- Winter: In the winter months, Monument Valley gets cold and receives the occasional light snowfall. That being said, the winter months see the least amount of crowds.
Monument Valley Hours
Monument Valley is open daily, but the hours fluctuate depending on the season. In peak seasons, the gates are opened a bit earlier than other times. When visiting Monument Valley, plan your visit around the hours of operation listed below.
Visitors Center Hours
- May – September: 6:00am – 8:00pm
- October – April: 8:00am – 5:00pm
- Closed: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
Scenic Drive Hours
- May – September: 6:00 am – 8:30 pm
- October – April: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
- Closed: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
TIP: If you are wanting to see the stars, no worries, you can stay in the park after closing hours. You just have to be in the park before it closes up for the day.
Monument Valley Entrance Fee
First things first, you should understand that visiting Monument Valley is not free. An entrance fee to Monument Valley must be paid in order to hike, drive the scenic loop, and visit the Visitor Center.
Separately, Monument Valley is a part of Navajo Nation, which means it is not a National Park. Therefore, your National Park and Golden Eagle passes are not accepted there.
- General Admission: $20/per vehicle (up to 4 people)
- Children Admission: Children 9 and under are free
- Commercial Fees: 1 – 6 passengers, $35 | 7-15 passengers, $100
- Individual / Bike Admission: $10
If you decide to book any tours, understand these tours are not included in your entrance fee. The most common tour is the Scenic Loop Drive, and we will talk about that under the things to do in the Monument Valley section.
What To Bring to Monument Valley
Regardless if you are hiking the trail or driving the scenic loop, below is a handful of great items and gear to have with you when visiting Monument Valley.
- Day Pack: REI Co-op Ruckpack is a perfect day bag for Monument Valley. It’s a perfect size for your camera, water and snacks.
- Water Bottle: You can go two ways with a water bottle – CamelBak Reservoir or a Hydro Flask. Both options will keep you hydrated in the hot, dry environment of Monument Vally.
- Sunscreen: Speaking of hot and dry, you’re going to want to protect that skin of yours. Best pack some sunscreen!
- Windbreaker: A windbreaker light jacket is a perfect for the windy and ever changing temps of the Southwest.
- Sunglasses: Having a good pair of polarized sunglasses is a must! Keep those eyes safe from the glare of the strong desert sun.
- Snacks: Last but not least, make sure you have some snacks handy for your adventures around Monument Valley.
How Long Do You Need in Monument Valley
Some may wonder, “Will I get to see all of the great sights and enjoy all of the activities in a single day?” The answer is yes, absolutely!
Spending five to six hours in Monument Valley will allow you to see the highlights. However, spending at least one night is our recommendation. By staying one night, you will be able to see a sunrise and sunset — and we must say, both are spectacular.
Things To Do In Monument Valley
Are you wondering what there is to do in Monument Valley? One of our misconceptions of Monument Valley was that there are endless hiking trails and activities.
To our surprise, there actually aren’t a ton of activities to do in the park, which is actually kind of nice! We got to focus on and enjoy what we were doing instead of trying to rush to the next thing.
Below is a list of the best things to do in Monument Valley.
Monument Valley Scenic Drive Loop
One of the major activities is the valley drive, otherwise known as the scenic loop drive. This is a drive along the dirt road that most people find fascinating. There are a number of local tour guides from the Navajo people who can help with this trip along the private roads in the valley.
The guides are knowledgeable of the routes, and you can also opt for a self drive under their close watch. However, most people prefer sitting in the passenger seats, letting loose, and just enjoying the dusty scenes.
The best way to see the famous Monument Valley buttes is by way of the scenic loop drive. You don’t know what this is? Let us tell you. ????
The Monument Valley Scenic Drive is a seventeen-mile loop that weaves throughout the park, taking you to the best sites in Monument Valley. In total, you’ll see eleven buttes and viewpoints, some of which you’ll get up close to, whereas you’ll admire others from afar.
Below is a list of sites you can expect to see. Don’t worry about trying to remember which butte is which. When visiting Monument Valley, you’ll be given a Monument Valley map upon entering the park. The eleven buttes you will see are listed as follows:
- The Mittens & Merrick Butte
- Elephant Butte
- Three Sisters
- John Ford’s Point
- Camel Butte
- The Hub
- Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
- Sand Spring
- Artist’s Point
- North Window
- The Thumb
Self-Driving Monument Valley’s Scenic Loop
The scenic loop road itself is far from a smooth ride. Dirt, holes, rocks, and dust are the components that make up the seventeen-mile loop. It’s a bumpy ride to say the least.
You should maintain a lower speed limit, basically no more than 15 MPH, because of the bumpy roads. Plus, having a lower speed limit gives tourists ample time to take pictures and take in the sights.
Visitors can drive the scenic loop themselves, meaning that you can visit Monument Valley without a Navajo Guide.
However, RV’s, motorcycles, low-riding vehicles, and hiking/walking are not allowed on the loop. If you are in one of these vehicles or on foot, you will need to book a Monument Valley Jeep Tour to experience the sites on the loop.
For those driving themselves, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is not necessary. However, a potential exception to this is if the road is muddy from a rain shower.
Below are a few general tidbits that will be helpful to know as you are planning your loop drive.
- You can expect to spend two to three hours exploring the eleven buttes and viewpoints.
- The scenic drive doesn’t require any permits or additional fees.
- Your entrance fee to Monument Valley is all you need to pay in order to experience the scenic loop drive.
- There are no restrooms on the loop.
- Members of the Navajo Nation do sell soda and water along with a handful of tribal souvenirs.
Hike The Wildcat Trail
Monument Valley isn’t full of hiking trails. Weird, right? The only hiking trail within Monument Valley is the Wildcat Trail.
The Wildcat Trail is a four mile, self-guided loop that takes you to the Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. The trail is unpaved and full of loose rock and sand, so proper footwear is a must.
The Wildcat Trail starts from the visitor center parking lot.
- Location: The Wildcat Trail starts from the visitor center parking lot
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Cost: An entrance fee to Monument Valley is all you need to pay to access the Wildcat Trail
Explore Monument Valley’s Visitors Center
Are you wanting to find one of the most iconic views of Monument Valley? Then head to the Monument Valley Visitor Center. Right outside the Visitor center, you’ll see a view like this.
Additionally, the Visitor Center has a gift shop as well as a small museum explaining the history of the Navajo Nation and Monument Valley.
Are you hungry? You can grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant, The View. Needing to relieve yourself? The Visitors Center is also the place to find clean, public restrooms.
Stop at Forrest Gump Point
You know that scene where Forrest Gump stops running? Well, it’s right outside of Monument Valley!
Forrest Gump Point is the popular landmark where Tom Hanks (who played Forrest Gump) proclaims to his loyal running apostles, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”
- Getting There: From Monument Valley, turn right onto U.S. Highway 163 and drive about 6 miles (20 minutes)
- Best Time To Go: Sunrise
Even if you are not a fan of the movie, the view and drive alone are worth the visit!
Witness a Monument Valley Sunrise & Sunset
If you’ve never seen a Southwest sunrise or sunset, oh maaaaaan, do NOT miss either at Monument Valley. The colors, oh dang the colors! The purples, pinks and blues are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Your eyes will cry with happiness, trust us.
Monument Valley Sunrise Photo Spots
- Forest Gump Point
- Visitors Center
- The View Hotel
- Lower Monument Valley Sunrise Tour
Monument Valley Sunset Photo Spots
- Artist Point
- Visitors Center
- The View Hotel
- Lower Monument Valley Sunset Tour
Monument Valley Itinerary
Like we said above, you can absolutely finish a Monument Valley visit in one day, but if you can, plan to stay one night. The below itinerary is a two day / one night itinerary for Monument Valley.
Speaking of staying the night, there are some top notch lodges around the area. Take the Goulding’s Lodge, for example. Who doesn’t want to enjoy Navajo delicacies and wake up surrounded by spectacular views? You may not see all of the awesome Valley in its entirety, but trust us, what you will wake up to will be very worth the stay.
Alternatively, you can spend the night at The View just within the Monument Valley. This particular one offers more views than Goulding’s.
Mid-Morning: Arrive to Monument Valley
- Head to the Visitor Center to explore
- Get some photos of the icons views that lay right outside of the Visitors Center
- Peruse the Visitor Center gift shop
- Get a bit of Navajo / Monument Valley history at the museum
Afternoon: Drive The Scenic Loop
- Spend the next few hours with a Navajo Tour or self-driving the 17 mile scenic loop
Evening: Watch Sunset
- Catch an unforgettable sunset before heading to grab dinner
- For us, we watched the sunset from The View hotel – it was perfect
Early Morning: Watch Sunrise
- Wake up early and watch the sunrise
- We watched the sunrise from Forrest Gump Point
- Another great option is to book a sunrise tour with a Navajo Guide
Mid-Morning: Breakfast & Goodbye
- Grab some breakfast at The View restaurant, in Monument Valley, or at Blue Coffee Pot in Kayenta
- After breakfast, say goodbye to the beautiful Monument Valley
Monument Valley Tours
Outside of self-driving the Monument Valley Scenic Drive Loop or hiking the Wildcat Trail, booking a tour with a Navajo Guide is a must if you are interested in exploring other areas of Monument Valley.
Below are a few popular choices that allow you to have a few unique experiences during your trip.
Mystery Valley Tour
If you are looking for a more secluded experience away from tourists, consider booking a Mystery Valley Tour. To Anasazi and petroglyphs sites to beautiful views, Mystery Valley is a great way to experience areas around Monument Valley.
Monument Valley Horseback Tour
If you are looking for a unique way to experience Monument Valley, consider booking a Horseback Riding Tour to see the buttes by horseback.
Hunts Mesa Tour
Hunts Mesa is considered a southwest gem with some incredible picturesque scenes! Capture dramatic views on the Hunts Mesa Tour with experienced Navajo Guides.
Consider extending your stay on Hunts Mesa with an overnight campout on Hunts Mesa.
A Monument Valley Cultural Tour is a a perfect way to learn more about Navajo culture and history. For a few hours, be taken through centuries of Navajo tradition and learn about the lands the Navajo call home.
Tips For Visiting Monument Valley
- National Parks and Golden Eagle Passes are not accepted
- Alcohol is not served or allowed in Monument Valley
- Use of drugs is not allowed on Navajo Tribal Lands
- Drones are prohibited
- Rock climbing is not allowed
- Dogs must remain on a leash at all times
- If staying in Monument Valley, campfires are not allowed
- Visitors must remain on marked paths – off trail hiking is only allowed if accompanied by a Navajo Guide
The Best Monument Valley Photography Spots
First, understand there truly isn’t a bad picture of Monument Valley. Well, except for those with lots of people in them 🙂
One of the things we wanted to make sure we got when were visiting Monument Valley were pictures with those iconic views. Below is a list of the top three photo spots in Monument Valley.
John Ford Point
Located on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive loop, John Ford Point is the perfect photo op if you are looking for the classic Western Movie photo.
The Mittens & Merrick Butte
The Mittens and Merrick Butte are quite possibly the most iconic set of rocks in Monument Valley. Located just outside the Visitors Center and The View Hotel, this setting is a perfect backdrop for an epic photoshoot.
Forrest Gump Point
Honestly, just look at it. This view is mesmerizing! You can find Forrest Gump Point 5 miles outside of Monument Valley.
Monument Valley Time Zone
Monument Valley straddles the borders of Utah and Arizona. So, if you’re wondering what time zone is Monument Valley in, well it’s a good thing to wonder.
In all honesty, when we visited, our phones kept switching between Utah and Arizona time zones depending where we were standing in the park.
However, that being said, the time zone of Monument Valley that is honored is that of Utahs, which is Mountain Standard Time.
TIP: If you are traveling back into Arizona after leaving Monument Valley, make sure you are aware of the time difference, especially if you have to be somewhere by a certain time.
Monument Valley Restaurants
If you are looking for a thriving culinary scene, well, Monument Valley is not it. Wah, wah, wah. You do however have a few options when it comes to dining in and around Monument Valley.
Get the complete Monument Valley restaurant list below.
Restaurants in Monument Valley
We are going to shoot it straight, the below places are a tad overpriced and a bit mediocre. However, if you are looking for something with a view and conveniently located in Monument Valley, then these options should be fine for you.
- Stagecoach Restaurant – Located in the hillside of Goulding’s Lodge, Stagecoach serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner to the Monument Valley goers. From omelets to burgers and sandwiches to steaks, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from at Stagecoach.
- The View Restaurant – Located within Monument Valley’s Visitor Center, you’ll find The View Restaurant. You can expect to find items like Green Chile Stew, Navajo Tacos, steaks and salads.
Restaurants Near Monument Valley
The closest restaurants outside of Monument Valley can be found in the nearby town of Kayenta. Below are some local eateries where you can find options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Amigo Café (Mexican & American fare)
- Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant (Breakfast diner)
- Wagon Wheel (Native American and American fare)
- Reuben Heflin Restaurant (Native American and American fare)
- Fast food restaurants (Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, etc.)
Since we rented and stayed in an RV, we cooked our own meals. However, we did eat at the Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant. It was a perfect stop for breakfast and coffee before we hit the road to our next destination!
Gas Stations in Monument Valley
If you are running low on gas, know that there is only one gas station in Monument Valley. You can find that one gas station at the Goulding’s Lodge hotel.
TIP: Do your best to fill up before you arrive to Monument Valley or after you leave as refueling in Monument Valley is expensive.
Can You See Monument Valley From The Highway?
The short answer is yes. Once on U.S. Highway 163, you drive right through Monument Valley when you’re between Kayenta and Mexican Hat.
If you have no desire to stop and pay the Monument Valley entrance fee, you can see parts of Monument Valley from the highway. However, to be completely honest, the views are not as good from the highway.
That being said, if you can’t spare a few hours, seeing Monument Valley from the highway is definitely the next best thing! It’s better to see Monument Valley from the highway than to not see it at all 🙂
Movies Filmed In Monument Valley
Monument Valley was made famous on the big screen with its appearance in John Ford’s “Stagecoach” staring John Wayne in 1939.
Since then, the list of movies that have features Monuments Valley epic southwest setting have climbed. Below are a few popular movies filmed in Monument Valley.
- My Darling Clementine (1946)
- The Searchers (1956)
- How the West Was Won (1962)
- Easy Rider (1968)
- The Eiger Sanction (1975)
- National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- Back to the Future Part III (1990)
- Thelma & Louise (1991)
- Forrest Gump (1994) – Our below picture was taken from the place Forrest Gump was filmed
- Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
- The Lone Ranger (2013)
- Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Where To Stay In Monument Valley
Monument Valley Hotels
If you are looking to stay directly in and/or a few feet from Monument Valley, there are a few accommodations to choose from. And in all honesty, if you are willing to pay a little more, it’s well worth the stay!
- Goulding’s Lodge – From private Cabins to hotel rooms, the views that can be seen from Goulding’s Lodge is why tourists flock to stay here. The location is superb and the rooms are clean – perfect for a few nights stay. This lodging is not technically in the park but offers shuttles and tours from their location.
- The View Hotel & Cabins – Does having the Mittens & Merrick Butte in your backyard sound amazing? Well, then you should reserve a room or private cabin at The View! Since this lodging is in Monument Valley Park, there is no better place to stay for amazing views.
Monument Valley Campground & RV Park
We are happy to report that you can camp in Monument Valley! There is camping directly within and close by Monument. Camping is by far the cheapest accommodation that lies within and near Monument Valley park.
- The View RV Site offers dry RV sites that have hookups with a view you can’t beat! Each RV site comes with a picnic table and is feet away from the shower house.
- Goulding’s RV Site, like The View, come with full RV hookups, Goulding’s hookups have water, 50-amp power, and cable-TV.
- The View Campground, offers campsites in Monument Valley for travelers to enjoy. The campgrounds are nestled within a hillside with direct views to the Monument Valley Buttes.
- Goulding’s Campground comes with a fire pit and picnic table that are nestled under the beautiful red mountains of Monument Valley.
Hotels Near Monument Valley
If staying in Monument Valley is not tickling your fancy, no worries, there are plenty of accommodations outside Monument Valley for you to call home.
- Bluff Dwellings Resort – If you are looking for a desert oasis to relax in, then Bluff Dwellings Resort is it. From an outdoor fireplace, pool & hot tub this desert accommodation is sure to please.
- Canyon Wren Bed & Breakfast – Charlie and Susan aim to please and make sure their guests are well taken care of. With a terrace garden and epic views of the desert landscape, Canyon Wren Bed & Breakfast is a great place to stay while visiting Monument Valley.
- Willow Street Cottages – Featuring an on-site vineyard, Willow Street Cottages is a quant and cozy accommodation. Close to Monument Valley and Mesa Verde Parks, your stay will no doubt be an enjoyable one.
For more accommodation choices and places to stay in and near Monument Valley, you can check the latest place and prices here to secure an unforgettable accommodation.
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