Monument Valley - Top Things to do

by Maura Elko November. 18, 2017 1255 views

Sunrise lighting up the buttes

Sunrise lighting up the buttes

Looking for what to do if you’ve got a day or afternoon to spend in Monument Valley? I was there in October of 2016-a great time to visit as it wasn’t too hot or cold. Here are some of the best things I found to do there:

Monument Valley Tribal Park

Monument Valley is on the Navajo reservation located on the border of Arizona and Utah, and as such, the main park area is run by the Navajo. It is not a National Park, so you can’t use a park pass to get in. The cost as of 2017 is $20 for a car of up to 4 people.

Monument Valley Tribal Park Museum, Gift Shop, The View Restaurant & Hotel

Monument Valley Tribal Park Museum, Gift Shop, The View Restaurant & Hotel

Check out the Museum, View area, Restaurant, and Gift Shop

There’s exhibits with lots to read about the Navajo code talkers from WWII, displays of traditional clothing and jewelry, and history on the area. Now, I’ll be honest, after seeing a lot of National Park visitor’s centers and museum, this is a lot less spectacular. They simply don’t have the budget big parks do, but paying the entry fee supports the natives that live in the area, and if you’re only going there once in your life I think it’s totally worth it. The gift shop is a bit of a museum onto itself with tons of beautiful silver Navajo jewelry and other crafts to look at. They really are amazing artisans.

Be sure not to miss the view out in the back on the patio. We packed our own lunch for the day and sat there eating and just enjoying it.

Be sure not to miss the view out in the back on the patio. We packed our own lunch for the day and sat there eating and just enjoying it.

That’s the View Hotel on the right. An interesting fact is all the rooms face the east, which is traditional Navajo custom.

That’s the View Hotel on the right. An interesting fact is all the rooms face the east, which is traditional Navajo custom.

Go for a tour on the 17 mile Scenic Drive

You can drive your own car, but it is an unpaved road, and parts are rougher so you may want a 4 wheel drive vehicle if you go. We were told you can turn back around if the road got to rough for you though. We had a rental car so we opted not to go, that and we didn’t have a whole lot of time there overall.  If you don’t want to drive your own car, they do offer tours that will take you through the drive as well for an extra price.

A panorama of the view from the patio viewing area. This is also the view you see if you stay at their hotel. Talk about an amazing sunrise!

A panorama of the view from the patio viewing area. This is also the view you see if you stay at their hotel. Talk about an amazing sunrise!

Hike the Wildcat trail

It’s a 3.2 mile trail that goes around the Western Mitten Butte and is said to take up to 2 hours. Unfortunately there’s not much else in the way of hiking trails here unless you go with a guide.

That’s the West Mitten Butte on the right that you would walk around on the Wild Cat Trail.

That’s the West Mitten Butte on the right that you would walk around on the Wild Cat Trail.

Go horseback riding!

We were only in Monument Valley for the afternoon and part of the morning, so we simply didn’t have the time, but if I ever went back I’d love to go for a horseback ride through the valley! What a beautiful place to do it and experience the west!

Take a guided tour to a more out of the way place

There’s not a whole lot you can do on your own in the valley as they don’t want tourists running around and messing things up. A lot of sites have religious significance to the Navajo. So if you want to take a longer hike or get off the tourist path, you’ll have to go with a Navajo guided tour or get a special permit.
Places to look into if you’re interested are Lower Monument Valley, Mystery Valley-where you can see some petroglyphs and ancient dwellings, and Hunt’s Mesa for incredible views.
For information about tours to these places, the Navajo Parks website lists a bunch of tour companies: http://navajonationparks.org/htm/monumentvalleytours.htm

The View on the way to Goulding’s

The View on the way to Goulding’s

Drive up to Goulding’s Lodge

If you are a fan of John Wayne and old western movies, this is totally the place to go. It’s not far at all, just follow the road going out of the tribal park and go straight at the intersection. You can’t miss the signs. There’s a museum that’s completely free to go into and browse that has old papers with John Wayne and other famous actor’s signatures on it and all kinds of memorabilia. Also there is a gift shop, restaurant, and hotel and campground. It’s worth it to check out for the view of Monument Valley alone!

This was apparently John Wayne’s Cabin from one of the movie sets they filmed here. It was also really neat being up close to those big red cliffs and buttes!

This was apparently John Wayne’s Cabin from one of the movie sets they filmed here. It was also really neat being up close to those big red cliffs and buttes!

Signatures of John Wayne and other famous actors, along with some beautiful old drawings! There were pages of these that you can flip through. This was located in the museum at Goulding’s.

Signatures of John Wayne and other famous actors, along with some beautiful old drawings! There were pages of these that you can flip through. This was located in the museum at Goulding’s.

Beautiful view of the valley with an old time stagecoach.

Beautiful view of the valley with an old time stagecoach.

Another view down the road looking towards where we came from at the tribal park.

Another view down the road looking towards where we came from at the tribal park.

It was worth it coming up here for the views alone! As the sun started to set the monuments started to light up with a golden glow.

It was worth it coming up here for the views alone! As the sun started to set the monuments started to light up with a golden glow.

Go Camping!

And lastly, if you’re going to stay the night, I highly recommend to go camping! It was a highlight of our trip to camp under the stars and sit at a campfire right in Monument Valley. There are several campgrounds in the area, you can bring your own tent, or stay at a place that has one already set up for you. We chose the latter and stayed in a big canvas tent that had cozy beds in it. It was October when we went, and it did get windy and cold at night, but in the tent we had no problem staying warm enough.

*I wrote a whole other blog post on my camping experience along with places to stay here!

The sunset was just spectacular!

The sunset was just spectacular!

We lighted a campfire, and sat and watched as the stars came out over the monuments.

We lighted a campfire, and sat and watched as the stars came out over the monuments.

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There are 7 comments , add yours!
Basiek Basiek 2 years, 11 months ago

Great pictures! amazing place!:-)+1

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
Maura Elko Replied to Basiek Basiek 2 years, 11 months ago

Thank you, it was incredible!

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess 2 years, 11 months ago

Great report! Thanks!

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
Maura Elko Replied to Jay Boggess 2 years, 11 months ago

Glad you liked it, thanks!

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Maura Elko 2 years, 11 months ago

My pleasure!

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
Antonio Gil 2 years, 11 months ago

I felt like being inside a John Ford's movie

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
Maura Elko Replied to Antonio Gil 2 years, 11 months ago

lol yeah if you've seen those movies it probably does feel like that. Pretty cool to see them in person!

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
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