Monument Valley is a column of blue-clad mounted Calvary, led by John Wayne, charging across the seemingly endless desert, their horses’ thundering hooves kicking up choking clouds of dust, a strident bugle spurring them on.
This is a land of striking beauty, a land of towering buttes and spires, Yei Bi Chei and totem poles, crenulated sand dunes and the ubiquitous tumbling tumbleweeds.
John Ford found this spacious land lends itself to the fantasy of the imagination, and millions of people, visitors from all over the world, would agree with that assessment.
It has been over 20 years since I first visited the park or, as it is known today, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
At that time, the road leading into the Park from off Highway 163 was just a dirt road, and visitors were immediately greeted by a shanty-town of Native-American vendors selling everything from hand-crafted jewelry and Navajo blankets to Kachinas and Navajo pottery.
These shops were nothing more than simple rag-tag wooden structures put together out of scraps of lumber, canvas tarps and corrugated tin salvaged from who knows where.
It was like something out of a third-world country somehow misplaced in this land of striking beauty.
I found it denigrating and a poor first impression of the Navajo, a proud people, rich in cultural history.
Today, thankfully, this rag-tag shanty town is gone; replaced now by a beautiful modern complex which houses a Welcome Center, Amphitheater, Arts and Crafts Mall, a new hotel with restaurant and trading post.
The Arts and Crafts Mall, also called Indian Market Plaza, is made up of shops of some of the local artists.
According to Marie Ann Yazzie-Cly of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, they include “…silversmithing, necklace design, pottery, rug weaving, basket weaving and other artifacts.”
There is also a food court within the Plaza.
Twenty years ago, there were always several independent Navajo guides with pickups or jeeps waiting to take visitors on a private guided tour.
Today, in addition to the pickups and
jeeps, visitors are now being shuttled around the 17 mile
scenic loop in open-air vehicles driven by knowledgeable Navajo guides.
One thing that has not changed, however, is the primitive dirt road, often clogged with tourist-packed tour-vehicles leaving clouds of thick dust in their wake.
If anything, it seems somehow rougher, dustier and less accommodating of anything short of an army hummer.
The scenic tour through the Park is seventeen miles.
Some of the things you will see are:
• The East and West Mittens, Merrick Butte & Mitchell Mesa
• Elephant Butte
• The Three Sisters
• John Ford’s Point
• Camel Butte, the Hub, Rain God’s Mesa
• Bird Spring and Sand Spring
• The Totem Pole & Yei Bi Chei
• Artist’s Point & Spearhead Mesa
• North Window
• The Thumb
Map: Courtesy Navajo Tribal Park
Although visitors may drive their own vehicles on the scenic tour, some of the reasons you may want to hire a Navajo guide include:
• The guides are intimately familiar with the Monument and knowledgeable about the history and religious significance of all that you will see here.
• They can take you to places within the Monument where you cannot go without a guide.
• They can help you find unique photo opportunities .e.g. the sand dunes near the Totem Pole.
• You will save wear and tear on your own vehicle.
**National Parks and Golden Eagle Passes are not accepted**
Visitor Center Hours:
Scenic Drive Hours:
Telephone: 435-727-5874, 5879, 5870
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Food and Lodging:
Books and Maps about Monument Valley may be purchased at the Visitor Center, or you may purchase them through Amazon.com by clicking the link below.
Lodging in Mexican Hat, Utah
Additional lodging may be found in nearby Mexican Hat, Utah.
Simply use the box on the left to find the best deal.
The following were downloaded from the Navajo Nation Parks website. I have no personal experience with any of them, nor do I recommend them over any guides who may not be listed.
Bennett Guided Tours
(435) 727-3312 or (928) 206-9022
Daniel's Guided Tours
(435)727-3227 or (800)596-8427
Dine Trail Ride Tours
Homeland Tours Albert Atene
Monument Valley Safari
Monument Valley Simpson's
Roland's Navajoland Tours
Sacred Mountain Tours
Toney's Monument Valley Tours
Totem Pole Tours
References & Resources:
Navajo Nation Parks
Open Travel Info