Monument Valley AZ is one of the most popular destinations for tourists on Earth. The valley contains sandstone rock formations that have formed over time. These rock formations are very beautiful with a height between 400 and 1000 feet high. The wonderful features in the valley make it famous and probably the most photographed place on the planet.
Why Visit Monument Valley AZ?
The park is located on the Utah-Arizona border and together with Monument Valley, Utah, it covers 92,000 acres. This valley provides you with some of the most famous and magnificent views that you could explore and enjoy as a tourist. It is truly a place of splendor and majesty and you can experience this beauty by driving through a 17-mile road that takes you from the Visitors Center to most of the beautiful spots in the valley.
The Visitor Center provides you with a restaurant, museums, a lodge, restrooms, souvenirs, and much more. You are taken through the valley by a vehicle or horseback. Notable features include the Three Sisters, Totem Pole, Mitten Buttes, North Window, and the Yei-bi-chai.
History of the Monument Valley
Monument Valley AZ has incredible and breathtaking sandstone towers which have an interesting history in their formation. The features were formed as a result of nature’s erosive power. They are some of the most distinctive formations in the world. These features were formed when layers of sediments settled on top of each other in a basin for millions of years.
The basin slowly became a plateau where the softer materials were then gradually removed by natural wind and water forces. This resulted in the features that we see today. Some of them like the Buttes and Spires are slowly being eroded. The features in Monument Valley AZ have received a lot of fame because of the many television shows and movies have been shot there. John Wayne films were the first ones to use Monument Valley as a location.
How to Get To Monument Valley
It’s not that close to any city, airport, or national park and that’s why it takes visitors a while to get there. The closest airport to Monument Valley AZ is Flagstaff which is 176 miles away and takes you approximately three hours to get to the valley. You can get there from other nearby airports, cities, and national parks where the distance between is as follows:
1. From Phoenix Airport to the valley, the distance is 320 miles where you will drive for approximately 5.2 hours.
2. To travel from Las Vegas Airport, you will cover a distance of about 398 miles in approximately 6.5 hours.
3. From Salt Lake City and Albuquerque Airports, you will drive for a distance of 380 and 324 miles respectively.
4. The distance between Grand Canyon and Monument Valley AZ is 156 miles which you will cover in approximately 2.5 hours.
5. To drive from Moab, Utah you will cover a distance of 149 miles and from Four Corners Monument to the valley, the distance is 105 miles.
Entry Fees and the Cost of Camping
The cost of getting into Monument Valley AZ is moderate and many people can easily afford it. For a vehicle that has 1-4 people, you are charged $20 — any additional people in the vehicle you will have to pay $6/person. On the other hand, to enter the valley on a motorcycle, you are charged $10. This Entry Fee is different from the Guided Tour Price. The valley entry fee will cover two days.
6 Great Monument Valley AZ Boondocking Spots
Navajo National Monument-Sunset View Campground
GPS: 36.675304, -110.538597
The road in is Paved. Navajo National Monument-Sunset View Campground is open Year Round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 28 Feet. You may stay 7 days at Navajo National Monument-Sunset View Campground. The end of State Highway 564 off of US Highway 160.
Nice free campground inside Navajo National Monument. There is also Canyon View Campground at the monument, which was closed while we were there. Canyon View is only open from April 1 through September 30. The campground has paved roads and sites. The sites are rather small at Sunset View Campground. I agree with the NPS websites limit of 28 feet.
There are flush toilets and water, though the water was turned off while we were there in late March. We woke up to a light snow dusting. The road to access the monument is paved, and in fairly good condition. Nearest town for supplies would be Kayenta, though there is a trading post where 564 meets Hwy 160.
Boondocking Site 2 – Oljato-Monument Valley
Teardrop Arch Bed and Breakfast ($10 or less)
GPS: 37.002106, -110.184528
There are 1-5 campsites at this location. This fully Navajo owned Bed and Breakfast is located near the four corners area South Eastern Utah within the Navajo Reservation. Here the view from Tear Drop Arch B&B is unique and the experience is memorable to witness.
The scenery changes every hour of the day and at every season the panoramas of the red rock formations are a sight to see, with glorious sunrise, sunsets and clear night skies with laden stars. Come and enjoy a hike up the sandy landscape trail to the amazing photographic Tear Drop Arch.
Boondocking Site 3 – (40 to 51 Miles From Monument Valley)
Muley Point Overlook
GPS: 37.235187, -109.992233
The road in is Dirt. The maximum RV length at Muley Point Overlook is 15 feet. You may stay two weeks at Muley Point Overlook. Free camping within the Glen Canyon RA. This is a dispersed campsite and not a campground. No facilities (toilets, water, trash) provided. If that’s your kind of thing, prepare to be amazed!
The views here are stunning. On a good day, you can see Monument Valley, the Four Corners, Valley of the Gods, and the Goosenecks. The point itself is pretty lovely. You’ll be camping among enormous boulders with cracks up to ten and even twenty feet deep.
Boondocking Site 4 – Clay Hills (40 to 51 Miles From Monument Valley)
Clay Hills Camp Site
GPS: 37.294158, -110.397671
Free Dispersed camping in the Bureau of Land Management Monticello District. First come -> First Camped. Reservations not accepted.
Boondocking Site 5 (40 to 51 Miles From Monument Valley)
Sooner Rocks Campsite
GPS: 37.329007, -111.059914
The road in is Dirt and 40 miles from a paved road. Sooner Rocks Campsite is open year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Sooner Rocks Campsite. Two separate sites are located 40.1 miles from Highway 12 (just past Reference Marker 65) on the right (west) side of Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
The first side road in the canyon leads to an open area in a draw with a backdrop of red rock, visible from the Hole-in-the-Rock road. A second side road, one hundred yards further south on Hole-in-the-Rock road and across from the BLM sign identifying “Sooner Wash” leads up a short rise, and drops down to the right into a bowl-shaped open area less visible from the road.
Note: There are deep natural pits in the rock which may be hazardous. Either site will accommodate a group, but has no shade and can be very hot in the summer. Also note that ready vehicle access to the slickrock formations above these sites is available by travelling south on Hole-in-the-Rock road up out of the canyon, and taking the third side road on the right (west) after cresting the hill.
Amenities: Drinking Water, Dump Station, Restrooms
Boondocking Site 6 – Mexican Hat, UT ($10 or less) (40 to 51 Miles From Monument Valley)
Gooseneck State Park, Mexican Hat, UT
GPS: 37.17461, -109.926926
The road in is Paved. There are 1-5 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is ‘Big is ok’. The drive up is nothing spectacular, but don’t give up! The view once your there is mind-boggling! The few boondock camping areas are free. A great spot to just lay over and enjoy the fantastic view.
Not much else to do, but the view of the river below will be remembered for a long, long time. Don’t camp too near the rim as the wind can be horrendous!
Things to See in Monument Valley
1. John Ford Point
Your tour of Monument Valley AZ would not be complete if you don’t stop at the John Ford Point to get great and scenic views of the valley. John Ford was a Hollywood director who filmed John Wayne’s movies here and made him famous. At only $5, you can also get a good picture of the kids on a famous horse who was featured in movies like the Marlboro Man.
2. Elephant Butte, Three Sisters, Camel Butte
As you head to the John Ford Point in Monument Valley AZ, you can make a stopover to see the beautiful Camel Butte which looks like a giant sleeping on his back. You can also see the Elephant Butte and the three sisters where a Catholic nun is facing her two pupils.
3. Totem Pole
Totem Pole is behind the Monument Valley AZ scenic drive and is a mythical marker that was made by the Northwestern tribes. Totem Pole has been carved out from the rock by mother nature. This feature shows atypical formation that might result from the Butte that has been acted upon by erosion.
4. Artist’s Point
At Artist’s Point you have a good view of the Merrick Butte, the East, and West Mittens as well as a large part of the whole desert. Take your camera and stay awhile as you take shots around this area.
5. Ear Of The Wind
This is a secluded area that has a massive Sand dune and a large hole on the top of the rock. A stop at this point is also great where you can climb on the top of the dune and enjoy some gorgeous views.
Things to Do in Monument Valley
1. Tour through the scenic Monument Valley AZ driveway
This is a 17-mile drive that you don’t want to miss anytime you visit. Along the driveway, there are beautiful sceneries located in all directions. It is the only road in Monument Valley AZ where private vehicles are allowed while buses and RVs are not permitted. While driving this road you will feel like you are on a Hollywood western set since many movies and tv shows have been filmed there. There are also many formations like the mitten Buttes and Three Sisters that you see along this road.
2. Experience Jeep Tours and Goulding’s lodge
Goulding’s lodge acts as a perfect educational resource for everything you see because of the Goulding Cultural History and Film museum. Also, spending a full day in jeep tours will deepen your experience.
3. Hike the Wildcat Trail
During the Wildcat Trail hike, hikers go around famous rock buttes such as the Merrick and the Mitten Buttes which make the tour more interesting. This trail is the only one in Monument Valley AZ that is self-guided and offers world-class scenery.
4. Watch a Sunrise Over the Valley
The early morning stillness and calmness in the desert is just magical and you will want to be there and watch a sunrise that creates long shadows of the canyon landscape.
5. Take a Tour to the Goosenecks State Park and the Valley of the Gods
Inside Monument Valley AZ, it would be a shame to miss stopping at fascinating features like these.
Top Trails to Hike at the Monument Valley AZ
1. Wildcat Trail Hike
The hike that you can take without a guide is the Wildcat Trail. This 3-mile circular hike starts at the visitor center, goes around the West Mitten Butte, and brings you back. Wildcat Trail Hike is more fascinating during sunrise or sunset. To get started with this hike, you get yourself a permit from the visitor center, sign in for free and state how many of you will be participating in the hike. It will only take you 2 hours for the whole hike.
2. Hunt’s Mesa Hike
Hunt’s Mesa is 1942 meters high and is the tallest part in the Valley. You need to access the start of Hunt’s Mesa Trail through the help of your tour guide because you can’t go for this hike without the tour guide. When you take it as a day’s hike, it will take you 7 hours while a night stay will take you about 18 hours. There is no other overnight stay hike in Monument Valley AZ apart from the Hunt’s Mesa hike and your tour guide gives you the tent, evening meal, and sleeping bags for the night.
3. Teardrop Arch Hike
Teardrop hike is not a easy hike and it requires you to have a tour guide. The hike will take you around 2 to 2.5 hours to complete. The arch frames surround buttes and mesas to form a great scene for photos.
4. Anasazis Trail
Anasazis Trail takes you 6 hours where you go through past ancient ruins, labyrinth canyons, and sandstone arches. This place is sacred and has a lot of history. You have to book this hike well in advance because it is a very popular hike.
How Much Time Do You Need For Your Visit?
For you to get to Monument Valley AZ, it will take you at least a 3-hour drive from the closest airports or cities in the vicinity. This means that you have to start your trip there very early in the morning so that you can have ample time for an unforgettable adventure. In order to see and do all that you planned for, it is necessary to spend at least one night.
This allows you to have a sunrise or sunset tour in the valley. Having one tour valley drive is important but also enjoying some views from spectacular places like Forest Gump Point makes the experience deeper and you need enough time to do all these. Spending some time in the Valley also allows you to take enough photographs and videos. However, if you are short on time, you can just the valley drive and then plan on taking some tours when you come back later.
Accommodations and Dining Near the Monument Valley AZ
Your options about where to get accommodations in Monument Valley are limited, but the ones that are available are good enough for you to enjoy the stay. You can pick one of the following accommodation options:
1. The View Hotel
The View Hotel provides accommodations of several types. The first is the hotel rooms which allow you to have a view over the Valley. You will get a better view from higher floors but you also pay higher prices for them.
The second is The Premium Cabins. The premium cabins are relatively new and they overlook the Mittens. These cabins are also clean and warm.
The least expensive is camping where you are provided with a campground and RV parking. The campground is between the hotel rooms and the cabins where you can enjoy the view of the Mittens, the sunrise, and the sunset. The cheapest RV spots are $49 while the cheapest cabins are $99.
2. Historic Goulding‘s Lodge
This is the best hotel near Monument Valley AZ. It is one mile away from the valley and for many John Wayne movies, the lodge is known as Western Fort. The lodge provides accommodation, a campground, museum, restaurant, and grocery store.
The food in and around Monument Valley AZ is not fine dining and it is overpriced. Therefore, the valley is not a place where you go for a great meal. Below are the places you can get food when in the valley:
1. Golding’s Dining Room: The food is average and costs you around $25.
2. The View Restaurant: Here you are offered breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although, the prices of food are also high, the food is not that bad.
3. Amigo Café: To get to the Amigo Café, you will drive for half an hour from the visitor center to a place called Kayenta. It is a nice restaurant where you can get Navajo and Mexican food. Here you can get foods like Navajo fry bread, Navajo Taco, cheese, beans, lettuce, and much more.
Best Time to Visit Monument Valley AZ
Monument Valley has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The best time to do a tour is during spring and autumn which occur in April/May and September/October. During these months the temperature is pleasant. In summer the temperatures get too hot and the valley gets crowded by the people taking summer vacations. While in winter it gets too cold and the snow starts falling. Although the snow makes the place look pretty, the temperatures can be too cold for you to enjoy the tour.
What to Pack For Your Visit
Sunscreen, Chapstick, Hiking Boots/Shoes, Sunglasses, Snacks, First Aid Kit
Water to stay nice and hydrated. Water is important when you go for this visit. This is because the place is hot (it’s a desert after all!). You will want plenty of water.
Cameras are a must and a Tripod is optional, but it is excellent for getting the ideal sunset pictures. Being one of the most photographed places on the planet, you don’t want to forget your camera.
You might also like some of the articles from our website about boondocking and travel.
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