Exploring Monument Valley

Sitting on the boarder of Arizona and Utah, and part of the Navajo Nation is where you will find the iconic and infamous Monument Valley. The state line actually runs right through this the perfect picture of America’s West. Where you could easily picture cowboys roaming the land on horseback. The Valley is all red roads and rock formations, and rather than being an actual valley is more like a wide, flat, desert like landscape, covered in rock formations towering over the roads.

After checking into our hotel and dumping our bags we headed straight out to explore Monument Valley. Since we were visiting during winter, the park was only open until 5pm, so we wanted to make the most of as many daylight hours as we could. Monument Valley is located about 25 minutes away from Kayenta, the closest town in Arizona to the park, which is where we were staying. Driving up to Monument Valley you can see some of the incredible formations from the main highway, however the best views can be found from within Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park itself.

We arrived at the park with about an hour or so to explore before the sun set completely. We knew it was going to be tight, but we also had the morning to come back again, and the enterance fee also allowed us a free entry in the morning for free. Entry for one car was about $20USD and can be paid by cash or credit card to the booth attendant at the entrance.

The Visitors Centre is the first thing you come across, sitting right next to Lookout Point. Obviously named, Lookout Point offers the perfect lookout across three of the most iconic and photographed formations of the valley – East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte.

There is only one hiking trail, known as the Wildcat Trail, which begins at the Visitors Centre and loops through the West Mitten Butte. Although the sun was shining brightly, it was absolutely freezing when we were visiting – only about 1℃ outside the car, so I would probably recommend visiting at a warmer part of the year if you are hoping to hike.

Read more: 10 Natural Wonders You Can’t Miss in Arizona

The main reason to visit Monument Valley is obviously the Valley Drive around the Navajo Tribal Park, which consists of a 17 mile dirt road, beginning at the Visitors Centre and looping throughout each of the monuments before taking you back to Lookout Point. Since we were visiting so close to closing time we had almost the whole park to ourselves, with only a couple of other cars on the road.

Valley Drive is a bit of a narrow one way loop around the towering cliffs and rocks, offering you the best views and perspectives from around the park. The trail is a dirt road and can be uneven at times, but is no issue to drive around in a regular vehicle. You don’t need a 4WD to access any part of the road. The Valley Drive takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to complete and passes by 11 numbered stops along the way at the most scenic points. However, you can pull over and stop wherever you like to take photos along the way.

Explore all the adventures you can have in Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is an iconic landmark in the USA that has been featured in countless movies and media over the years, including Thelma & Louise, Forrest Gump, Mission Impossible 2, The Lone Ranger, and even the animation Cars! For the best experience I would recommend driving into Monument Valley from the Utah side of the boarder, for those iconic road pictures you find on Pinterest and take advantage of your ticket and come back in the morning to see the Valley in a whole new light (literally).

Check out the best places to stay around Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is open daily, from 6am to 8pm from May through to September, and 8am to 5pm from October through to April.

There is only one main road which runs through Monument Valley – US 163 which links Kayenta in Arizona to the US 191 in Utah.

Read more about our road trip through USA.

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Emma Shaw

Emma is a travel photographer and blogger, living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Thom in between adventures. She started A Make Believe World to share her experiences, travel tips and destination advice, and to inspire others to travel the world and their own backyard whenever they can.

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