While the landscape of Monument Valley was familiar to us – we had seen it in many American movies – we couldn’t wait to experience it in real life. It didn’t disappoint!
Monument Valley is located on the Utah-Arizona border. It is not a national park as we had first thought – but is part of the Navajo Tribal Park. It is a long way from anywhere so be prepared for a few hours drive to get there.
We drove to Monument Valley from Moab – about a two-and-a half hour to three hour drive. It is a scenic trip with the landscape becoming drier with every mile.
This little town is a great place to break the trip – there is an excellent Visitor Centre and Bluff Fort is well worth seeing. The fort includes re-creations of furnished cottages and audios telling the story of the people who lived there.
About 40 minutes beyond Bluff, the scenery is spectacular. We stop to take photos of the beautiful coloured hills off to our right, then not far down the road is Mexican Hat – a rock formation in the shape of…a Mexican hat!
Mile 13 – Hwy 163 South – Forrest Gump movie location
Shortly after crossing the San Juan River, we see the formations of Monument Valley in the distance and at Mile 13 we stop to take photos of a well-known location – the spot that Forrest Gump (in the movie of the same name) stopped running and turned around to go home.
Goulding’s Trading Post, Museum & Gift Shop
Be sure to stop at Goulding’s Trading Post and museum. This was the home and trading post of the Goulding’s, established in the 1920s. Director John Ford and actor John Wayne stayed at Goulding’s during the filming of numerous movies in Monument Valley. There are photos and memorabilia from those days, and the Goulding’s home (now a museum) above the old trading post is charmingly furnished with their belongings.
Goulding’s Lodge and Campground offer visitors accommodation. There are suites, lodge rooms, lodge cabins, indoor pool and dining room – all in close proximity to the entrance to Monument Valley Tribal Park.
The View Hotel, Monument Valley
We stop to pay the entrance fee (US$20) into the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and proceed to the View Hotel and check in.
The View Hotel is part of a larger building housing a Visitor Center, Trading Post and Restaurant. It fits well into the landscape and the views are fabulous from all the guest rooms and the restaurant. As well as hotel rooms, there are also cosy cabins and campsites – all with amazing views.
Monument Valley Loop Drive
The scenic Valley Drive is a 27 km loop road within the Park, travelling through the most famous sights of Monument Valley. It is a dirt and gravel road (which begins near the View Hotel) and it was not problem in our 2-wheel drive rental car. It takes about 3 hours at a leisurely pace to drive the whole road – there are lots of places to stop for photographs.
Pick up a Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park brochure from the Visitor Centre which has a map of Valley Drive showing 11 points of interest along the way:
- East and West Mittens & Merrick Butte
- Elephant Butte
- The Three Sisters
- John Ford’s Point
- Camel Butte
- The Hub (hub of a wagon wheel)
- Bird Spring
- Totem Pole & Yei Bi Chei (formation of dancers)
- Artist’s Point
- North Window
- The Thumb
Valley Drive opening hours are:
- Summer (May to August) 7am – 7.30pm
- Winter (September to April) 8am – 4.30pm
If you don’t want to self-drive Valley Drive and prefer a tour guide, there a number of tour operators in the Visitor Centre carpark – a list is available from the View Hotel Reception (they told us to use TripAdvisor to choose a tour company), or on the Navajo Nation Parks Monument Valley website
There are also a number of backcountry tours that take you to restricted areas of the Park – only accessible with a Navajo guide. Unfortunately we were short on time and could not do any of those.
The perfect end to our day in Monument Valley was dinner in the View Hotel Restaurant at twilight.
Take a look at our photos of Monument Valley.
For further information on Monument Valley visit the Navajo Tribal Park – Monument Valley website.
8 June 2018