Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley

Everything You Need to Know for an Epic Visit to Monument Valley

Monument Valley will leave you speechless with its breathtaking panoramas of wide-open arid desert, dotted with the remnants of eroded orange sandstone formations.

Situated within the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley is along the Arizona-Utah border. Orange sand whips around in the breeze as tumbleweed bounces and rolls across desolate U.S. 163. The classic landscape is immediately recognizable as the American West. A rugged place where Native American tribes once roamed and cowboys galloped proudly on horseback.

Everything You Need to Know for an Epic Visit to Monument Valley
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Everything You Need to Know for an Epic Visit to Monument Valley

After an incredible couple of days in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, we headed south from Moab, Utah on U.S. 191 before finally continuing south onto U.S. 163.

The 2 1/2 hour drive took a winding route through small towns, past open grazing pastures, and alongside the area’s gigantic signature sandstone rocks. There wasn’t much, if anything, in the way of rest areas. We were glad to have gassed up and replenished our supply of snacks before leaving Moab.

As you approach Monument Valley, you’re likely to remember the scene in Forest Gump when he decides to stop running. While fans of westerns will reminisce over scenes from the old classic film Stagecoach flashing before their eyes.

If you can, time your approach for late afternoon or early evening. The sun’s reflection off the sandstone monuments in front of you will have you pulling off the road over and over as you aim to capture the perfect photo!

Visiting Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is open from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. between May and September. The hours between October and April are adjusted to 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Entry is $20 per vehicle (up to 4 people) for a day pass. You won’t be able to use a national park pass to save money on admission since the park is part of the Navajo Nation. The Visitor Center has a museum displaying Navajo artifacts, portraits, and history. You can also visit The View Restaurant and the Trading Post Gift Shop.

It’s also possible to book a guided Monument Valley tour or even a Monument Valley Sunset tour.

Guided Tours add a layer of history and culture to the natural landscape around you. Guides also take guests to restricted areas of the Reservation to learn more about Navajo life. For details on the self-guided tour, keep reading!

From the Visitor Center’s parking lot, you’ll be able to see the mud-baked Navajo homes called Hogans. The round-shaped mound structures are still used for ceremonial purposes today.

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
Navajo Hogan

Taking a Self-Guided Tour Through Monument Valley

The most popular Mesas, Buttes, and Spires are along a 17-mile loop within the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The valley drive is along a rough dirt road. The drive begins with a steep, bumpy descent, which also happens to be one of the worst sections of the road.

Cars with a low clearance and RVs should not drive this road. Our rental car was a basic 4-door Chevy Impala and we were fine driving the route ourselves. We just took our time and went very slow in spots.

Between careful driving, sightseeing, and jumping out to admire the landscape and take photos, we spent about 2-3 hours along the self-guided route. We were glad to be independent and even though we had to stay in the public areas of the park.

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
A flatter and smoother section of the valley drive loop.

The 17-mile loop has 11 stops to see the monuments in the valley. Popular monuments include the East and West Mitten Buttes, Merrick Butte, Mitchell Mesa, John Ford’s Point, and Artist’s Point. At many of the stops, local Navajo have tables set up to sell handmade crafts and jewelry. 

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
Gorgeous rock formations as far as the eye can see!

Aside from the Wildcat Nature Walk, which makes a scenic 3.3-mile loop around West Mitten Butte, self-guided visitors are not allowed to venture off the road or hike in any other areas of the park.

Visitors are asked to treat the land and the locals with respect. This means following all posted directions, not disturbing any of the plants, rocks, or animals, and getting permission before photographing any of the Navajo people living on the Reservation.

Whether you plan to do the Wildcat Nature Walk or just enjoy the scenery along the valley drive, be aware there are no bathrooms or places to get water once you leave the Visitor’s Center.

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
The iconic view from John Ford’s Point

At John Ford’s Point, for $5, you can have your photo taken on a horse overlooking the cliff. Channel your inner cowboy/cowgirl and recreate scenes from the countless westerns filmed in the area!

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to monument valley
City-slicker turned cowgirl…

If you’d like to go horseback riding through the valley, there were 3 different spots within the park you could arrange the activity. The first was outside the Visitor’s Center and the other 2 were along the valley drive. Whether you choose to drive the valley yourself, take a guided tour, or hop into a saddle, just enjoy the stunning vistas surrounding you on all sides!

Everything you need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
The view from Artist’s Point
Everything you need to know for an epic visit to monument valley
Desert plant life
Everything you need to know for an epic visit to monument valley
You’ll never be happier to be coated in orange dust!

Where to Stay:

There are just 2 hotel options in the immediate Monument Valley area. We stayed at Goulding’s Lodge down the road from the park. Harry Goulding and his wife purchased land and moved to Monument Valley in the 1920s. They set up a trading post and eventually convinced Hollywood to use Monument Valley as the location to film westerns.

Everything You need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
The old trading post set up by the Gouldings.

Goulding’s is a full-service area with the hotel, restaurant, gas station, trading post, and even a local museum highlighting the area’s movie history, facts about John Wayne, and the story of the Gouldings themselves.

Everything You need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
The 2nd floor of the museum is the Goulding’s living quarters. Hollywood legends John Ford and John Wayne are said to have dined up here.

We were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable our room was and by the quirky amenities on the grounds, like John Wayne’s Cabin, the trading post, and the “movie theater” showing nightly John Wayne westerns.

Everything You need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
Movie memorabilia in the Goulding’s Museum.

Goulding’s offered great views and guided activities, as well. The Lodge is just 5-7 minutes by car from the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Everything You need to know for an epic visit to Monument Valley
The pre-dawn views from my balcony at Goulding’s Lodge.

The View Hotel is actually within the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. It offers stunning views, a restaurant, gift shop, and guided tour activities.

Where to Eat:

Goulding’s Lodge and The View Hotel both have restaurants on site. There’s also a small convenience store within the Goulding’s area with basic grocery items. I only ate at Goulding’s restaurant and noted the limited vegetarian and gluten-free options. If you’re concerned about your dietary restrictions, plan ahead and bring what you need. Be sure and try the Navajo Fry-Bread with some honey!

What’s Nearby:

You’ll need a rental car to get to and around the Monument Valley area. It’s in a remote location with very little nearby.

If you’re planning a Utah National Parks road trip, check out how Monument Valley fits into that itinerary.

Monument Valley also makes sense for Arizona road trips. For a quick glimpse of distances to nearby attractions, see the list below.

ProTip: I always search on Kayak because they search many rental car websites at one time so I can compare and choose the best deal. 

Arches National Park is 150 miles away.

Canyonlands National Park is 180 miles away.

Capitol Reef National Park is 180 miles away.

Zion National Park is 230 miles away.

Bryce National Park is 307 miles away.

Antelope Canyon is 117 miles away.

Horseshoe Bend is 125 miles away.

Four Corners Monument is 104 miles away.

Natural Bridges National Monument is 65 miles away.

Would you like to visit Monument Valley?

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50 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know for an Epic Visit to Monument Valley”

  1. I’ve just returned from a stay there. I recommend The View Hotel. It is Native American owned and is located in the park, while Goulding’s is outside. All the rooms in The View face the monuments, so you can watch both sunrise and sunset. Whether you are staying at The View or not, go in and see their lobby, as is two stories tall and it has beautiful examples of Native American art all over it.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      The Native American art is beautiful, Clare, as are the photographed portraits. I especially liked the ones of the grandmothers with the history of the matrilineal lineage in the tribe. Glad you had a great stay at The View Hotel. The views must have been incredible! 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much, Tanj! Hope you can make it to Monument Valley some day soon!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Absolutely a stunning and amazing place to see, Fiona! So interesting to be on the Navajo Reservation and learn a bit about their culture.

  2. Ok, I really, really have to go to the US and explore the amazing landscape you have there! Monument Valley sounds like the perfect place to do a little road trip. Unfortunately, I can’t ride but it sure sounds like a great experience for everyone who can. And how cute does the decoration in the Goulding’s Lodge look?!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You really do have to visit, Kathrin! A road trip out west packs so many amazing places to see! We were happily surprised with Goulding’s having booked it last minute. It was so quirky and cute!

  3. I visited Monument Valley and many of the other regional parks on your list back in 2002 while on a Green Tortoise Bus 16-day loop. If my memory serves me correctly, we did a guided jeep tour, and I vividly recall the red rocks and red sand everywhere. Goulding’s Lodge sounds like a place I would like to stay when I travel West again.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Ha! Yes, Howard, that red sand finds its way into everything. Reminded me of how I looked after a day in a tuk-tuk across the Cambodian countryside! Glad you’ve been able to see Monument Valley and many of the NPs out west. Goulding’s was so quirky in a good way. A great place to base yourself for a Monument Valley visit.

  4. I’ve been really wanting to go there! It looks like you had a nice time there, and I like your pictures, especially the one where you are sitting on the horse. I definitely think that $5 is worth it to take that typical western picture 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Agreed, Natalie! When I saw the $5 photo-op, it was just a must! Hope you can make it out to Monument Valley and the Utah National Parks some day soon! 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Yes, Claire! Channel your inner cowgirl! Horseback riding in Monument Valley is surreal with the landscape all around! 😉 Hope you can make it soon.

  5. The what’s near by part of this post is so useful! Great photos as usual. I need to plan a USA roadtrip soon! This and Antelope Canyon are high up on my list,

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Antelope Canyon is not too far from Monument Valley, Anna. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop, but we passed by. 🙁 Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you make out west soon!

  6. I have never been to that part of the US, but it looks like something straight out of a cowboy film. Very nice scenery and that photo of you on horseback looks so romantic.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Yes, Tammy! I felt as if I’d landed on the set of a Hollywood western! So why not let that inner cowgirl come out and get the perfect shot! 😉 Hope you can visit Monument Valley some day!

  7. Carolina E Colborn

    We just drove through Monument Valley. We should go back and stay for a few days and be a cowgirl like you and take those pictures from those experts’ points!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Carol, you’d make an excellent cowgirl! Glad you’ve seen Monument Valley! Next time, definitely plan to stay for a night. 🙂

  8. Thanks for having such an in-dept article! I would totally keep this as reference when I am heading to Monument Valley. I totally love the photo that was taken on the horse over the valley!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Bernard! I was definitely channeling my inner cowgirl. 😉 Hope you can visit Monument Valley soon!

  9. do you know anything about weather conditions in March and if it is not a good time to go? I was looking at Zion NP and they said the narrows are typically closed due to rainfall during mid march-april and I was wondering if it is the same for MV.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Yasmine,
      Thanks for reading. I was actually there at the end of March-early April this past year. I had no weather problems in Monument Valley. The days were all sunny and the temperatures were comfortable. Sometimes I needed a light jacket or sweatshirt. It’s true about the Narrows at Zion. I visited Zion on the same trip as Monument Valley and had great sunny weather. But, the Narrows was closed because of heavy snow melting from the mountains and raising water levels in the river. Otherwise, I was hiking in short sleeves. Hope that helps!

  10. Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for lot for nicely documented details. It will definitely help me during my trip to MV.

    I am planning to visit first week on Apr. Want to check with you on guided tour. Is it really worth the $ amount.

    As you have also mention that you have done the self guided 17 miles. Can we get good sun set view point in that 17 mile loop.

    Actually I was checking for sunset tour but if the same view points or good view points is along the 17 miles loop there is no point spending extra $. Please let me know.


    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Sanjib,

      Thanks for reading and how fantastic about your upcoming trip to MV! So, when you do the self-guided drive, you can only stay along the 17-mile loop. You can’t hike or walk to “private” areas of the Navajo Reservation. With a guide, you can hike and walk off the main road. That being said, I thought we could see everything and had great views. I do think the sunset tour would be many of the same spots, but cannot say for sure. We were there during the day and felt glad to be in our own car going at our own pace. Hope that helps! Have a great trip. 🙂

  11. Thanks Jackie.

    Will let you know my experience 🙂 .

    I was looking for some details on Capitol reef national park as well.. Can you share some details.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Sanjib,
      I actually didn’t go to Capitol Reef, just the other 4 Utah National Parks. You can read more about my Utah National Park road trip for more info. Hope that helps! 🙂

  12. Thank you very much for this posting. I was unsure whether to book a guided tour of the Valley (there are many options and pretty pricey) so I am heartened to know that you were able to do the self-guided loop with an average vehicle. I will plan to do the same. I’ve been comparing housing options (Goulding’s, The View, or B&B) and I think I’m going to go with The View. I can’t really condone the outrageous prices all of these places charge, but the View prices are comparable with Goulding’s with a better view. Neither place includes breakfast which is disappointing considering the price of the room.

    Thanks again for your service.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Glad to help, David. The View looked lovely but we visited relatively last minute and they had no availability. These places can charge what they do because there’s nothing else around there for miles and miles. But it’s totally worth it! Hope you have a great trip. 🙂

  13. I would recommend staying in Kayenta, Az. It is the next closest city to Monument Valley, but it’s hotel and airbnb prices are more affordable. And there are more hiking spots that are open to travelers

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Lauren. And, thank you for sharing your insights! So helpful for other travelers. 🙂

  14. Karol A Hermans

    We visited Arizona in August. We were able to get a new duplex at Goulding’s for the night. Great views from our front porch and super comfortable! We opted for using Goulding’s to tour the valley and don’t regret it. Our Navaho female guide grew up in the valley and was very insightful, She was from four nations and proud of her heritage. Goulding’s can take you places that you won’t be able to go to on a self guided tour. They know where the ancient petroglyphs are!! We also visited hogans of various styles and had a chat with an elderly Navaho women that was dressesd in authentic clothing and weaving. At first I thought that I would miss air conditioning on this tour, but the experience was one of the best America can offer. As for the horse on the cliff, I felt sad for the animal…. I could not bring myself to participate even if it had been FREE! Sorry!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Your tour sounds fantastic, Karol! Glad you had such an authentic Navajo experience. Luckily, I visited in April and we were among the only people visiting that day and were lucky enough to chat informally with some of the locals. We had actually wanted to go horseback riding but unfortunately, there weren’t enough people for a guided tour.

  15. Christian A Viola

    We are visiting Monument Vally in September, my wife says you have to go with a guide to see all of the vally, I wanted to take a 4×4, if we do it alone with out a guide what senery will we miss?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Christian. I can’t speak to the specific scenery you’d be missing if you didn’t go with a guide. I do know you get access to specific areas with a local Navajo tribe member who takes you into non-public areas. Our self-guided tour was absolutely beautiful and we liked being able to take our time, take photos, and just enjoy the spots we were in as opposed to being in a group with a guide. Do check the comments of this post, though. Others have certainly loved their guided tour, as well.

  16. Useful post and great pictures, Jackie! This place is high on our list and we should make it happen soon. Also hoping to stay at The View!

    Which airport did you fly in/out?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Bharat & Supriya,

      Thanks so much for reading. I actually drove to the area as part of a bigger road trip. The closest airports are Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or Phoenix. I hope you have a great trip to Monument Valley. It’s beautiful!


  17. Loved your blog! Planning to visit Monument Valley this Spring. How did you get the photo of yourself on the horse at John Ford Point? I was reading online that there is a man there and he will ride over to the point and let you take a photo of HIM after you pay $5. However, I would much rather have a photo of myself if that is possible…

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Winnie. When I went, I did choose the photo-op you mention, but it wasn’t the guy on the horse, obviously. Unless something has changed, you should be able to get the same photo opportunity. I actually had wanted to go horseback riding, but it wasn’t possible at the time we visited, so the photo-op on the horse was the best I could do. Enjoy your visit to Monument Valley!

  18. Was so happy to have found your blog! Appreciated all the info on Monument Valley and how to enjoy it without doing an official TOUR. All the links appreciated as well. Maps, etc. Thank you so much! Photos are lovely and we cannot wait to visit in May. Staying at The View.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Marie. The View looked really nice and has amazing Monument Valley views…perfect for taking a ton of photos of beautiful Monument Valley.

  19. Hi Jackie.
    Thanks for all the info and pictures of Monument Valley. I will be making my first trip there on July 9 and can’t wait! Couple of questions; what time of the year were you there and how docile was the horse you sat on while getting your picture taken at John Ford’s Point? Were you at all nervous about being so close to the edge on it?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Jeff. I was there in mid-April. The horse was really calm. I actually wanted to go horseback riding but because there weren’t enough people, no tours were heading out that day. So the horse photo-op was my best option. Enjoy Monument Valley!!

  20. David LeBlanc

    Hello, thanks for the article. Headed out to MV tomorrow for an overnight. My question here is: Which route is best to getting back to SLC from MV? Should I go over to St George then to SLC or just straight shot back through Moab? Leaving MV on Sat.

    Asking this due to noticing the traffic back leaving Moab northbound while I was headed southbound into Moab.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, David. Sorry, I can’t be of more help. Zion was my last stop in Utah and from there we drove across the country, not back to SLC. I hope you enjoy Monument Valley, though! 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Gianni. Glad you’ve had great experiences in Monument Valley.

  21. Hello Jackie and thanks for the article.

    I have just one question for you. In case I reach the entry point for monument Valley let’s say at 4.30-5.00 pm during the 1st week of October, can I still get the pass and visit it?
    We are visiting Antelope canyon earlier in the same day. As the best time to visit Antelope is around midday, we would be too much in a rush if we must have completed our MV visit within 5pm.

    Hope my question’s clear enough!

    Thanks a lot in advance for your kind reply 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Max. I think it would be too rushed if you arrive by 4:30 and try to finish your visit by 5. Perhaps visit Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in Page on the same day and then make your way to Monument Valley that night for a first thing in the morning drive through the Navajo Tribal Park. Good luck and have a great road trip! 🙂

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