Published on October 30th, 2022
With its iconic landscape synonymous with the Wild West, despite Monument Valley’s remote location on the Arizona-Utah state line, no desert road trip is ever complete without visiting a region so engraved in American popular culture. So let’s discover the top things to see and do in Monument Valley.
Check out additional Arizona, Utah, and Southwest USA travel guides, and combine your road trip to Monument Valley with other regional highlights.
Native American trading posts have long served as meeting points between civilizations. In Monument Valley, you have a unique opportunity to purchase Navajo crafts from trading posts or roadside stalls. My favorite souvenirs are Navajo sandpaintings, depicting ancient motifs guaranteed to fuel the magic of Monument Valley long after your return home.
Long before the Navajo settled in Monument Valley, this land was populated by the ancient Anasazi, also known as Ancestral Puebloans. These tribes took shelter in cliff dwellings that often seem to defy the forces of gravity. If you seek to get off the beaten track on your visit to Monument Valley, consider joining a guided tour of Mystery Valley and visit several impressive cliff-dwelling ruins.
If you want to snap unique shots of Monument Valley, ask your Navajo guide to take you to Teardrop Arch. The tiny arch is located about 15 minutes from the tribal park and involves a short walk to reach the “money shot.”
If the panoramic views inside the tribal park aren’t enough, or if you’re looking for a thrilling adventure, book a full-day trip with a Navajo guide to Hunt’s Mesa. The two-hour drive to Hunt’s Mesa includes off-roading over sand dunes and dry riverbeds. From Hunt’s Mesa, enjoy views of Monument Valley rarely seen by most visitors. It’s also possible to book overnight trips to Hunt’s Mesa that include spectacular sunrise views.
Monument Valley’s night sky is virtually light pollution-free. So drink some coffee and stay out of bed because your visit to Monument Valley provides a rare opportunity to stargaze with ease. See countless stars in the night sky and try spotting falling stars, all to the beautiful backdrop of Monument Valley’s sandstone buttes. The best place to stargaze in Monument Valley is near the visitor center or the View Hotel.
Even though Monument Valley is not a hiking destination, the 3.8-mile Wildcat Trail offers a unique opportunity to examine the tribal park’s iconic sandstone pillars from up close. The trail loops around the West Mitten Butte. Most visitors devote their attention to the scenic drive, so hikers on the Wildcat Trail often have this magical spot all to themselves.
There’s no time to waste in Monument Valley, much in part due to the landscape’s changing colors with the sun’s movement. Stick around for sunset, or time your arrival to the tribal park in time to experience this spectacle. Then, rise early and watch the sunrise behind the valley’s famous rocky outcrops.
The thrill of driving to Monument Valley is not only owed to its majestic landscape but perhaps mainly thanks to its appearance in popular culture. To see one of America’s most iconic vistas, head to “Forrest Gump Point” in the morning, when light conditions are perfect. This spot has been featured in so many Hollywood films, TV shows, and commercials. If you’re driving to Monument Valley from Utah, you’ll reach this spot eight miles south of Mexican Hat.
Whether on 4WD or horseback, explore parts of Monument Valley that are off-limits to visitors by joining a guided tour with an experienced Navajo guide. Tours usually include the 17-mile scenic drive and highlights in what’s known as “lower Monument Valley.” Here, you’ll visit natural rock arches, reach pretty mesas, and perhaps see ancient Native American rock paintings. If your guide is having a good day, they might even give you a taste of traditional Navajo Culture.
Monument Valley’s 17-mile scenic drive is the tribal park’s top highlight. Officially known as Valley Drive, visitors with most vehicle types can complete the loop independently. The drive takes about two hours, taking into account stops along the way, such as John Ford Point, the Totem Pole, and Artist’s Point.
This wraps up the roundup of the top 10 things to see and do in Monument Valley. Now, it’s time to plan your visit with this in-depth Monument Valley travel guide and sample itinerary. Then, stitch your desert road trip with additional travel guides to Arizona, Utah, and Southwest USA.
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