| | |

Guide To Visiting Monument Valley

Visiting Monument Valley is a must if you dream of seeing the American “Wild” West. When you get there, your imagination flies to old western movies “Stagecoach” and the “Rio Grande” with John Wayne. Or to the outstanding “Once Upon a Time in the West” by Sergio Leone with moving music by Ennio Morricone. The isolated red mesas and vast sandstone buttes, surrounded by an empty desert, are some of the most iconic views of the United States. Monument Valley is an area on the border of the states of Arizona and Utah, located entirely within the Navajo Indian Reservation. It is a Navajo Nation tribal park. How do you get there and spend time, and what rules apply in the Indian lands? How does Monument Valley scenic drive? Or is it worth buying Monument Valley tours? Check our ultimate travel & photo guide to visiting Monument Valley.

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Monument Valley stunning view during sunset: orange rock formations and dark blu sky.

Guide to Visiting Monument Valley: Our Experiences

If you think of Arizona, one of the first impressions is Monument Valley, as it’s one of the most stunning landscapes and remarkable places in this state. Visiting Monument Valley was a great adventure during one of our Arizona road trips. We could imagine cowboy duels, shootings, and Indians galloping on wild horses through the red desert while taking Monument Valley’s scenic drive.

We admired the magnificent sunset with clouds over rusty rock formations. In this post, we share tips in this Guide to Monument Valley. All images presented in this article were taken by my partner Chris and me during our few visits to Monument Valley.

PRO TIP: Before visiting Monument Valley on the Navajo Tribal Nation Parks, check out their official website. Respect all the Navajo Nation rules.

Monument Valley History

In the Navajo language, Monument Valley is Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, which means valley of the rocks. Monument Valley is a large area, including Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Monument Valley sits 5,564 feet above sea level and encompasses 91,696 acres.

However, visitors have access and drive through the park on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt and rough road (a 2-4 hour trip). Finally, parts of Monument Valley, such as Hunts Mesa or Mystery Valley, are accessible only by guided tour.

Monument Valley Geology

The valley’s vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide. The valley is famous for towering sandstone rock formations that have been sculpted over time and soar 400 to 1,000 feet above the valley floor.

Monument Valley was formed due to erosion. Small sediments formed a basin for millions of years that eventually became a plateau. Finally, water and wind removed parts of the plateau, creating surrounding mesas, buttes, and desert environments. So, it truly is one of the world’s natural wonders and an iconic symbol of the American West.

Monument Valley with the American flag.

How To Get To Monument Valley

Monument Valley is located on the border between Utah and Arizona near the Four Corners area. So, it’s worth adding this point to the road trip itinerary. It lies within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation and is accessible by car from U.S. Highway 163.

It is worth considering a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for the Monument Valley scenic drive. If you have to rent a car, we recommend Alamo, which we have used for years. However, if you know how to drive, a regular car should be good enough most of the time.

Distances to nearby cities and attractions:

  • Four Corners Monument – 105 miles
  • Page, Arizona – 125 miles
  • Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) – 180 miles
  • Kanab, Utah – 195 miles

So, if you’re visiting from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s about 3-4 hour drive. If you are going from Page, where you can see Horseshoe Bend and famous Navajo slot canyons like Antelope Canyon X, Lower Antelope, or Upper Antelope, it’s about a 2-3 hours drive to get to Monument Valley. From Kanab, it is about 3 hours.

The closest international airport to Monument Valley is in Las Vegas. So, if you are going from Las Vegas to Monument Valley, it will take you 6.5 – 7 hours.

However, if you prefer not to drive from LV, you can buy this 3-day tour to Monument Valley from Las Vegas. Furthermore, it is one of the best trips from Vegas because you will also visit Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Route 66.

Closest international airports to Monument Valley:

  • Las Vegas – 400 miles
  • Phoenix – 320 miles
  • Salt Lake City – 380 miles
Forest Gump Point after sunset.

Visiting Monument Valley – Weather

What is the best time to visit Monument Valley? The weather is pretty mild in the winter, making it a perfect year-round travel destination. Below, we have prepared charts with the average highest and lowest temperatures in Monument Valley and average rainfall.

Peak Season is from May to September, and the off-season is from October to April. In our opinion, the best time to visit Monument Valley is during the off-season. You will avoid crowds. But remember to always check the weather before you go. The road may be impassable after rainfall.

Visiting Monument Valley – Entrance Fee & Visitor Center

Remember that Monument Valley is not a National Park; hence, you cannot use your National Parks Pass. It is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park, and you must accept their rules. So, the Monument Valley entrance fee is $35 per vehicle (up to four people and $6 for each additional passenger).

You can pay for entry when you get to the Park, or you can buy a ticket online.

Monument Valley Visitor Center

The Monument Valley Visitor Center is one mile east of U.S. Highway 163 on the Arizona-Utah border. Monument Valley Visitor Center’s hours of operation are as follows:

  • April 1 – September 30 (Peak Season): 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., 7 days a week
  • October 1 – March 30 (Off Season): 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days a week
  • The Visitor Center is CLOSED on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
our rented van on the road during sunset with rock formations in Monument Valley in the backdrop.

Monument Valley Ruls

It is the visitor’s responsibility to know and obey Navajo rules in the Park. So, the most important rules are:

  • drones are prohibited,
  • rock climbing is not allowed,
  • do not desecrate Navajo lands,
  • firewood gathering is prohibited,
  • campfires are permitted only at designated campsites and fire sites,
  • permits are required for camping, hunting, fishing or investigative projects,
  • the Navajo ask prior consent before photographing them or their property,
  • commercial photography requires a permit from the Navajo Film and Media Commission.
deserted plants in Monument Valley during sunset.

Where To Stay when Visiting Monument Valley?

If you can stay overnight in Monument Valley to admire the sunset or sunrise, it is worth booking lodging in advance. Below are some of the most interesting and best hotels and RV campsites in the Monument Valley area.

Monument Valley Hotels

Goulding’s Lodge ($$$) offers an excellent location in Monument Valley. Also, the view is soul-inspiring. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, along with free WiFi, which is not easy to find in this area. The resort has an indoor pool and a tour desk.

Kayenta Monument Valley Inn ($$$) is located around 24 miles from Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Kayenta. And it takes around 35-40 minutes to get to the park. Book it here. Styled in dark wood furnishings, each Kayenta Monument Valley Inn room includes a flat-screen TV and a seating area. It offers free Wi-Fi and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool. Furthermore, the Wagon Wheel Restaurant provides on-site dining. Classic American dishes inspired by Native American cuisine are provided daily at Valley Inn Kayenta Monument.

Wetherill Inn ($$) motel is in Kayenta, 40 minutes drive from Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Each room includes free WiFi. It offers an indoor heated pool and laundry facilities.

Kokopelli Inn ($) is located in Bluff, 48 miles from Monument Valley. Each air-conditioned room at Kokopelli Inn Bluff has a flat-screen satellite TV, a small refrigerator, and coffee-making facilities. Finally, it is a great option if you are looking for budget accommodation.

The View Hotel ($$$) is owned by a local Navajo Tribe Woman named Armanda Ortega. Fully-furnished valley rim cabins offer a unique way to experience Monument Valley. It is the only hotel inside the Monument Valley Tribal Park. Every guestroom has a private balcony with a view of the iconic formations of Monument Valley.

Monument Valley Campground

Goulding’s Monument Valley Campground & RV Park is the best place to stay overnight if you travel in RV or with a tent. It offers 66 full hookup sites and 100 tent sites. There is WiFi at Park, restroom, showers, and laundry. The views are spectacular.

sunset tour and sunset hike among Monument Valley formations and deserted trees.

Things To Do in Monument Valley

Admire Monument Valley Sunrise and Sunset

The best idea is to stay overnight in Monument Valley to admire the sunrise and sunset. Due to the park’s opening hours (the same as the Visitor Center), it can be difficult to take a sunset or sunrise photo without staying overnight.

However, an organized sunset or sunrise tour, is worth considering because you will get access to the best photo spots.

So, during a 3-hour Sunrise Tour, you will admire the glowing sunrise across the landscape, then enjoy a ride through the valley to learn about the natural landmarks of this incredible location. During the 3-Hour Sunset Tour, you can enjoy the moment and experience the magic of the changing colors and famous rock formations.

Monument Valley during sunset tour.

Take a Monument Valley Scenic Drive

Driving across the Monument Valley Scenic Drive is the best way to explore the incredible landscapes of Monument Valley. The road is dirty and rough. But it is only 17 miles, so do not hesitate to take this drive. It might be challenging to do it after rain.

You need at least 2 – 4 hours to do Monument Valley Scenic Drive with stops and photos. When you enter the Park, you will get a Monument Valley map with marked the most exciting points.

If you do not have experience in driving on such rough and bumpy terrain, check out the organized 4×4 tour. Trips are not expensive, and you will see the whole park safely. Furthermore, you will learn interesting history about the Navajo Indians’ land and rock formations.

Elephant Butte rock formation.

Visiting Monument Valley – Take Photos During Scenic Drive

The Monument Valley self-guided tour loop is around 17 miles. So, the best idea is to visit the 11 main viewpoints during your trip. They are:

  • The Mittens and Merrick Butte. The most famous rock formations of Monument Valley – The East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte you will see just when you start your Monument Valley Scenic Drive. They rise 6500 feet above the vast plains.
  • Elephant Butte is a rock formation in the shape of an elephant sitting on desert sand.
  • Three Sisters is three high pinnacles that recall the figure of a teacher and two students.
  • John Fords’ Point is a must-see if you are a fan of western movies. Film director John Ford brought Monument Valley to the big screen in 1939 within “Stagecoach” with Jone Wayne. Since then, Monument Valley has become one of the most filmed locations.
  • Camel Butte looks like a camel lying in the desert. However, you must use more imagination to see this shape.
  • The Hub has a unique, solitary needle shape and rises 164 feet above the ground.
  • Totem Pole & Yei Bi Chei is a group of needles called Yei Bi Chei (Navajo spiritual gods) and Totem Pole.
  • Sand Springs: formation of different red-orange dunes.
  • Artist’s Point it is the best viewpoint to photograph Monument Valley at dawn.
  • North Window opens like a window to the north so you can see East Mitten Butte between Elephant Butte and Cly Butte.
  • The Thumb is the last point of interest in the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. The rock formations look like a thumb. However, some say it like a cowboy boot.

TRIP TIP: For more inspiration with the most exciting places in Arizona, check out our Arizona Photography & Travel Guide!!!

Thee Sisters rock formations.

Visiting Monument Valley – Take a Hunts Mesa Tour

Hunts Mesa is accessible only with a Navajo-guided tour. Hunts Mesa is a hidden jewel of the South West. This place offers incredible photographic opportunities, from grand vistas and panoramas to unique vantage points of Monument Valley. However, this is not a cheap tour, but worth considering.

On this exceptional all-day tour, you will capture both sunset and sunrise from a unique place in Monument Valley. Furthermore, you can achieve dramatic views of Monument Valley from atop Hunts Mesa with a vantage point 1,600 feet above the valley floor.

Visiting Monument Valley – Hiking the Wildcat Trail

If you have two-three hours, extra time, consider the Wildcat Trail. It is the only trail in the Park that is free and accessible to tourists without an organized trip. Its length is only 3.7 miles loop with elevation gains up to 656 feet. It is a moderate hike. The trail starts near the Visitors Center.

Visiting Monument Valley – Stop at Forrest Gump Point on the Highway 163

Have you seen the Forrest Gump movie with significant Tom’ Hanks role from 1994? Or maybe you have read a novel by Winston Groom on which the script of the film was based?

There is a famous scene in a film shot on Highway 163 to Monument Valley when Forrest Gump stopped running. So, you can stop at the exact point where Forrest Gump stopped running through the United States.

This stop takes place at mile 13 of Federal Route 163; the GPS coordinates are 37.101393, -109.990973. This is just a 20-minute drive from the Visitor Center.

Agnes Stabinska, the author, is standing in cowboy boots and hat at the Forrest Gump Point on the Highway 163 on the way to Monument Valley.

Monument Valley Movies

First of all, at least 99 feature films were shot in Monument Valley. It’s worth seeing a few of them to get inspired by movie scenes before visiting Monument Valley. The truth is, that Monument Valley is one of the most recognizable landscapes in the United States. John Ford initiated a movie location and put his films there.

John Ford’s first western, whose action took place in the valley landscape, was Stagecoach shot in 1939. The film marked the beginning of John Wayne’s great career. Furthermore, Ford made classic westerns in Monument Valley such as The Searchers, Fort Apache, and How the West Was Won. Finally, despite the absence of any river here, most shot the film the Rio Grande here.

Sergio Leone in Once Upon a Time in the West also used the Navajo Nation landmark as a backdrop for filming in 1968. Furthermore, Once Upon a Time in the West was the first of the “spaghetti Westerns” to be filmed outside Europe, with Ennio Morricone music.

Typically, these projects were shot in Spain or Italy. But Leone was set on honoring Ford. In addition to Ford’s films, Monument Valley was the scene of such famous films as Easy Rider, Mackenna’s Gold, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Eiger Sanction, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Back to the Future Part III. Finally, the 2013 version of The Lone Ranger.


  1. You had me at seeing a glimpse of the Old West in your opening paragraph! I’ve traveled so much, and have never done anything like this in my own country, and I’m kind of ashamed. Living in NYC, it’s amazing to me that this much open space exists. I really need to make this a trip once this COVID19 business is over. I love indigenous cultures and would love to take the Navajo guided tour. 

  2. Monument Valley was on our list when we visited this area.  But we just ran out of time to see it all.  I love that view of the rock monuments standing all alone on the plains.  That red rock is such a draw for us.  Too bad our National Park pass does not cover this!  Sunrise and sunset surely are a magical time to visit.  Maybe we will try the Wildcat Trail on a return visit.  A great reason to go back.

  3. Monument Valley looks amazingly beautiful! We’re going to Page later this year, so we will definitely have to check it out! Thank you for the recommendation on taking a sunrise/sunset tour. I can’t imagine how gorgeous it is! 

  4. Prior to the pandemic week, we did our road trip to some dry places here in Australia. Although not as beautiful as Monument Valley however, I could get the gist of the place.. and the dry weather. It is fascinating to see those red dry mountains, that look like skyscraper buildings afar.

  5. The Monument Valley looks absolutely fantastic. Those towering rocks are so photogenic  that I’d grab my camera right away and go there. I like how you shared everything we need to know, from getting there to tours and even graphs with everything. Thank you for sharing this with us. 

  6. I love Monument Valley and you captured it beautifully. Clearly we need to go back and do tours like Hunts Mesa tour and hike the wildcat trail. A suggestion for your lodging section, we’d highly recommend Monument Valley Tipi Village for the chance to have a contextual stay in a native dwelling, including the Navajo hogan, plus they have regular campsites and RV sites so good for all types of travelers.

  7. You have seriously triggered my wanderlust! This looks like an amazing place to visit and the photos are truly making me just jump on a plane and get over there. It found it funny about the amount of time it would take to do various things around there. For me, it would definitely take double the time, as I like to stop and take tons of photos, when driving around. I would absolutely love to stay at The View Hotel. It looks so cozy and intimate and the views are breathtaking. Monument Valley is now definitely going on my list of places to visit in a lifetime!

  8. It is hard to believe that these are natural formations. We have a few in Ladakh and I remember being mesmerised by them. Am sure the monument valley will dazzle me. Did not realize that it can be done from the Grand Canyon. I should include that into my plans. Good advice on what are the dos and don’ts in the park. Helps one to travel in a more responsible manner. 

  9. Dying to visit here! I’ve seen so many posts about this area lately and think it’s a sign to make a trip out there ASAP. This post is so helpful and detailed. Also your photos are spectacular btw! I think growing up in the east coats, this part of the USA has always interested me since the landscape is so different. Thanks for noting about the 4×4 tour, that’s something I would like to add to my itinerary!

  10. Monument Valley is gorgeous! I drove through it on an Arizona road trip a few years ago. I didn’t explore it as well as you did, but it is certainly a destination. All of Arizona is simply stunning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *