Julie United States 13 Comments

Are you considering a Monument Valley sunrise tour? If so, it is a great experience, but there are a few things to know before you go.

You Must Take a Tour

Monument Valley is located on the Utah-Arizona border not far from the Four Corners region. It is a Tribal Park owned and managed by the Navajo Nation. There is a 17-mile loop that you can drive that takes you to the main sights.

However, if you want to see more of Monument Valley, you must do so with a guide. Therefore, you can only venture off of the 17-mile loop if you take a tour. If you have the time, it is worth it to join a tour and explore further into the park.

A Monument Valley sunrise tour is a great option, especially if you are into photography.

It’s a Very Early Morning

Of course it is, since you will be watching the sunrise. The tour actually starts an hour and a half before sunrise, in order to get you to the first location well before the sun makes its first appearance of the day. We took the tour at the beginning of May and we met our guide at the Visitor Center at the very early hour of 5 am (sunrise was at 6:30 am).

Bring Warm Clothing

Don’t expect it to be warm, even during the summer. This is the desert so it can be chilly, if not downright cold, before the sun rises. It was 32°F when we took the tour. Nothing like starting the day cold and groggy! But it is worth it to get these photos.

Where Do You Go?

There are multiple tour companies and they can be flexible with the route, but most will take you on a three hour loop through the Monument Valley backcountry. Accessed from the 17-mile tourist loop, this tour takes you to the restricted access locations such as the Totem Pole, Ear of the Wind, and Suns Eye.

Photos of the Monument Valley Sunrise

Totem Pole Sunrise


Sunset Totem Pole

Waiting for our first glimpse of the sun. It would have been nice to have some clouds today.


Monument Valley Sunrise

First rays of sunlight


Ripples in the Sand

Totem Pole and sand ripples


Ear of the Wind Sunrise

Ear of the Wind


Ear of the Wind


Our Tour Group

Our tour group





Suns Eye in the morning

Suns Eye


Suns Eye Monument Valley


Mocassin Arch

Moccasin Arch

What to Bring

Bring your photography gear and don’t forget your tripod. That’s a must to get the most out of a sunrise tour.

Bring warm clothing. I wish I had brought gloves…my hands were freezing!!

Our Tour Company

We used Phillips’ Photography Tours because they get stellar reviews on Trip Advisor. 

Our guide was Ray. He was full of interesting stories and knew all of the best angles and locations to take the photos. If you need help, he can help you with camera settings and composing your shots.

On our tour there were only two other photographers, so we had a very small group. With only three of us taking photos, we were not in the way of each other like other groups were. We saw other tours with as many as ten people, all trying to get that same shot.

Photography Tour Monument Valley

Is it Worth It?

Yes, it’s worth it. We got to explore the backcountry of Monument Valley, watch as the sun rose over this iconic landscape, and now we have a nice collection of unique photographs. For photographers, a Monument Valley sunrise tour is must-do.

If getting up early is not your idea of fun while on vacation, consider taking a sunset tour instead.

More information for your trip to Monument Valley

MONUMENT VALLEY: Learn what there is to do and how to plan your visit in our Guide to Monument Valley. We also have an article on what it is like to hike to Teardrop Arch.

PETRIFIED FOREST: This small national park is an underrate gem. Plan your visit with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Petrified Forest National Park.

ANTELOPE CANYON: Journey through Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon in photos. If you only have time for one, don’t miss our article Should You Visit Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?

ARIZONA ITINERARY: If you have 10 days in Arizona, learn how to visit the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and Saguaro and Petrified Forest National Parks in one amazing road trip.

USA ROAD TRIPS: Planning your next big adventure in the USA? Check our our USA Road Trip Guide for travel ideas and sample itineraries.


Are you planning a trip to the United States? Read all of our articles about the USA in our United States Travel Guide.


Monument Valley at Sunrise


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Comments 13

  1. Avatar for Noemie
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      No, you don’t have to be a serious photographer to do the sunrise tour. You will definitely see some serious photographers, but this tour is a great way to see a part of Monument Valley only on a tour, and get to see it at sunrise. You can also do a similar tour later in the day, but these areas will be more crowded then, so keep that in mind. A sunrise tour is an all around great experience. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Henry

    Hi, your post is really helpful. I check Phillips’ Tour for the sunrise tour. It has different departure time from 4:30am to 6:00am. We plan to visit MV mid-August. Could you suggest which time slot is better? Thanks. Henry

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s a good question. When we did this, I don’t recall there being different times for the sunrise tours. Sunrise in Monument Valley will be 6:35 am in mid-August, which is the same as our visit in May. We met our guide at 5 am. Then it takes some time to drive out to the first photography location. So I am thinking that the 5 am or 5:30 am times would be ideal. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Henry
  3. Avatar for tom
  4. Avatar for Leena

    I am in the process of reserving tickets to Upper Antelope Canyon and saw your post re: Monument Valley. I just wanted to ask where did you stay near Monument valley so you could take the sunrise tour.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  5. Avatar for Amy Hickman
    Amy Hickman

    Hello! I am SO enjoying all of your posts. My family is heading to the Grand Canyon and the national parks in Utah in a few days. Your posts are SUPER helpful in helping us narrow down what we want to see and do and what is feasible with smallish children. I was wondering what you know about sunrise/sunset views in Monument Valley if you don’t do a tour. Are there places/viewpoints open to the public that don’t require the tour? Thanks in advance!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, there is a great viewpoint near the Visitor Center of Monument Valley. Between the road down to the Tribal Loop and the cabins is a very nice sunset viewpoint of the Mittens. Just park in the main parking lot and it’s a 2 minute walk to here. In our Ultimate Guide, if you scroll down towards the end of the post, you will see the sunset shot I’m referring to (it’s just above the title Goulding’s Lodge and Campground). I don’t know how great this same spot would be at sunrise (since we were on the sunrise tour at that time), but you could give it a try. Have a nice trip! Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Virginia

    From the moment you said you were going to Arizona/Utah I knew I was going to love your posts.
    For us, so far from the US, these places are magical. I am sure some day we’ll get to go 🙂 and when this day arrives, be prepared for all my questions!! :-):-)

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      1. Avatar for Karen McCarthy

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