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
Waiting for our first glimpse of the sun. It would have been nice to have some clouds today.
First rays of sunlight
Totem Pole and sand ripples
Ear of the Wind
Our tour group
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!!
Related: Our Travel Photography Gear Guide
Our Tour Company
We used Phillips’ Photography Tours for several reasons. Number one, they have stellar reviews on Trip Advisor. Number two, they offer different prices for the photography tour. Photographers pay $125 each and non-photographers pay $80 each. In this case, I was the photographer and Tim was the non-photographer. So we paid a grand total of $205. Other tour companies charge the higher price for two people, whether or not they are both photographing the sunrise (which would have cost us about $250 total). So, if you are traveling as a group of two or more, but not everyone is planning to photograph the sunrise, Phillips’ Photography may be more economical.
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.
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.
Here is more information for your trip to Monument Valley:
- The Ultimate Guide to Monument Valley
- Is Teardrop Arch in Monument Valley Worth It?
- 10 Days in the American Southwest: The Ultimate Road Trip
- Should You Visit Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon?
- Valley of the Gods: Off-the-Beaten Path in Utah
Have you been to Monument Valley? What was your favorite experience?