Julie United States 92 Comments

With sandstone buttes, colossal mesas, and panoramic vistas, Monument Valley is one of the USA’s iconic landscapes.

Sure, it’s possible to drive right through Monument Valley, visiting the main sites in just two or three hours, but if you really want to explore it, consider spending at least one day here. We were surprised at how much there is to do in Monument Valley. There are even quick excursions and scenic drives in the nearby area, if you are looking for even more activities to fill your time.

Important Update:  Monument Valley reopened on July 12 with some restrictions. Get full details on the restrictions here.

What is Monument Valley?

Located on the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is part of the Colorado Plateau. It is not officially a National Park since it sits within the Navajo Nation Reservation. Most of the area that is visited by tourists is called the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Until the 1930’s, Monument Valley was an obscure, seldom visited location. The only ones who really aware of the beauty of this place were the Navajo Indians who lived on the land. It wasn’t until John Ford featured this landscape in his well-known films (including Stagecoach and Rio Grande) that Monument Valley began to experience some popularity.

Now, Monument Valley has been featured in a large number of popular movies, including Forrest Gump, National Lampoons Vacation, Mission: Impossible II, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the new HBO series Westworld.

Monument Valley Desert

How to Get to Monument Valley

Monument Valley isn’t close to anything, which is why it stayed off the radar for so long. The closest airport is in Flagstaff, 176 miles away. However, to fly into this airport, you usually have to change planes in Phoenix, which does not save you any time.

Distances to Nearby Airports:
  • Phoenix – 320 miles
  • Albuquerque – 324 miles
  • Las Vegas – 400 miles
  • Salt Lake City – 380 miles

We flew into Phoenix and then drove to Monument Valley, which took about 5 hours.

Distances to Nearby Cities and National Parks
  • Four Corners Monument – 105 miles
  • Page, Arizona – 125 miles
  • Grand Canyon (South Rim) – 180 miles

Access to the Monument Valley Tribal Park is on US-163 just north of the Utah-Arizona border. It costs $20 per vehicle (up to four people) to enter the park. Once you pay this fee, you can come and go as often as you like.

Best Things to do in Monument Valley

Tribal Park Loop

This 17-mile loop, also referred to as the Valley Drive, is a scenic drive past some of the most popular sites in Monument Valley. It is a dirt and gravel road that starts and ends at the Monument Valley Visitor Center.

You can self-drive this loop. A 4×4 is not necessary; cars can drive this road without any real difficulty. It’s a bumpy, dusty road with a very low speed limit, but that’s OK, you want to take your time and enjoy the views.

The Mittens and the Valley Drive dirt road.

The Mittens

Please note: if it rains, this road can become impassable, even if you have four-wheel drive.

This is the only part of Monument Valley you can visit without taking a tour. To go off the Valley Drive and explore further, you must schedule a tour with one of the many companies.

Here are some photos of what to expect on the drive.

West Mitten Butte

West Mitten Butte

Three Sisters


John Ford’s Point

John Fords Point


Another view of John Ford’s point.

John Ford Point

Navajo Flag


If you only have a few hours to spare, your time is best spent driving the Valley Drive. Tours to places like Mystery Valley and Teardrop Arch are fantastic, but I think you would be missing out on something if you skipped John Ford’s Point or the Mittens.

Hike the Wildcat Trail

This is the only self-guided hike that you can do in Monument Valley. All other hikes must be done with a guide. This hike is a 3.2 mile loop that circles around the Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. Click here to learn more.

Take a Tour of Monument Valley

There are many options for tours depending on your interests. If you want, you can start the day at sunrise and go all the way to sunset.

The Valley Drive on a Tour

You can take a tour on the Valley Drive with a Navajo guide. This tour takes you to all of the same sites you would see on your own, however, you do it with a guide and in their vehicle. This is best for people who do not feel comfortable self-driving the dirt road or for those who just want to sit back and relax and enjoy the views.

Lower Monument Valley

There is a second loop that veers off of the Valley Drive. This is only accessible by tour. This tour takes you up close to the Totem Pole and past other rock formations and mesas you would miss if you only did the Valley Drive.

We took a sunrise Lower Monument Valley tour and had a great experience. Even in late April temperatures were cold and of course, it’s a very early start to the day, but it was awesome watching the sunrise in Monument Valley.

Monument Valley Sunrise

Prices average around $80 per person (depending on the tour company) and last 3 hours. Photography tours (usually offered at sunrise or sunset cost substantially more, about $125+ per person).

Mystery Valley

This is a very popular tour that takes visitors on a three-hour excursion to see petroglyphs and Anasazi sites. It’s more of a cultural experience than a panoramic, scenic experience.

Prices average around $90 per person (depending on the tour company) and last 3 to 4 hours.

Teardrop Arch

This is an unpopular, off-the-beaten-path tour. Which is exactly why we did it. Was it worth it? For us, absolutely. We were able to do a little hiking, explored caves, and got one of the most unique views of Monument Valley.

Teardrop Arch Earth Trekkers

It’s not for everyone, especially if you are short on time, but we recommend it if you want a little adventure or like to get away from it all.

Read more about our experience: Is Teardrop Arch Worth It?

Prices average around $80 per person and last 2 to 3 hours.

Hunt’s Mesa

The ultimate excursion in Monument Valley is the day trip (with an optional overnight stay) on Hunt’s Mesa. Pricing out around $300 per person, this was too expensive for our budget. But what you get are unbelievable sunset views over Monument Valley and a steak dinner cooked over a campfire. It’s a long excursion, lasting about 7 hours, and most of that time is spent driving over rugged terrain. It sounds awesome and we strongly considered it, but the price tag was too high. But if you are looking for an adventure and the best view of Monument Valley, put Hunt’s Mesa on your list.

How to Choose a Tour Company

There are at least ten reputable companies offering tours in Monument Valley. We use Trip Advisor to pick not only tour companies but also accommodations and restaurants. Take a look at the reviews on Trip Advisor and then visit the company’s website for pricing and full details on their tours.

We used:

Quick Excursions from Monument Valley

If you have a little extra time and want to explore farther, here are some ideas for you. By the way, just driving down the road here is packed with stunning views. This really is a beautiful part of the USA.

Forrest Gump Point

Located on US-163, the famous view of Monument Valley featured in the movie Forrest Gump is not to be missed. GPS coordinates: 37.101393, -109.990973.

This is just a 20-minute drive from the Visitor Center. This spot draws lots of visitors, so have patience when trying to take your photo without anyone else in your way.

Tim Rivenbark

What to expect at Forrest Gump Point

Forrest Gump Point

Forrest Gump

PRO TRAVEL TIP:  The best time for photography is in the morning, midday, and early afternoon. In the late afternoon and early evening, you will be facing the sun. This creates a terrible sun glare. We have been to Monument Valley twice. On our second visit, at the end of December, we were staring directly into the sun and we were here at 4 pm. Our photos were terrible. The photos that you see above were taken in the early afternoon in May.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods features a landscape similar to Monument Valley. It may not be quite as spectacular, but it also has much less tourist traffic. If you like scenic drives and want to leave the crowds behind, put this spot on your list.

Valley of the Gods

Mexican Hat

This rock formation is named for its Mexican Sombrero-like appearance. You can see it from US-163 on the drive to the Valley of the Gods. If you want, you can hike up onto the formation.

Mexican Hat

Goosenecks State Park

For a view of the San Juan River snaking through a canyon, visit Goosenecks State Park. Imagine two Horseshoe Bends right next to one another! You will pay a $5 entry fee and it is a short drive to the viewpoint.

Moki Dugway and Muley Point

This short but scenic drive is located very close to Valley of the Gods. Moki Dugway is an unpaved road that is carved into the cliffs, offering stunning views over Utah and Valley of the Gods. If you are doing well on time, once on top of Moki Dugway, take Muley Point Road to the end for more spectacular views.

How Much Time do You Need?

Since it takes about three hours to get to Monument Valley from almost anywhere else in the vicinity, it helps to stay overnight, at least one night. This gives you the opportunity to do a sunrise and/or sunset tour if you desire.

The must-do activities are the Valley Drive and the view from Forrest Gump Point. In my opinion, doing at least one tour is worthwhile because it lets you experience more of Monument Valley.

However, if you are short on time, you can do the Valley Drive, taking just a few hours of your time, if you are on a road trip through the area.

How We Planned Our Time

Day 1 – We drove from Phoenix, Arizona. In Kayenta we stopped for lunch at Amigo Café. We spent the afternoon visiting Forrest Gump Point, the Valley of the Gods, and Mexican Hat. We ate dinner at Goulding’s Stagecoach Dining Room and then watched as the sunset over the Mittens.

Day 2 – Up very early for a cold but beautiful sunrise photography tour of Lower Monument Valley. After a late breakfast, we checked out of our cabin and spent the mid-part of the day driving the Valley Drive. In the afternoon we took the three-hour tour of Teardrop Arch. Then we drove west to Page, Arizona.

When to Go

The best time to go to Monument Valley is during the spring and autumn months, when temperatures are pleasant. During the summer, it can be very hot. Plus, this is when the Valley gets to be more crowded as many people are here during their summer vacations. In the winter, it does get very cold and it can snow here. That would be a sight to see!

Where to Stay in Monument Valley

There are not a lot of options in the nearby area.

The View Hotel

Located in the Monument Valley Tribal Park, The View Hotel offers several types of accommodations. The priciest option are the hotel rooms, all which offer a view over Monument Valley. The higher the floor, the more you will pay, but you will also get the best view.

The Premium Cabins. These are relatively new. These cabins overlook the Mittens and some have better views than others. We stayed in a cabin (in the front row) and loved it. We had a deck with a great view and we could lie in bed and look out at West Mitten Butte. The cabins are surprising clean and warm (it got down into the low 30’s during our visit).

The View Hotel Cabins


View from our cabin

View from our cabin

Cabin View

Camping. There is a campground and RV parking. This is the cheapest option. The campground is located between the cabins and the hotel and the view is out to the Mittens. This is also a popular spot to watch sunrise and sunset.

Monument Valley Sunset

Goulding’s Lodge and Campground

Located just outside of the Monument Valley Tribal Park, Goulding’s Lodge offers rooms with a view and a campground. They also operate one of the only restaurants in the area.

Firetree B&B is a B&B located in Monument Valley that gets good reviews (you sleep in a Hogan). The next closest towns are Kayenta and Mexican Hat.

Where to Eat in Monument Valley

This is not a place you visit for the food. Expect overpriced, mediocre food in and around Monument Valley.

Goulding’s Stagecoach Dining Room. We ate dinner here one night. Entrees cost about $25 but the food is very mediocre. Tim and I dined on salads, which were nothing special, but they were a fraction of the cost of an entrée.

The View Restaurant. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Like Goulding’s Lodge, their prices are on the expensive side and the food is average. However, we did eat breakfast here after our sunrise photography tour, and we thought the food was pretty good.

Amigo Café. This restaurant is located in Kayenta, a half hour drive from the Visitor Center. This is a cozy restaurant with a local feel that serves Mexican and Navajo food. I ordered the Navajo Taco, which was enormous. This is enough food for two adults. Navajo fry bread is similar to funnel cake or doughnut dough, although it is not sweet. It’s delicious! On top of the fry bread were beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese and onions. If you don’t mind the drive, consider making the trip down to Amigo Café. Ray, one of our guides, also recommends the Blue Coffee Pot in Kayenta.

Amigo Cafe

Articles about Monument Valley

Do you have any other questions or comments? Leave them in the comment section below.

See all of our articles about Arizona in our Arizona Travel Guide.

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Monument Valley Complete Guide


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All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

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Comments 92

  1. Spouse has extreme physical limitations. As such, we most probably can not avail ourselves of any guided tours and will have to do the self tour. In an effort to be well informed and proactive to his needs, may I please ask if you know whether there is cell phone coverage/access in this area should we need assistance? Also, could you please tell me if there are any handicapped accessible bathroom facilities on this self guided tour route? Thank you for any guidance you may be able to provide. I do appreciate it.

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      If I remember correctly, cellular service is spotty in Monument Valley so I don’t recommend depending on it. However, if you self-drive the Tribal Valley Loop, you will not be alone. Should you need assistance, there will be many other visitors driving this road as well as tour companies. You should be able to ask someone for help should you need it. There are no handicap bathrooms along the Tribal Valley Loop that I am aware of. Your best option is to use the bathrooms inside The View Hotel. Cheers, Julie

  2. Thank you so much for all this wonderful information and beautiful pictures. We are planning our vacation to UT/AZ this summer and planning an over night at Monument Valley. All your information was very helpful in planning our trip there. Just made a hotel reservation. I can’t wait to go. I hope it is open by then.

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    2. Cynthia –
      Where did you make a hotel reservation? I can’t find one that will take bookings unless everything I am looking at is full and it just doesn’t show.

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        Using the link to the View Hotel on this website, I was able to reserve a cabin on May 12 (I just randomly picked a date and got as far as putting in my credit card info). I had no issues but the website was lagging a bit, especially when bringing up available room types. Maybe it is worth trying again? Good luck! Cheers, Julie

        1. Gouldings Resort in Monument Valley is open and offers alternative tours.
          I’m really surprised and disappointed at the same time about the review of Gouldings. Gouldings Stagecoach Restaurant pricing is below moab’s and Page restaurant pricing.
          Due to covid19 menu has been reduced but the famous Navajo taco plus the chef’s specials are listed daily.
          Gouldings is the only essential center for Monument Valley. It is a major tax support for the Navajo Nation and the state of Utah. Not many companies are dual text but due to the area this company is. With the tourism that arrives to Gouldings it helps support the school’s, the roads and healthcare.
          Gouldings Resort is private property and offers full amenities such as pools, private hiking trails and much more.
          Gouldings tours are also UDOT certified and Navajo tour guide.
          This location is the original and historical site which Mr Goulding bought John Ford to Monument Valley.
          Gouldings Resort lodge, villas, luxury homes are priced below surrounding area. Happy travels. I hope this helps.

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            Thanks for sharing this. I know that a lot of people want to visit the Monument Valley area so this is an alternative way for them to do so. Cheers, Julie

  3. Your description of Monument Valley is wonderful. We have reservation at Goulding’s Lodge October 10 & 11, and just learned the Navaho Nation Tribal Park is closed! The visitors center is closed, and you can’t do the Tribal Park Loop or the Wildcat Trail, and the tour companies aren’t operating! Is there anything else to do around Monument Valley that you could suggest? We’re driving there from Zion. We’ll do a day trip to Bryce while we’re at Zion. Thanks for any suggestions.

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      You can go up through Mexican Hat, see the Goosenecks State Park, and drive through Valley of the Gods. There is also a really cool mountain pass you can drive, the Moki Dugway (we have not done it yet…didn’t know about it the two times we have been to Monument Valley, unfortunately). I think that all of these places should be open. Cheers, Julie

  4. Hi. We’re hoping to plan a trip next summer. Initially just some National Parks, Zion, Arches and Canyon lands. Been to Bryce already. Some one suggested Monument Valley. After Utah, heading to California. Where do you suggest we place Monument Valley? Before or after the parks before we head to California? Also would like to see the Four Corners. Any other surrounding national parks you can suggest. Been to The Grand Canyon.

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      If you start in Moab, you can see Arches and Canyonlands. Drive east into Colorado. Visit Grand Canyon of the Gunnison, drive through Ouray and Silverton to Mesa Verde National Park. Then do Four Corners and Monument Valley. From Monument Valley, you can drive to Page, see Horsehoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, then continue to Zion. Drive to Las Vegas and see the Valley of Fire on the way. Then drive to California. Death Valley is awesome but in the summer can be sweltering. It’s a long but amazing road trip. We just did Colorado a few weeks ago and this fall will be publishing all kinds of content, so keep checking back. Let us know if you have any more questions! Cheers, Julie

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      Hello Lilia. I recommend contacting the tour companies in Monument Valley, to see if they are offering tours. We have 2 links in this article to the tour companies that we used and you can also do a search on Trip Advisor for companies with the best ratings. Cheers, Julie

      1. Hello Julie; I was looking through your reviews and photos, very informative. However, according to the Navajo Nation website all of their parks are currently closed, including Monument Valley. I called the reservation /park phone #’s for MV with no answer. Hoping they open for the 4th of July weekend.

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  5. We will like to visit between June 15th to June 20th, rent one of the cabins, 2 persons. arriving by car.

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      Hello Ricardo. You should make your reservation with the View Hotel (there is a link near the end of this post). We are a travel blog, not the official website for the hotel. I hope you have a great trip to Monument Valley! Cheers, Julie

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  6. Hi!
    Thank you so much for the information. I am considering a drive up to Monument Valley to catch the sunrise. Do you happen to know if the valley is accessible to non-tour vehicles before sunrise?

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  7. My dad and I would like to visit this area. He is elderly and not as mobile as he used to be, or as much as he thinks he is any more. Are there any easy walking trails to rock formations or vistas that he could make without difficulty ? Thank you very much.

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      There is a some great viewpoints near the hotel that are very easy to walk to (the cover photo for this post was taken near the View Hotel, a very short walk from the main parking lot). You can drive the Tribal loop and he should be able to handle the walk to John Ford’s point. Taking a tour of Lower Monument Valley is worth it and there is not a whole lot of walking involved with this. Cheers, Julie

  8. Thank you so much for this site! I live in Mesa, AZ, and a friend of mine is coming out from Houston in a couple of weeks to stay in a timeshare she and her husband have in Pinetop, AZ. She wants me to come with her on the trip, so I will be driving my 2015 Toyota Prius. It’s too early yet to know the weather forecast for that area, but we are hoping the weather will be good enough for us to go up to Monument Valley. You mentioned that you were there once in December. Can you recommend the best short tour at this time of year that will allow us to really see the valley well, but also give us time to get back to Pinetop that evening, or more likely, travel east to Durango? Thank you!

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      I would recommend taking a tour that combines the Valley Drive with Lower Monument Valley. Navajo Spirit Guides have a 3 hour tour that visits the highlights of Monument Valley. This is probably the best tour for you. On their website, they don’t list the specific places that they visit, but you could inquire more on their contact page. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

  9. Hi Julie my husband and I recently took a trip to the midwest. I was having a very difficult time trying to put together an itinerary that would let us enjoy this area in the winter. Your blog was such a life saver. It let me put together the most memorable trip we have ever had. Thank you so much for everything you do. You rock.

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  10. Please everyone know that even though it’s a national monument, the trail loop(self drive) is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas day, and New Years Day, Four Corners monument is also!

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      Yes, we have walked out to John Ford’s Point both times we have visited Monument Valley, and these were both self-drive tours. Cheers, Julie

  11. Hi,

    First off thank you for all the valuable information you are providing in this site. A quick question. Did you do the Wildcat Trial? if yes, how long did it take and is it worth it? what is your take on this trial?

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  12. I love the guide to Monument Valley…we will be coming from he Grand Canyon. Is there any way we can get a PDF of the presentation?

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      Hello Nancy. We don’t have a PDF available, but it’s possible to print this. I use Google Chrome. Go to File -> Print -> Open PDF in preview -> and then you can print it or save it. It will be a long document since it might have ads but that’s the best way that I know how to do it. Cheers, Julie

  13. Thank you for a great article. Based on your recommendations alone, we booked a Teardrop Arch tour with Navajo Spirit Tours and it was amazing. My 7- and 12-year-olds loved it and our guide was incredible. It was one of the highlights of our 7-day drive around the Four Corners area.

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  14. Thank you for the great article! I am also planning to fly into Phoenix and rent a car from there to drive to Monument Valley and do self-driving along the 17 miles Valley Drive. Though, I have read that rental car companies usually stated in their contract that the use of vehicle on unpaved roads is prohibited. Is there any car rental company in Phoenix that allows the use of their vehicle on dirt and gravel road like the 17 miles Valley Drive?

    If I take Lower Monument Valley guided tour, how much of the 17 miles Valley Drive will be covered during the Lower Monument Valley tour? If I am unable to drive a rental car on the 17 miles loop would it be worth it to go on two separate guided tours, Valley Drive and Lower Monument Valley tours? Or are most of the highlights on the 17 miles Valley Drive will be covered during Lower Monument Valley tour?

    Thank you!

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      The rules can vary for each rental company. I would look over the terms and conditions closely. You could also speak directly to the rental car company. There is a difference between unpaved roads and going off-road. In the last car we rented, which was for Wyoming and Montana with Hertz, I could not take the car off-road but I could drive the car on unpaved roads. When we did the Lower Monument Valley sunrise tour, we drove through a big chunk of the Valley Drive. We couldn’t stop and get out to take photos, but you do get to see some of the highlights. If for some reason you can’t get a rental car that you can take on the Valley Drive, I think it would be worth taking separate tour of the 17 mile loop. Many people like to have their photo taken at John Ford’s point, one of the most iconic spots in Monument Valley, and this would give you that opportunity. Cheers, Julie

      1. Julie, Thank you again for your great tips to make so many peoples’ trips so much better. On the driving loops, are vehicles allowed to stop. If so, is there a restriction on how long you can stop? I know there are safety concerns for stopping, but if you want to stop several times to take pictures is that okay? I am not talking about stopping to hike or have a picnic, but a few minutes to breathe in the sights and take a few good pictures.. .. .. Again, many thanks

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          Yes, you can definitely get out and take photos along the Tribal Loop Road. In some places, there are designated parking lots (such as for John Ford’s point). If you see something along the way that you want to photograph, simply pull over to the side of the road and take your photo. Traffic moves very slowly on this road (10 to 15 mph) and many people stop for photos, so it’s OK to do the same. It’s not like driving through Yellowstone or other national parks, where traffic moves 35 to 45 mph, and pulling onto the shoulder for a photograph would be disruptive or dangerous. I hope you have a great visit to Monument Valley! Cheers, Julie

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