The brisk march of progress passed right by Monument Valley. Which is great, because in places like this, “progress” has nothing to offer. The southeast corner of Utah looks about like it did 300 years ago, which looked like it did 3,000 years ago: vast, wild and sunbaked, with deep canyons and towering buttes variegating the desert plane. Read more...
You’ll see the sky, bigger and bluer than you remembered. You’ll see the earth, red, rough and unpredictable. And you won’t see anything else. Monument Valley is what wind and water can make with enough time and creative license. Stand stranded at its center, struck by astounding simplicity. It will never happen again.
Where Is Monument Valley?
Good question. Maps aren’t exactly all-caps-ing its name. And part of part of Monument Valley’s charm is its remoteness, about 60 miles west of the zero-dimensional Utah–New Mexico border on Highway 163. (You should probably go ahead and check Four Corners off your bucket list while you’re in the neighborhood.)
There’s a tiny little town with a lodge, camping, outfitters and a few restaurants. Some comfy hotels are located nearby. The visitor center is open seven days a week.
May to September: 6:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
October to April: 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
What do Do
A 14-mile graded dirt road will show you around most of the major monuments (The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Totem Pole, Yei Bi Chai, Ear of the Wind), and Navajo guides can lead you deeper, into Mystery Valley, Hunts Mesa and more. A handful of outfits will show you through the area on horseback, just the way people have been exploring it for hundreds of years. Book early for peak season.
A dozen hikes (mostly easy with a few that get tricky) lead to natural bridges and a wealth of Anasazi ruins.
History & Culture
The earliest people to mark the area were the Anasazi, or Ancestral Puebloans, who settled in around 1200 BCE. Their art and building structures remain, hinting at an ancient resourcefulness that found promise in a foreboding desert.
The Navajo culture took root centuries before Spaniards entered the area in 1581, and 250,000 of their descendants still live on the 16-million-acre Navajo Nation. Monument Valley is a window into their culture. Explore their history, their way of life, their cuisine and their art. You can even take a little home in the form of handmade jewelry or a dyed wool rug.
Monument Valley captured a larger audience’s attention via director John Ford’s Westerns. Beginning with 1939’s Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, Ford’s many happy returns to Monument Valley, Utah, shaped how much of the outside world pictures the American West.
Monument Valley isn't a national park. It's not even a national monument. But it's as American as it gets.