Trail accessible by car but you must drive slowly. The most difficult place to drive is the beginning of the trail, the scenic drive is 17 miles.
Also envisage a car wash because it will be repainted in red with the dust.☼☼
Avoid the track the following days of rain.
Imagination and the need to identify specific points in natural ambiance lead people to give a name to any odd formation. Three thin rocks got the name of "The Three Sisters".
OK for me.
But imagination never ends, and we may keep on saying, for instance that the younger one is not very healthy, forcing her sisters to protect her, or anything that you want.
(If you are more than 18) - A Latin man would, probably, use his imagination in another direction: Why not "The Dream of the Warrior"? The feet of a man, sleeping behind the hill, and dreaming with his beautiful Indian princess...?
Each rock, each trail, each natural incident has its name and history. You may go in search of detail, therefore needing a couple of days, or, as most of us do, just have a general look and feel the place.
The strength of the emotional revival hurts you immediately upon arrival.
After that, it's only, a different rock, a different look, a different angle, and more dust.
There is possibility of horseback riding, it's stupid but we had no time to try it. On site there was a Navajo family who was selling some necklaces and bracelets. These people were very nice and the father asked us to teach him a few words in French to speak with future French tourists. :-)
Dineh Trail Rides has 32 horses and offers everything from 30-minute to overnight tours, its located on the valley floor at milepost 5 near the Three Sisters formation.
Rates: $45 to $195.
The visitor center fits in perfectly into the landscape. There is a very nice souvenir shop inside. Some items are authentically Navajo but many are made in China. There is a big price difference.
It's impossible to visit the west, without coming back with a feeling of admiration for the Indians' capacity to survive in such a territory.
I read that they charged too much for the visit, and maybe they do (my costs were included in the flying package), but... my God! They deserve it!
In the wide areas of the valley, contrasting with the very discreet houses, two small complexes dominate business: the visitor center, where crafts are sold in the air-conditioned, and Goulding's Trading Post.
Here, a small museum stands beside the restaurant, displaying the old life in the trading posts.
The most popular formationss in the park are the "mittens", so called for its resemblance to gloves only with separation of the thomb. They are seen from the visitor centre, but the inevitable guided tour will lead you along a dirty road, with a navajo explaining you the obvious, and, with luck, the not so obvious.
Starting at the Visitor Center within the tribal park, there is a 17-mile loop road with 11 scenic stops. You'll be given a map with your entrance pass that details where the stops are and what landmarks you'll be looking at.
The road is unpaved, bumpy and very dusty: you'll want to keep your windows rolled up. You also won't be making tracks, and I wouldn't recommend taking large RVs on it. Allow a couple of hours to do the drive and stop at all of the landmarks.
There are guided, narrated vehicle tours available at the Visitor's Center and Goulding's Lodge so if wanting more information/history than what the brochure has to offer, sign up one of these or do some reading beforehand. Be aware that most of tour vehicles are open-sided and you're going to eat a LOT of dust. Guided hiking and horseback tours are also available.
There are no concessions or comfort stations along the route so obtain any water of snacks you might need at the Visitor's Center, and have little ones visit the "loo" before setting off. There is a restaurant at the Visitor Center that's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Park hours are 6:00 AM - 8:30 PM May - Sept., and 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM Oct - April. See website for entry fees and holiday closures.
Side note: There are a number of Navajo craft booths set up beside the road leading into the park. Stop for a gander of the jewelry, pottery and other handmade items if you have some time.
The Indians from the Navajo tribe are the custodians of the Monument Valley not because of some formal appointment by the big white chief but by the virtue of being there for quite a while. What is most intriguing is the fact that they have managed to adapt to a new tourism-related reality and make a living out of it without being brushed aside by the more “superior” whites as opposed to the sad example of Australia’s aborigines in the vicinity of Ayer’s Rock. The Navajo have even plunged into big business with the construction of The View Hotel right in the middle of the “property” which must have caused a few high brows. The fact is that they are totally in control of the modern enterprise and at the same the majority continue to stick to the old traditional ways of living on the land. And with what a great view at that! The hogans or their old dwellings are still around if not for the curious to see at least for some ceremonial purposes. The new trailer-looking homes are scattered throughout the valley in a haphazard stile reminding the visitor of their nomadic past.
Monument valley has been promoted by the movie industry so there is one thing to do before anything else – act as a cowboy. The most appropriate place is a location called John Ford’s point due to the fact that this famous director made a whole bunch of movies here and probably most of the shots were taken exactly on this spot. The local Navajo being congenital businessmen, have organized a little stable right there ready to offer you a horse for pictures with the magical background. Even if this is going to be a first ever horse mount there is nothing to worry about. The horses are docile and accustomed to been played with by strangers plus there are the handlers who are helping with the mount as well. The whole atmosphere is uplifting, stimulating and shoving your imagination into overdrive.
As mentioned earlier, if you have time, it’s highly recommended to book yourself on a guided tour. This will allow you to get much deeper into the landscape, and also learn much more from the native guides as you could ever learn from books or websites !
There are several possibilities, as for the horseback rides, you can book short trips up to 1 day trips. Depending on the time you allow for a trip, you can either get into Central Valley (where you see those fascinating carvings such as Sun’s Eye and Ear of the Wind), or into Mystery Valley, which holds another treasures like arches and bridges for you, as well as ancient ruins. Hunt’s Mesa is another option, and Eastern Monument Valley as well.
Going on a guided tour, you will lean so much about Navajo life, about their culture, their homes, the hogans (how they are built, why it is two types, why they face east), their love to their land, how they see their land. They will teach you the plants, their meaning, their role in traditional curing, the sacred mountains (and make you understand why you should not climb on the rocks).
And you even might get different points of views about things in general, in your life. My experience on these tours was always giving me so much rewards and special memories, changed perceptions, that I would again and again book one.
My guided tours, I always did with Totem Pole Tours , but I have found another one in the www, which sounds appealing as well - Kéyah Hózhóní Tours (please check out their website – it’s worth, as it is very much appealingly done). Operator Tom Phillips seems to know much about photography – so he will know the best spots and time during the day. And, surprisingly, they offer german guided tours as well :-)
My main picture is deep in the Central Valley, where also some interesting rock formations can be found (in the foreground).
You can drive this or you can go on a tour, which for the most part looked like sitting in the back of a pickup truck.
I usually (always) prefer to do my own driving, which gives me the option of stopping when I want and staying as long as I want and of course, leaving the car to explore on foot.
The drive starts at the visitors center which is run by the local Navajo. It is worth stopping at the center to check out the view as you walk up to the wall.
This borders on a tourist trap and parts of it really are, HOWEVER, it is one sure-fire way to get a deeper understanding of the history of Monument Valley. We were fortunate in that we got into a lengthy conversation with the Navajo woman who is in the gift shop / museum about the whole local scene. It was a wonderful insight into Navajo politics and preferences. The proceeds from the museum do go toward college scholarships for the Navajo kids from the valley, so I encourage donating what you can.
The museum has exhibits on the Navajo as well as the movie making in the valley. It also is a good way to understand the story of the Gouldings who went to the valley to trade with the Navajo and were instrumental in bringing Hollywood there.
How will it be possible that a place where we had never been, so far from home, so different from our natural landscapes suddenly seems so familiar?
"Movies", is the answer.
That's the greatest attraction of the park: being physically backed to our memories built by John Ford and other giants.
And then, enjoying the dusty landscape.