Monument Valley State Park Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Monument Valley State Park

  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Artist's Point - beyond imagination !!

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    And now Artists Point - one of the most awesome vistas within the park !! The panorama from here is terrific - almost out of this world. The flat valley gives room for the famous buttes and rock formation as if they would emerge from the ground.

    No need to say more but just enjoy the picture - and immerse in imagination and your own thoughts and dreams.
    On the picture: from left to right: Merrick Butte, background Mitchell Mesa and Sentinel Mesa, Big Indian, East Mitten Butte, and Castle Rock and Bear and Rabbit in the back.

    at Artist's Point at Artist's Point at Artist's Point at Artist's Point at Artist's Point
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    Get on a guided tour & see more beauties

    by Trekki Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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).

    inside Central Valley inside Central Valley inside Central Valley
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    Visitor Center

    by Trekki Updated Jan 7, 2006

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    If you are visiting Monument Valley Tribal Park, please try and not do it in a rush, but plan minimum 1 day (including 1 overnight stay). Only this will allow you to breath in this incredible beauty of the land and the landscape.

    Prior to entering the park, please check the Visitor center, which is located at the entrance. You can learn a lot about what you are going to see ! Even though I have visited Monument Valley 3 times over the last years, I always found something new and interesting shown there.
    You can also learn about the historic geological formation of Monument Valley area, how the buttes have been shaped, and also about the culture and the traditions of Navajo Nation.
    Here you can arrange your tours, either on horseback or on 4WD with the guides.
    Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter)

    The picture is West Mitten Butte, on a cloudy day with sunlight and shadows on it.

    West Mitten Butte - from Visitor Center
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    The North Window - full of magic views

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    North Window is another famous stop where in summer time you most probably feel like in a sardin bin. From here you have a terrific view to the rock formations in the northern part of Monument Valley - seen through a "window" formed or framed by Elephant Butte and Cly Butte.

    Depending on where you stand, you can see Bringham's Throne, King on his Throne, Castle Rock, Bear and Rabbit, Stagecoach - as in my picture.

    North Window serenity North Window serenity North Window serenity
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    Explore the beauties on horseback

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    Still, Valley Drive doesn't show you the whole and hidden beauty of the landscape. That's why I recommend to book a horseback tour. Depending on the length (they are available as 1, 2, 4 hours, whole day and even longer trips), you will have a lifetime experience. Before I went on my first horseback tour there, I wanted to have that "John Wayne" feeling - but it's just more than that. On my first tour, they took me around the East Mitten and Merrick Butte, we came very close to their bottoms, and it was such a tremendous feeling of my life being just nothing compared to the majestic landmarks there.

    There are several options for booking horseback rides, I always did it with the guys at Oljato Trading Post Tours , close to Gouldings.
    Phone: (435) 727-3210
    Email: e-mail: oljatotp@hotmail.com

    On the picture (from left): West Mitten Butte, then Big Chief, Bringham?s Throne, King on his Throne, Castle Rock.

    tranquility landscape on horseback tranquility landscape on horseback
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    one word please - about the guided tours

    by Trekki Updated Jan 7, 2006

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    One word about the guided tours: during my research for my pages here, I have often read about complaints on the prices and complaints on the fact that it is not allowed to to exploring of Monument Valley on it’s own, except the Valley Drive.

    Please don’t complain about all this.
    Please keep in mind that Monument Valley is not only a spot for visitors, but primarily a land on which Navajo still live their lifes as shepherds or weavers or silversmiths or whatever they do for life. From that point of view it is understandable (or should be) that Navajo Nation has restricted a huge part of the area only to guided tours. They allow us to visit their backyards – and this is the difference to US National Parks.

    Thanks for considering !

    inside the valley
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  • frank_delargy's Profile Photo

    Visit Gouldings Museum & Trading Post

    by frank_delargy Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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.

    view from the museum
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    Loop road through the valley

    by frank_delargy Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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.

    West & East Mitten Butte and Merrick B
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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Spearhead Mesa - and another one :-)

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    After getting back on the road again, you'll pass Spearehead Mesa (left or east) with a funny rock formation on it's southern side - the Beer Stein. It's on the picture on the left hand side.

    Cheers :-)

    Spearhead Mesa - and the Beer Stein :-)
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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Valley Drive

    by toonsarah Written Mar 18, 2010

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    Whether you opt to take a tour as we did, or to drive yourself, the 17 mile Valley Drive will take you through the centre of the park and past its most famous sights. There are 11 main stops in the route, although several of these overlooks give you views of the same formations but from different sides. I think Monument Valley must have got a lot busier since our visit, as I’ve read that there can even be queues at some of these overlooks. We saw relatively few people, even visiting on a summer afternoon, but nowadays an early start would be advisable if you want to experience the vastness of this landscape in an appropriate atmosphere.

    The best of the overlooks are:
    ~ The Mittens and Merrick Butte, as seen from Lookout Point at the start of the drive (see separate tip)
    ~ Elephant Butte, high, sheer-sided block of sandstone which despite its name does not look very much like an elephant.
    ~ The Three Sisters, a group of thin pinnacles, the eroded remnants of a narrow ridge extending southwards from one corner of Mitchell Mesa.
    ~ John Ford's Point, down a short spur road – this rocky outcrop provides another of the iconic views of Monument Valley and is named after the film director who shot several classic Westerns here. Apparently this is one of the spots that has become over-crowded since our visit, with tour buses, a gift shop and locals with horses anticipating a tip in return for posing for a photo. Nevertheless, it’s a must-see sight for film buffs in particular.
    ~ Camel Butte, another formation that looks very little like its animal namesake.
    ~ Totem Pole and Yei Bi Che, the former a single pinnacle and the latter a small group of spires. These formations are about a mile distant from this spot but you can get closer to them if on a tour – see my separate tip.
    ~ Artist's Point, from where you can look back at Merrick Butte, East Mitten and several of the other formations from their other side. It’s another popular spot, although not as busy as John Ford’s Point.
    ~ North Window, a gap between the edges of Elephant Butte and Cly Butte which frames East Mitten Butte, 3 miles to the north – see my separate tip.
    ~ the Thumb, a rounded pinnacle at the eastern tip of Camel Butte.

    Valley Drive passing West Mitten at its start
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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    In the footsteps of John Ford

    by Trekki Updated Jan 7, 2006

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    John Ford, Hollywood's famous pioneer in western movie making, worked a lot in Monument Valley.

    Famous movies include "Stagecoach" (the first in 1938), "My Darling Clementine" (1946), "She wore a yellow ribbon"(1949), "Fort Apache" (1948), "The Searchers"(1956), and much more:

    . Kit Carson-1940
    · Billy the Kid-1941
    · How the West Was Won-1962
    · Mackenna's Gold-1969
    · The Trial of Billy Jack-1974
    · The Eiger Sanction-1975
    · The Ledgend of the Lone Ranger-1981
    · Back to the Future II and III-1983/91
    · Forrest Gump-1993
    · Tall Tales-1993
    · Lightning Jack-1994
    · Waiting to Exhale-1995

    There is a view, given his name - John Ford View Point - almost as if you are sitting in a cinema - the famous setting live around you.

    John Ford View - and Merrick Butte John Ford View - and Merrick Butte John Ford View - and Merrick Butte and my sis
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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    an Elephant - inmidst of Monument Valley ?

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    Next stop is on your left (east) hand side to see Elephant Butte. It's a long mesa-like rock, and the "elephant" is to the north - as on the picture.

    See his big ears (his left one better visible) and his huge tusk (also his left one better visible) ?

    the Elephant
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    Raingod Mesa and The Hawk

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    Raingod Mesa is the 70 m high plateau, around which the valley drive leads you next. It's a sacred place, ceremonies have been performed here to pray for rain. Also, it contains a sacred burial ground.

    A very interesting rock formation is seen on it?s southern part - a hawk, sitting on a rock and waiting for his next flight to catch some food :-)

    Can you see it ? If not, please click on the second pic here :-)

    the Hawk the Hawk Raingod Mesa - another perspective
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    The Yei Bi Chei Dancers

    by Trekki Updated Mar 30, 2006

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    Next to Totem Pole are the Yei Bi Chei. This formation got it's name from the masked dancers which represent the gods of Navajo Nation. They are part of one of the important Navajo ceremonies, called The Nightway Chant, which is a 9 day (and night) ceremony, held in winter times for curing and healing of a chronic illness. Yei Bi Cheis appear in the seventh and ninth night of this Chant.

    However - to get closer to Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei - as well as to the famous sand dunes here - it's recommended to book a guided tour. The self-guided tour does not allow this.

    Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
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  • frank_delargy's Profile Photo

    Stop at John's Ford's view

    by frank_delargy Written Oct 21, 2004

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    I guess this was named after John Ford, because he loved it so much. John Ford made a lot of movies here in Monument Valley. Stagecoach, starring John' the Duke' Wayne, being probably the most famous.
    It is a great place to stop for a while and if you are with someone else, have them take your picture on the cliff in the foreground.

    me on the cliff in the foreground
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