For a Portuguese, used to have everything close to his door, driving those many hundred kilometers along the desert would be hard work, not holidays. That's why, saving some money in Las Vegas, we made it by air, with great advantages. It's expensive? Maybe. But... it was our casino.
We booked from Portugal a Scenic Airlines 2 overnight flight from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon,with a return flight from there to Monument Valley. And everything went perfectly, with no rush or lost time, only the rain hampering a little.
We had a great time in Monument Valley with Roy Black's Tours.
We arranged for a 2 1/2 hour tour, via email from the UK, but after finding that we had more time to do the Valley Drive than we originally thought we changed plans and went for the half day tour instead.
Brenda, our Navajo guide, was excellent and I can recommend taking a tour with this firm.
An unpaved but reasonably well-maintained 17 mile road winds through the valley, and it is perfectly possible to drive it in your own car, even if not a 4WD. But we were very conscious of the exemption clause in the insurance cover of our hire car, which would be invalidated if we were to take it off the paved road at any point. So we opted for one of the tours offered by the local Navajo guides. Not being keen on being shepherded round in a crowd, we were pleased to find that we were the only ones on the tour, and our guide, John, was excellent, so we were very happy with our choice.
One benefit of taking such a tour is that you are able to go off the road to formations that can’t be seen from it, whereas driving your own car you have to stick to the main track. John also showed us the different shrubs and herbs and described their traditional uses in medicine and cooking. We stopped at one point to visit a traditional Navajo hogan, the home of one of his cousins, which I found very interesting, but the highlight of our afternoon was a stop at a dramatic towering red formation (see photo) a little way from the main route where John sat on a rock and sang. The sound of the traditional Navajo chant echoing from the cliff above was one of the most memorable moments of our trip.
Though I was a little hesitant to drive our brand new Dodge Caravan along the unpaved dirt roads through Monument Valley, it wasn't that bad. The van was a little reddish, instead of white, but otherwise none the worse for wear. Hans took his time maneuvering around the bad parts, but did a great job. I understand that they want to keep things as natural as possible, but The Natives could at least grade it once in a while.
The Valley drive is a 17-mile unpaved dirt road (you will be given a road map of the different views - 11 all together). Low clearance vehicles and RV's that are 25 feet plus, is not recommended. Stay on designated routes. Signs are posted for roads that you can not access. Drive safe and enjoy this magnificent park.
We wanted to be able to see the rock formations more personal. You can see the road from the top up by the main entrance parking lot. We asked if the road condition was good because of all the rain we were having. They hand you a map at the gate, but I would print out from the web sites. As it turned out there were areas that had pools and was really muddy, we managed just fine even in our little toyota. Although the surface is unpaved, only large RVs and low clearance cars should not make the journey.
The drive is 17 miles long of which 13 miles is a one-way loop, and typical times for the full trip are 2 to 4 hours. 15 mph is a good speed. Some places are too rocky and bumpy to go any faster, though other sections are quite smooth (with a surface of hard pressed sand), and up to 40 mph is possible. The road can become very busy during summer days, with queues at the major overlooks; early morning is the preferred time to visit as the light is better for photography and there are far fewer people than later in the day.
Opening hours are 6 am - 8.30 pm (May - Sep)
8 am - 4.30 pm (Oct - Apr).
A trip so well worth it!!
Monument Valley is on most people's itineraries who travel through the Southwest but it is still very much out-of-the-way in all other respects, on the Arizona/Utah border. We were traveling around the US for the summer and had spent nearly seven weeks in the Southwest so not likely we would have passed it up. We arrived here from even more remote Canyon de Chelly National Monument which is about 130 miles and a 2.5 hour drive. It is 150 miles and nearly 3 hours to Arches National Park in Utah and another 3 hours and 160 miles to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. It is over 400 miles and 7 hours to Las Vegas. While roads are scenic, the scenery can get boringly flat at points if you've been driving in the area for an extended time.
The entrance fee for Monument Valley is $5 per person. I am not exactly sure how long that allows you to stay in the park but my guess is 24 hours. That's okay, you can pretty much do everything in the park in that time period, at least what you can do on your own. If you have deep pockets and can afford to hire Navajo guides to drive you around, take you on a horse back ride, and do some overnight hiking, you could spend considerably more time. Of course, you would pay about $500 per person for the privilege to do all these things.
There is even talk of closing the Valley Drive to anyone but tour operators. They say the road is getting deteriorated due to high car volume. If this were the case, they could have a park run bus that was included in the entrance fee as they do in many National Parks. It would cover the cost of the fuel, driver, and maintenance, rather than the extortionate prices that are now charged. A family of 4 has to pay around $150.
They make it very clear that it is not a National Park and no park passes are accepted. America the Beautiful Passes are not valid.
Do not use Scenic Airlines if you want a scenic flight to and over Monument Valley and Grand Canyon.
The description provided by Scenic Airlines and third party company to me was that we would fly over the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. Neither occurred. I guess you could say we "scenic" from a distance. Huge let down considering the cost. We left the GC airport late and then landed at the wrong airstrip. This cut into at least an hour of the ground tour provided by a different company (Gouldings, which I do recommend). Gouldings requested an extension of time but it was denied by Scenic Airlines. We didn't even get to see their gift shop. Also I wrote Scenic Airlines a letter of concern, but did not hear back from them (which shows bad customer service). Another aggravating thing was the narration on the flight was the same info both ways. I would suggest finding another airline or drive to MV.
This is a map of my roundtrip through the USA. For my roundtrip was only one possibility : the car! I travelled a lot of miles, but the roads are very good. Touring around in Monument Valley itself was a bumpy ride though, and the endresult was a dusty red car :-) If you don't want this to happen, you can take a guided tour through the valley as well.
If you are heading out toward this part of the country and will rent a car, I recommend that you rent a 4WD and take advantage of getting off the beaten path more than once.
We rented an Aztec from budget and it allowed us to go just that little further away from the the crowd and follow our instincts down dirt and rock roads that we would never have managed in a Taurus or Corolla.
Dont move arround by your own car!!Take a jeep ride! You might think, the jeeps are very old, and you are right, but it´s the only way to be satisfied. And it is one way for the indians to earn money.
Although most of the park is in Arizona, the area code is Utah. The park is 24 miles north of Kayenta near the state line. You make a right just after the Welcome to Utah sign (coming from the south). There's a bunch of stands here where the Navajo sell their crafts. A four mile paved road leads to the Visitor Center and campground. There is an incredible view from here. From the visitor center, a rough unpaved road covers 17 miles of stunning valley views. You can drive it in your own vehicle (ordinary cars can just get by) or you can take a tour.
Go there by car, or you can do it the Forrest Gump way; just start running!!
There is only one main road, US 163, which links Kayenta, AZ with US 181 in Utah. The stretch approaching the AZ/UT border from the north is the most famous image of the valley, and possibly of the whole Southwest - a long straight empty road leads across flat desert towards the 1,000 foot high stark red cliffs on the horizon, curving away just in front. The highway cuts through the mesas at Monument Pass, near which several dirt tracks leave both east and west and criss-cross the red sandy landscape, offering a more close up appreciation of the rock formations.
Monument valley can be reached from two directions - north and south. There is no public service in what is navajo tribal land, for visitors anyway.