I looked at the map. Monument Valley was so far away from our planned route… I thought – there is no option, we can’t make it. With just one click I deleted this point from our road trip schedule, carefully kept in Excel. And then Michal came: When are we gonna take our Monument Valley tour? What? Are we not going? I may not go to San Francisco, but this place we must visit! And me, as a good wife, I agreed with this idea in the end. It means nothing that we had to drive additional 8 hours in total. It’s nothing that due to lack of hotels in this area, we had to pay $ 170 per room. It even didn’t bother me to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch up with entire planned route. It’s totally worth it.
HOW TO PLAN YOUR MONUMENT VALLEY TOUR?
Monument Valley, on Utah and Arizona border, is a bit off the beaten track. The most popular tourists’ routes on US west coast lead mainly through California and Nevada. There aren’t so many tourists here as in the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park. Accommodation options are quite limited – on the way from the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley we passed by only 5 small towns! To help you imagine how isolated it is, let me tell this story.
We left the Grand Canyon after sunset, as one of the last cars on the parking, heading for our Monument Valley tour. After some time, a car appeared, driving all the time behind us. We turned left – he turned left, we turned right – he turned right. This time, exceptionally (wow!) I didn’t make up any suspicious theory. In the end, we decided to go to the gas station – the car behind us too. We stopped, then the other driver approached us. Hey, maybe you are going to Page? Sorry, I’ve been following you, but I have no idea where I am and where to go, I lost my coverage 3 hours ago, GPS is lost as well. Unfortunately, we drove to Kayenta, To Dínéeshzheem, as Navajo tribe calls this town.
IN THE LAND OF NAVAJO NATION
I never liked watching movies about the Wild West. However, I was a big fan of novels about Winnetou (yes, I know, he was the Apache). The whole history of Native Americans, also its tragic part, always fascinated me. Monument Valley is located entirely within the Navajo Nation Reservation. Native Americans have been living here for hundreds of years. Even today, they hold religious ceremonies in this place, such as Squaw Dance, Feather Dance, Sacred Fire Dance… It sounds like magic. The thing which surprised me the most was that the Navajo men were a US secret weapon during World War II. They were involved in the messages coding in the native language, which due to the specific grammar and lack of dictionary, weren’t broken by Germany and Japan. Ronald Reagan named 14th August as Navajo Code Talkers Day. If you want to learn more, you should dine at Burger King in Kayenta… Yes – in this fast food restaurant you will find an interesting exhibition on the subject!
MONUMENT VALLEY – WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL?
It’s five square miles [13 square kilometers] have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West. These words of a critic, Keith Phipps, reflect the character of the place pretty well. Over 100 films were shot here, what is interesting – not only westerns but also movies such as Forrest Gump, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Transformers… and even Back to the Future III. Although the area of the park is 372 square km, the most picturesque part, in fact, occupies a rather small spot. Actually, the name is a bit misleading. This is not a valley but plateau, where erosion has created extraordinary forms of the sandstone. The most famous forms are steep, flat, vast hills aptly named butte. They have characteristic red color thanks to a large amount of iron oxide. Ok, so now let’s go…
OUR MONUMENT VALLEY TOUR
The entrance fee is $ 20 per vehicle. As this area belongs to the Navajo Nation Reservation, e.g. America the Beautiful Annual Pass doesn’t apply here. You have to pay anyway. There are few options how to explore Monument Valley: on horseback, with a Navajo guide or by our own car. We decided on the last possibility. 27-kilometer long gravel trail leads among the most famous rock formations. The entire route is very picturesque, but let’s face it – the most impressive place is famous John Ford point. In fact, a lot of people associate Monument Valley only with this director and many fans of westerns go on Monument Valley tour just to take a picture like this:
Crawling the entire route takes about 2-3 hours. But beware, this is not the end of attractions. Leaving the park, turn on 163-US towards Utah. After 15 minutes, slowly pull over, get off and admire. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Yes, you have just reached Forrest Gump point. It was here where a character played by Tom Hanks decided to stop his run throughout the States. So did we, we ended our trip in Monument Valley – and sped back to Arizona for the next adventure!
How much time do you need? Half day is enough.
How to get to Monument Valley? When coming from Arizona or Utah, you have only one option – 163-US. You certainly won’t miss Monuments!
Where to stay in Monument Valley? The best options are hotels and motels in Kayenta, we can recommend you Hampton Inn, it’s really cool. The other cheaper and fancy option is accommodation in a traditional Navajo tipi, but you have to book a lot in advance. Kayenta is the closest town to Monument Valley and you can quickly get there.
Where to eat in Monument Valley? Choice of restaurants in Kayenta is rather limited. We are ashamed to admit it, but we decided on “dining” at Burger King (oh, those onion rings …). The bonus is this exhibition I mentioned above 🙂
Fee: 20 $ per vehicle
INFO: Monument Valley
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