One of the grandest – and most photographed – landmarks in the United States, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a sprawling, sandy preserve that spans the border between Arizona and Utah, bathing the region in rich red hues. Dominated by crimson mesas and surreal sandstone towers – some as tall as 1, 000 feet – the area is also known for dramatic, mesmerizing lighting, with the sun illuminating the towers and casting long shadows on the valley floor.
Located inside the Navajo Nation – one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States – Monument Valley is around four hours northeast of Flagstaff, near the Four Corners area.
History & Nature
Now part of the Colorado Plateau, Monument Valley was once a simple flat basin. Over millions of years, layers of sediment piled onto the basin, which was eventually uplifted by pressure from below. Then, wind and water slowly eroded the plateau, leaving Cutler Red siltstone and its sand behind, forming the wonders of Monument Valley that we enjoy today.
As a representation of the Arizona Old West, Monument Valley has been a favorite shooting location for Hollywood filmmakers since the early days of the frontier genre – starting with Stagecoach, in which John Wayne rides horseback across the region. Today, Monument Valley is still a popular backdrop for films and postcards – as well as the ancestral home of the Navajo people, who still reside here today as part of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the United States.
Things to Do
Start your visit at the Visitor Center, located north of Kayenta, off of US 163. From here, take in the panoramic view of the world-famous Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. You’ll also find information on self-guided tours, a restaurant with native Navajo cuisine and a gift shop. Guided jeep tours led by Navajo tour operators are also available at the center – giving you the best view available of some of the most notable landmarks in Monument Valley.
On your way out, stop along the roadside – around one mile from the visitor center – for a glimpse into Navajo culture from the many Native vendors selling arts, crafts, Navajo food and souvenirs.
Hotels, Lodging & Camping
Located in the eastern portion of Northern Arizona, there are plenty of places to stay near Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. For hotels, Page – three hours away – and Kayenta – one hour away – offer plenty of options.
Inside the park, the View Hotel offers rooms with a perfect view of the Mitten Buttes and much more – but you’ll need to book a room well in advance. Camping is also available at Mitten View Campground, offering perhaps the best view from any campsite in Arizona. Contact the park for more information.