Monument Valley Navajo Reservation © Mike Koopsen
You may not have ever heard of Monument Valley, but you are likely to recognize it when you see it. Monument Valley has been the setting for more western movies than any other place. It was the site of famous run by Forrest Gump. Well-know movie director John Ford himself made ten movies with Monument Valley being the primary iconic backdrop. Among his best known are Stagecoach, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, and How The West Was Won.
There were many other films that had major segments filmed at Monument Valley. Like Easy Rider, National Lampoon's Vacation, Back To The Future and The Lone Ranger. Besides movies, Monument Valley has been used as the back drop for many commercials. No other attraction is quite like the wide open natural beauty of Monument Valley with its widely-spaced red rock monoliths spread over almost 92,000 acres.
There is a 17-mile unpaved dirt road that snakes through the Tribal Park with views of the most famous of its landmark icons. Tourists are not permitted to go off the road without a special guide. The "View Hotel" is located inside the Navajo Nations park featuring astounding views that are simply jaw-dropping at sunrise and sunset. Shop the Native American souvenir stands that sell authentic handmade crafts by Navajo artisans. Note that alcohol is not permitted anywhere on the Navajo Reservation.
As you tour Monument Valley, you may notice that many of the inhabitants still use horses as their main form of transportation. There are several weather-beaten trailers and archaic mud earthen hogans that are several generations old. Entire families live in the mound homes absent of running water and electricity. Many families still herd sheep, cook outside, create authentic handmade crafts and jewelry. They are very happy people but live in poverty. Never take their photos without asking their permission and giving them a monetary tip. They will appreciate that.
How Monument Valley Was Formed
Monument Valley is not really a valley at all. Millions upon millions ago it was an ancient sea bed. As the sea slowly receded and dried, it became a desolate land of differing types of layers relatively soft sandstone. Over millions of years, exposure to extreme weather, winds, forces of water, and other climate conditions, erosion of the softer portions of sandstone were carved away leaving the harder layers of sandstone still standing as towering monoliths, spires, buttes, and formations some of which stand 1,000 feet tall.
Navajo Cowboy at John Ford Point
History of Monument Valley
Ancient civilizations occupied the Monument Valley and extended areas for thousands of years including Paleo-Indian Hunters followed by Archaic Hunter-Gatherers and the Anasazi who lived in Monument Valley for over a thousand years. They abandoned the area in about 1300. The Anasazi are likely the ancestors of the Navajo Indians who have lived in Monument Valley since before Columbus landed in the Americas.
The Navajo Nation considers Monument Valley a sacred place. Navajo Indians deem Monument Valley as a sanctuary for nature and spirit. ManyNavajo families have lived in Monument Valley for generations. There are still 10-12 families that live in its back country and still adhere to style of dress, traditions, and cultures that have been handed-down over many centuries. They still herd sheep, ride horses, make handmade Navajo blankets and design authentic jewelry.
Weather, Climate and Temperatures in Monument Valley
Summer high temperatures range from the upper 80s to the low 90s and the nights are ideally cool. The most most comfortable temperatures are late April and May with highs in the mid-60s to mid-70s. June warms to average high temperatures in the mid 80s. Since the Valley elevation rangesfrom 5,000 to 6,000 feet across the vast territory, the winter months can be very cold with high temperatures in the 40s dropping to low in the mid-25s. It does snow in the winter but the spires, buttes, and mesas are beautiful when dusted in snow. Summers are dry, but the rainy season is generally during September and October.
Where Monument Valley is Located
Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park located on the vast Navajo Indian Reservation. It straddles the northeast border of Arizona with the southeast corner of Utah. It spans over 92,000 acres of sheer natural beauty and enticement. The largest portion of the Park attractions are on the Arizona side. An almost limitless number of tall spires, monoliths, buttes and mesas are spread through out the Navajo Nation Tribal Park.
There is a 17-mile unpaved dirt road that snakes and loops through the Park with views of the most famous of the landmark icons. Tourists are not permitted to go off the road without a special guide. The "View Hotel" is located inside the park featuring astounding views that are simply jaw-dropping at sunrise and sunset. There are many Native American souvenir stands selling authentic handmade crafts by Navajo artisans. Note that alcohol is not permitted on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Monument Valley is located about 150 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, a 180 mile drive from Sedona, and 300 miles from the Phoenix and Scottsdale area depending upon departure point.
Monument Valley Lodging and Accommodations
The View Hotel is located inside the Park. Goulding Lodge and Trading Post is but a few miles from the Park, Here you will find a restaurant serving authentic Indian Fry Bread. Other visitor services are available including tour operators that are approved as off-road guides.