Visit Monument Valley United States

Experience Monument Valley: The Scenic Star of Western Movies

by and - last updated on 7/2/2024

What films by John Ford were filmed at Monument Valley?

John Ford loved the iconic views in Monument Valley and filmed the following westerns there: Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, Sergeant Rutledge and Cheyenne Autumn.

Monument Valley is a stunning region located on the Arizona-Utah border, renowned for its sandstone buttes that rise dramatically from the desert floor. Its striking landscapes have been featured in numerous Western films, making it a favorite backdrop for filmmakers such as John Ford. Monument Valley has always been a place we've wanted to visit. My father adored Western films (and TV shows) and was a John Ford fan. We lived in Arizona for a time in the 1950s when my father was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. One year, we hopped into our car to make the trip to Monument Valley. My dad loved a road trip and was so excited, but unfortunately, he fell ill on the way, and we had to turn back. He never made it to Monument Valley, and during our recent trip, I kept thinking about how much he would have enjoyed the visit. We've since learned that not only John Ford movies were made there, but over 100 movies and TV shows have been filmed in this breathtaking landscape. Click here to take a look at the Wikipedia list of movies that have been filmed in Monument Valley.

Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park and is one of several Navajo Tribal Parks in the United States. In addition to Monument Valley, some of the other parks are Canyon de Chelly, Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, 4 Corners Navajo Tribal Park, and Little Colorado River Gorge.

Monument Valley is 5,564 feet above sea level and extends into Arizona and Utah and occupies 91,696 acres of land. Visitors can explore the valley via the 17-mile scenic drive, which offers breathtaking views of famous formations like the Mittens and Merrick Butte and, of course, John Ford Point.

 

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Discover the breathtaking beauty of Monument Valley, the iconic landscape featured in many classic western films. In this video, we provide all the essential information you need to plan your visit to this legendary destination. This video is the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.

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Getting to Monument Valley 

So, where is Monument Valley on a map? Getting to Monument Valley can be an adventure in itself, as it is located far from major airports, making it an ideal stop on a road trip rather than a single destination. The closest major airports are in Flagstaff, Arizona (180 miles away), and Albuquerque, New Mexico (325 miles away), both offering beautiful scenic drives through the Southwest. Smaller regional airports in Page, Arizona, and Cortez, Colorado, provide closer but less frequent flight options. Driving to Monument Valley allows travelers to experience the diverse landscapes of the American West, including the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and other Navajo Tribal Parks. The journey through the vast, open roads enhances the overall experience, making the arrival at Monument Valley's iconic sandstone buttes even more rewarding.

This was day 10 of our Southwest Road-Trip and we drove here from Farmington, NM on some roads that really need some TLC & attention! The route was only 164 miles, but U.S. Highway 64 and 160 are extremely rough in numerous sections. Once we turned north in Kayenta, AZ on U.S. Highway 163 we started making good progress and then ran into a series of construction zones that slowed us down quite a bit.

Click here to view a full size Google Map of the Monument Valley area.

What Does it Cost to Enter Monument Valley? 

The current entry Fee is $8 per person, per day. Permits are required for back-country hiking and camping or commercial filming and photography.

The park office hours and the scenic drive are open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM in the winter and from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM in the summertime.

For additional and to obtain the most current information, you should visit the Navajo Nation Park & Recreation Website.

When is the Best Time to Go To Monument Valley? 

The best time to visit Monument Valley is somewhat subjective, as it depends on individual preferences. However, the shoulder seasons of April/May and September/October are generally considered ideal times to visit. During these months, the weather is typically mild and pleasant, avoiding the extreme heat of summer and the chilly temperatures of winter. Additionally, the shoulder seasons tend to have fewer tourists. Visiting during these months can provide a perfect balance of favorable weather and smaller crowds.

Where Should I Stay When Visiting Monument Valley? 

Monument Valley is a remote area spanning Arizona and Utah with limited accommodation options. In the park, you could stay at the Monument Valley Navajo Hotel or Cabins also known as Monument Valley Cabins at the View. The View Hotel and the View Cabins, both offer unparalleled vistas right from your room. While these options are not inexpensive, you are paying for the breathtaking views, with sunsets and sunrises that are truly unmatched. The park also offers RV sites.

Outside of the park, Goulding’s Lodge and Goulding’s Villas, both considered 3-star hotels, receive good reviews and are less expensive alternatives, located just 4 miles from Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Goulding’s offers a restaurant, heated indoor pool, gym, and a seasonal sundeck. Campsites and RV parking are also available. If you prefer staying a bit farther away, the city of Kayenta, located south of Monument Valley, offers additional options such as the Hampton Inn, Kayenta Monument Valley Inn, and Wetherill Inn, all of which are more budget-friendly.

We stayed at The View Cabins. Our cabin was equipped with a queen-sized bed and two bunk beds in a small room off the main area. It had a microwave and a small refrigerator, but no dishes or utensils. We brought our own food but were caught off guard by the lack of kitchenware. Fortunately, we had our own knife, which allowed us to make do. The View Cabins also provided us with discounts at the gift shop — 10% off non-Navajo-made items and 20% off Navajo-made items. We purchased a blanket and appreciated the discount.

The rooms were clean and comfortable, but the best part of staying in the cabins was the view at sunrise. While the sunsets are beautiful, the sunrise was simply amazing.

Monument Valley Cabins at the View

Monument Valley View Hotel

How to Visit Monument Valley 

The primary activities at Monument Valley include driving the 17-mile loop tour or taking a guided tour of the 17-mile loop through one of the park's operators,

How long does it take to drive through Monument Valley? The 17-mile loop tour usually takes between 2 and 3 hours.

Can you drive the 17-mile loop tour in your own car? You can drive it in your own car, but be WARNED that it is a bumpy dirt road, and you should have some experience driving on that type of terrain. The bumpiest area is at the start of the drive, where a hill with many bumps and some rocks form high spots. The speed limit is 15 MPH but often you won’t be able to drive faster than 10 mph. We drove it in a Nissan Sentra and were okay, but I have some experience with this type of driving. The park indicates that you are driving the loop at your own risk. If you have concerns about the drive, consider taking one of the guided tours.

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 There are sections where you will need to maneuver your vehicle over large rocks, but if you are careful, you should not have any issues. If your vehicle does not have high clearance, ensure that your tires, not the center of your vehicle, cross the rocks you encounter. This method prevents damage to the underside of your vehicle, known as "high centering." In other words, do not straddle large rocks with your vehicle.

Monument valley Navajo tours - There are more than 20 tour operators listed on the Navajo Nations Parks website. The tours generally provide open vehicles that offer a more comfortable ride than you would get in your car and since you aren’t driving you will get to take in more of the scenery. They offer great views and detailed information about what you are seeing. These tours also take you to spots that self-drivers cannot access. Although not cheap, the tours provide more insight than you would get on your own and support the local tribes.

We attempted to schedule a tour online with one of the groups but had some difficulty because we waited until a day or two before and didn’t receive a response confirmation before our scheduled tour time. So, we drove it on our own. In our case, we were happy we drove because the winds were intense during our visit, which would have made an open vehicle tour chilly and uncomfortable. However, this is not the norm for Monument Valley, so don’t let that stop you from booking a tour in advance.

If you aren’t interested in the sunrise and sunset views, you could visit the park easily on your way to or from another location without spending the night. Staying two nights might be overkill unless you want a day of rest and plan to hang out by your hotel's pool, if it has one.

We wanted to be able to obtain imagery for the sunset & sunrise while we were in Monument Valley, so we rented a cabin from The View Hotel Premium Cabins. Our decision to rent a cabin was because the view from the front window into the valley was excellent and it faced east, which meant that our sunrise imagery could be taken from the cabin or the cabin's front porch.

For those of you who prefer more traditional accommodations, there is a hotel named "The View Hotel at Monument Valley" which has a dining room, a gift shop, etc.

Images from the 17 Mile Drive at Monument Valley 

The 17 mile drive does have some rules and restrictions. For example, pets and drones are not allowed, alcohol is prohibited, and rock climbing is NOT allowed on the scenic drive. The brochure that you receive upon entering will give you specific details.

We have repeated the list of rules from the Navajo Tribal Park brochure you receive when you pay the park entrance fee. See below to read the list, the scenic drive is patrolled by the park police.

Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
The Totem Pole
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
The Mittens
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
On The Drive
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
East Mitten
 
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
West Mitten Butte
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
Merrick Butte
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
John Ford Point
Explore Monument Valley, managed by the Navajo Nation, with an overview of the famous 17-mile drive, and reviews of The View Cabins and other nearby accommodations. Plan your visit with detailed maps, travel tips, and insights into this legendary destination.
Rain God Mesa

Take a look at the above picture with a caption of "The Totem Pole"; in 1974 that 640 foot rock structure appeared in the movie "The Eiger Sanction" where the main actors Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, and their climbing advisor Mike Hoover, climbed to the top of it to film some scenes that would be used in the movie to display the main characters performing a practice climb. Because this rock structure has religious significance for the Navajo Nation, the Navajo have not allowed any further climbing to take place since then.

Monument Valley has been used in various types of media; movies, TV shows & series, advertisements, etc. Click here to view a complete list of everything that has been filmed there.

Sunrise and Sunset at Monument Valley 

We stayed in the park primarily to enjoy the sunrise and sunset views, wanting to sit on our porch and take it all in. As we've gotten older, we've come to appreciate savoring every moment, letting the beauty of our surroundings sink into our consciousness and become a part of our memories and who we are. While we're not professional photographers, we do take a lot of pictures of our travels. Monument Valley’s stunning landscapes make every photo look like it was taken by a skilled photographer. With an average of about 300 sunny days per year, the odds are in your favor for a beautifully sunny evening and morning. This will allow you to capture breathtaking sunrise and sunset pictures, adding them to both your photo collection and your cherished memories.

Sunset Monument Valley Images

Sunrise Monument Valley Images

Monument Valley Scenic Drive Guidelines 

The Scenic Loop is an unpaved dirt & gravel road 15 miles long, you should allow 1.5 to 2.0 hours to complete the drive. The drive starts north of the visitor parking lot and is a two-lane road between point 1 and point 5, one-way loop continues around the Rain God Mesa.

NOTE: The following comes from the Monument Valley Tribal Park map & brochure (you will receive one at the entrance station), and are shown here because these guidelines insure the smooth flow of vehicles on the scenic drive. For current information, or clarifications, you should go to the Navajo Nation Park & Recreation Website.

  • No buses, RVs, ATVs, Motorcycles or Bicycles are allowed.
  • Speed Limit is 15 mph.
  • Please obey all signs.
  • Stay on Designated trails and routes. Cutting switchbacks damages trails and causes erosion and destruction of soil composition. It can take 100 years for soil and vegetation to recover from human impact.
  • Pets are not allowed. If tagged, they will need to be on a leash at all times. The backcountry is open range for livestock.
  • Seat Belts connected at all times.
  • Drones are prohibited.
  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
  • No rock climbing and no hiking on scenic drive.
  • Fires are permitted only in grills, fireplaces, or similar control devices. No open ground fires. There is always a danger of wildfires.
  • Trash bins are provided, Whatever you pack into the wilderness, you must carry out. Nothing should be left, buried, or burned. Substances such as food scraps and garbage will take years to decompose and wildfires can be started by burning trash.
  • Do not disturb animals, plants or rocks.
  • Respect the privacy of Valley residents.
  • Park will close during special events and inclement weather.
  • Do not stop or park along the scenic drive, use the pullouts.
  • Professional photographers/commercial uses must obtain a permit with the Park Office.

Flash Floods can occur in the June - August timeframe

The Park will be closed during inclement weather for your safety. Please check with the Visitor Center for weather conditions.

Useful Links for Monument Valley 

  • Monument Valley Wikipedia Article
  • Our Monument Valley Image Gallery
  • Monument Valley Google Images Set
  • Monument Valley Google Map
  • Monument Valley Website
  • Hiking in Monument Valley on the "All Trails" Website
  • Google Search Results for "accommodations in or near Monument Valley, Utah"
  • Google Search Results for "places to eat near Monument Valley, Utah"
  • Monument Valley on the "We're in the Rockies" Website - Matt & Cheryl have really good in-depth info & advice.
 
 

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