Utah – Monument Valley
We almost didn’t go to Monument Valley, while visiting Utah, but boy and I am happy we made the trip. On the drive in, you begin seeing the enormous sandstone buttes in the distance. As you get closer, you try to find the spot Forest Gump turned around. Even closer and you feel like you are on the set of every single Western movie. If you are questioning paying to go into the reserve, absolutely do it. There is a dirt road that does a loop getting you super close to the rocks. Read on for tips and suggestions for visiting.
As I mentioned in the intro, the drive into Monument Valley is a quarter of the magic. Heading toward the park from the northwest, you will see the iconic view of the valley with the long, straight highway with rock formations in the distance. Somewhere along this stretch is when Forest Gump decided to stop running. There are places to pull over and take pictures, so don’t miss the opportunity.
Located on the Utah-Arizona border, there is really not much around. Monument Valley lays within the range of the Najavo Nation and they collect a $20 fee to enter. There was a line when we arrived, which took about 10 minutes to get through as only booth was open. They do take credit card, but we were prepared with cash, which is speedier. The brochure you get is super handy to learn about the different butte silhouettes as you pass them on the dirt road.
At a Glance:
- Rating: 4 stars, would definitely do it again
- Intensity: Sandals and sundress
- Duration: 2 hours (plus driving!)
- Cost: $20/vehicle, and they take credit cards
- Location: Southeast Utah
- Restrooms: in the visitor’s center
- ENORMOUS Buttes
- Delightful silhouettes and Native American traditions to learn about
Recommended for this drive:
- Plenty of water and snacks for the car-ride, since it is not super close to anything
Monument Valley Visitor’s Center
We visited the visitor’s center to use the bathroom, but there is a great view of one of the “Mittens” and endless souvenirs. It was also very busy at the Visitor’s center due to the tour buses that visit Monument Valley and do not do the dirt road loop.
A couple notes about the dirt road loop:
- There are no restrooms or amenities once you are out on the loop, so be sure you stop by the visitor’s center before you begin your journey.
- Although we did not believe it would take very long to do the loop, it ended up taking us the full 2 hours that is recommended to devote to the loop.
- Average speed while driving the loop is 15 – 20 miles per hour
- We drove a compact sudan around the loop with very little issues. There was some sand on the far end of the loop that we got momentarily stuck. It is bumpy and the roughest part is the hill at the very beginning/end of the drive.
- It was a bit busy when we began our drive, but out on the main part of the loop, there were much fewer cars.
- If we were taking pictures and another car drove by, the tires almost always kicked up a ton of dust. It is extremely dusty and dry that I am glad we were not in the open-air jeep tours. But if we drove my personal car to Monument Valley, I might be more tempted to go on a jeep tour. The jeep tours do take guest to restricted areas of the Park.
MONUMENT VALLEY LOOP
The dirt road loop leads you up close and personal with the buttes. You also get to see the buttes from a different direction, which is incredible for sights like the “Three Sisters”. It totally does look like three nuns, one of which is reading or scaling the other two. Rebecca had to take a picture of this butte and send it to her two sisters.
At another point on the loop, you can park and walk over to touch a butte. At this point you really get a sense of scale as the butte towers 400-1,000 ft above you. It is truly a geological wonder how the buttes were formed and still stand today.
LEAVING and final thoughts
We stopped to take pictures all the time, so it did take us a full 2 hours to complete the loop. By the time we left, the sun was lower in the sky, highlighting the orange minerals and creating long shadows. We had to stop on the highway leading to/from the park again because the lighting and clouds were completely different.
When researching Monument Valley, I kept trying to find things once we were in the Park. Although there are no hiking trails, the dirt road loop is a great way to experience the buttes. I think paired with Natural Bridges if you are coming from the North, it was a phenomenal day. It was a long driving day, but ultimately worthwhile to see spectacular geological formations and support the Najavo Nation and the work they do to protect this land. We also sang “Life is a Highway” at the top of our lungs. It felt very appropriate.
What natural places have you visited that have been featured in movies?