The Ultimate Travel Guide to Exploring Monument Valley

36.9969° N, 110.0986° W

Wide view of Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona

THIS ULTIMATE MONUMENT VALLEY TRAVEL GUIDE COVERS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VISITING THE STUNNING MONUMENT VALLEY ON THE BORDER OF ARIZONA AND UTAH IN THE USA.

 



Known as Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii in the native Navajo language, the stunning Monument Valley is by far one of the most well-known icons of the American West. In fact, pop culture critic Keith Phipps stated that "its [Monument Valley's] five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West."


But Monument Valley, or its full name the Monument Valley Tribal Park, is much more than just a marketing tool for cowboy movies or as a name for a popular online puzzle game. In truth, it is a mesmerizing desert destination full of adventure and wonder - and some pretty incredible buttes; including, the iconic West and East Mitten Buttes, Merrick Butte and the Three Sisters.


We strongly suggest that if you are anywhere near Monument Valley - including in other popular desert destinations like Lake Powell or Page, Arizona - you put aside some time and add it to your road trip itinerary. We promise you will be blown away, not just by the massive rock structures and drop-dead gorgeous desert landscape, but also by Monument Valley's rich culture and its strong connection to the Navajo Nation (the valley is considered a sacred place for the Navajo people).


❔ GOOD TO KNOW: Monument Valley is NOT a USA national park, instead it is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park - which is the equivalent of a national park just on Navajo land. Therefore, even if you have the Annual National Park Pass you will still need to pay to enter (see more about this below).


Below you will find our comprehensive Monument Valley Travel Guide that covers everything fellow adventurers need to know about visiting and exploring the stunning valley.





JUMP TO...


🚌 HOW TO GET TO MONUMENT VALLEY 🥾 THE TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN MONUMENT VALLEY

☼ THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MONUMENT VALLEY 🗺 THE BEST ADVENTURES NEAR MONUMENT VALLEY

🏕 WHERE TO STAY IN MONUMENT VALLEY 📎 OUR 2 DAY ITINERARY FOR MONUMENT VALLEY














 

THE ULTIMATE MONUMENT VALLEY

TRAVEL GUIDE

 








MONUMENT VALLEY | THE BASICS



WHERE IS MONUMENT VALLEY


This stunning and simply iconic Western destination is located smack dab on the border of the US states of Utah and Arizona in the American Southwest. As mentioned, the valley lies within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation, which is the home of the Navajo people and also the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe in the whole USA (by area, the Navajo Nation is larger than 10 US states).



💬 INSIDER TIP: the nearby tourist attraction the Four Corners Monument - which is the point where four different US states meet - is also on Navajo Nation land. It is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to the east of Monument Valley.











HOW TO GET TO MONUMENT VALLEY


Due to Monument Valley's relatively remote location, there are very few major cities nearby - at least no major cities with a sizeable airport. In fact, if you are planning to visit Monument Valley and are hoping to fly in and rent a car, then expect to put in at least 3 hours of driving - likely a couple hours more.


Below are the closest major cities to Monument Valley, as well as a few other awesome adventure destinations nearby.



THE CLOSEST BIG CITIES TO MONUMENT VALLEY

| Phoenix, Arizona - 5 hours and 10 minutes south; has a major airport


| Las Vegas, Nevada - 6.5 hours west; has a major airport


| Salt Lake City, Utah - 6 hours and 22 minutes north; has a major airport


| Denver, Colorado - 8 hours northeast; has a major airport


| Flagstaff, Arizona - 3 hours south, has a small airport and also an Amtrak train station




THE CLOSEST ADVENTURE DESTINATIONS TO MONUMENT VALLEY

| Page, Arizona - 2 hours and 6 minutes to the west


| Antelope Canyon - 2 hours to the west (near Page)


| Grand Canyon National Park - 2 hours and 35 minutes to the southwest (near Flagstaff)


| Moab and Arches National Park - roughly 5 hours to the north (we did this drive and absolutely loved it!)



➳ You can find even more nearby adventure destinations at the end of this travel guide.




Wide view of the Monument Valley buttes

EXPLORE MORE | HOW TO SPEND A LONG WEEKEND IN MOAB, UTAH: OUR COMPREHENSIVE 72-HOUR TRAVEL GUIDE






THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MONUMENT VALLEY


While Monument Valley is open year-round, the best time to visit the tribal park is in the spring (March - May) and in the fall (September - November). The summer months can be quite hot, and due to the lack of shade in Monument Valley, adventuring outside can be quite uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous. In the winter, you can expect much cooler temps (especially at night) and even some snow.


The busiest time in Monument Valley is between the months of March and August, so if you want to visit during those six months then be prepared for larger crowds and higher prices.


GOOD TO KNOW: peak season is also when more facilities are open and/or have longer hours (most things open at 6:30 AM and close at 7:30 PM, except the scenic drive which closes at 5 PM).


We visited Monument Valley in the middle of May, and even though we explored the valley on a Saturday we found it to be relatively quiet. But, with that being said, definitely still plan ahead and try to book your rooms and tours (if you want to go on one) beforehand. Similarly, we have read that when the park does get busy, you might have to wait your turn to drive the popular 17-mile scenic loop drive (read more about that below).




HOW LONG DO YOU NEED IN MONUMENT VALLEY


1-2 days should be enough time to explore Monument Valley fully. Obviously, if you want to see other places nearby (like the Valley of the Gods or Mexican Hat) you will need an extra day or two.


Check out our 2-day Monument Valley itinerary here.




IS MONUMENT VALLEY FREE TO ENTER?

No, it costs $8 per person to enter the tribal park. This pass is good for 1 day. You can purchase your pass at the Welcome Center or at the toll booth on the road towards the Monument Valley Visitor Center.

Also, be aware that because Monument Valley is NOT a USA-run national park, the National Park Annual Pass does not work.



DON'T WANT TO PAY TO ENTER?

A couple of free things to do near Monument Valley are visiting the welcome center along the highway (this has some great information on the area and history), driving along Highway 163 for awesome views of some of the larger monuments, including Stagecoach and Brigham's Tomb, and finally you can simply just visit the uber-famous Forrest Gump Point - which of course was the filming location in the movie Forrest Gump.


💬 INSIDER TIP: besides being one of the filming locations for the movie Forrest Gump, Monument Valley has also been featured in movies such as Stagecoach (the first movie filmed in the Valley), The Searchers (also by director John Ford), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon a Time in the West, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Thelma & Louise, The Lone Ranger and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.








WHERE TO STAY IN MONUMENT VALLEY


Because Monument Valley is located in a pretty remote spot, you will likely need to book a night at one of the two hotels in the area: Goulding's and The View. Otherwise, you have the option to either camp in a designated campground or just simply boondock (free camp) nearby. Below is an outline of the best places to stay in Monument Valley.



LODGES AND HOTELS NEAR MONUMENT VALLEY

Goulding's Lodge: this pretty lodge is steeped in the history of Monument Valley. Located just a couple of miles from the tribal park entrance, the Goulding's Lodge is somewhat responsible for the overall popularity of the Valley.


The founders of Goulding's - Harry and Mike - moved to Monument Valley in the 1920s and soon set up a trading post. When the Great Depression hit, the couple decided to head west to California in hopes of convincing some Hollywood movie execs to film their upcoming western movies in Monument Valley. Upon seeing photos of the impressive desert landscape, well-known director John Ford decided to film his next movie - Stagecoach starring John Wayne - in the Valley.


Today, the Goulding's Lodge consists of a museum (in the original trading post), theatre, gift shop, hiking trails, a lodge (with many types of rooms), RV park, campground and cabins. They also offer tours of Monument Valley, including sunset and sunrise tours and a backcountry tour of Mystery Valley.


While prices for Goulding's Lodge rooms depend on the time of year, you can expect to pay between $200 and $300 a night. Amenities include a heated pool, a gym, hiking trails and pet friendly rooms.


BOOK YOUR STAY HERE



The View: another popular place to stay in Monument Valley is The View Hotel, which is conveniently located in the same building as the Monument Valley Visitor Center. The hotel includes sizeable rooms, a campground and individual cabins, a restaurant, museum and gift shop, as well as many different tour operators.


Again, while prices for rooms at the hotel depend on the time of year, you can expect to pay around $250 per night. Amenities at the hotel include free parking, a breakfast buffet and internet.

BOOK YOUR STAY HERE




CABINS AND HOMES NEAR MONUMENT VALLEY

Besides staying in one of the hotel rooms at the two lodges above, you also have the option to rent out an individual cabin - either on the Goulding's or The View Hotel grounds.


You can expect to pay around the same price for a private cabin as you would for a hotel room at both Goulding's and The View. So if you are looking for a bit more privacy during your stay in Monument Valley, then this might be the best option.


BOOK YOUR STAY AT THE GOULDING'S CABINS


BOOK YOUR STAY AT THE VIEW CAMPGROUND/CABINS




❔ GOOD TO KNOW: another great option for where to stay in Monument Valley is to book a house via Airbnb. While there are a couple of options available within the valley, we found that this house - nicknamed the Dreamcatcher House - seemed to be the best. Learn more about the colorful home and book your stay here.




CAMPING NEAR MONUMENT VALLEY

Now, if you are looking for a more rugged experience while visiting Monument Valley then you are in luck. Within a couple of miles of the tribal park there are numerous campgrounds, including the Monument Valley KOA, Hummingbird Campsite and the Monument Valley Tipi Village (where you can also rent a tipi for the night).


Further afield, you can find camping sites at Goosenecks State Park, Mexican Hat Campground, and in Valley of the Gods (not necessarily a campground but lots of camping sites available).




VAN LIFING NEAR MONUMENT VALLEY

If you are planning to boondock in Monument Valley - especially if you have a van - then we highly suggest downloading the apps iOverlander and FreeRoam to find some good (FREE) camping spots.



► Check out our guide on 5 other awesome road tripping apps here.



We road tripped through Monument Valley in our van Terra and ended up camping for the night near one of the numerous roadside jewelry shops (find the exact location here). This free campsite was quiet and had some absolutely fantastic views of the monument's towering buttes.


Other van life camping spots we saw nearby were either near Mexican Hat (especially near the actual Mexican Hat rock) or up in the Valley of the Gods area.




Sunny day in Monument Valley in the American Southwest

EXPLORE MORE | HOW TO FIND FREE CAMPSITES ACROSS THE USA







MONUMENT VALLEY | THE TOP 5 THINGS TO DO




DRIVE THE SCENIC LOOP


DISTANCE: 17 MILES
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 HOURS

One of the best things to do in Monument Valley is to drive the scenic Valley Drive Loop. Along the way, you can stop off at such popular and picturesque spots as John Ford Point (where the iconic horseman on a cliff photo was taken), the Three Sisters, the Totem Pole, Artist's Point, and the North Window Overlook.


We suggest heading out on the drive either early in the morning or late at night for the best views of the monuments. The road opens at 8 AM and closes at 5 PM in the off-season (the winter months) and at 6:30 AM during the busier months (March - August). Expect to spend a couple of hours along the loop, especially if you are someone who likes to get out and take plenty of photos.