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From classic Western flicks to Marlboro ads to license plates, America’s desert Southwest has no greater icon than Monument Valley. Hugging the Arizona-Utah border on Navajo land, most roadtrippers buzz down the looping, 17-mile (27-kilometer) Valley Drive through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, stopping at viewpoints such as John Ford’s Point to snap photos of the famous formations—”The Mittens” are a favorite. To get a deeper appreciation for the land, hike the 3.2-mile (5-kilometer) Wildcat Trail on your own, or take a guided hike or tour to parts unknown.
If you can visit Monument Valley in winter, do. The crowds thin—as do the prices at The View Hotel—and a light layer of snow makes the rocky sea of orange and crimson absolutely pop. Temperatures rarely drop below 25ºF (-4ºC). Otherwise, spring and fall offer excellent weather before and after the summer vacationers hit the road. And sunrise makes for a magical, technicolor experience in the valley.
Private vehicles—$20 per vehicle—are welcome to the visitor center at the main viewpoint. From there, 25 cars at a time are permitted on the 17-mile Tribal Valley Loop. Nab a free permit at your arrival, or hop on a Monument Valley guided tour (it might be quicker, depending on the crowds). If you take the scenic drive, do so in a high-clearance vehicle for the red-rock road, and leave some time to explore on the Wildcat Trail on foot.
The area’s Navajo name is Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii. If you have the time, a much deeper experience can be had on a Navajo-led tour to see the best of the red rocks landscape. You’ll go off the scenic drive, see Monument Valley landforms such as Teardrop Arch, spot Anasazi petroglyphs, and hear how the Navajo continue to thrive on this land today.
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Yes. Monument Valley has red desert landscapes found nowhere else on earth. The “Mittens,” twin sandstone buttes along the valley’s 17-mile (27-kilometer) loop road, have appeared in countless films. Part of the Navajo Nation, the valley is punctuated by rock spindles jutting 1,000 feet (400 meters) into the sky....More
A half-day or full-day tour is ideal. It’s possible to see the main sights in 2–3 hours, as the 17-mile (27-kilometer) Valley Drive takes roughly 2–4 hours to complete. A half-day visit leaves time to stop at viewpoints and hike the Wildcat Trail around the Mittens and Merrick buttes....More
Typically 2–4 hours. The drive, known as the Valley Drive, is 17 miles (27 kilometers) long with 13 miles on a one-way loop. While a 4WD is not required, the gravel and dirt road makes for a bumpy ride with low speeds—ideal for taking your time and enjoying the views....More
Valley Drive and Wildcat Trail are open to the public. Valley Drive passes most top rock formations, including the Mittens and Merrick Butte, John Ford’s Point, and the famous Totem Pole. The valley is entirely within the Navajo Nation Reservation and much of it is accessible only via guided tours....More
Travelers can drive along the Trail of the Ancients in the four corners area, check out the Goulding Film and History Museum at Goulding’s Lodge, or visit the town of Mexican Hat, Utah—featuring a namesake rock formation. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is roughly two hours away by car....More
Monument Valley straddles the Arizona-Utah border near the four corners area, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet. The territory lies within the Navajo Nation Reservation. The valley is on US Highway 163, 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Mexican Hat, Utah, and 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Kayenta, Arizona....More