Monument Valley is a marvel of the American West that offers more than just a pretty picture. Located on the Arizona-Utah border, this vast and rugged landscape is steeped in Navajo history and culture. It’s a place where iconic rock formations rise dramatically from the desert floor, inviting travelers to delve into a world that feels both ancient and wildly free.
Visiting Monument Valley means embarking on an adventure that’s as educational as it is breathtaking. You can drive along the dusty trails, visit the tribal park, and learn about the Navajo way of life. Whether you’re watching the sunrise paint the buttes in warm hues or exploring the area’s rich history, there’s a tangible sense of discovery here.
For the curious traveler, Monument Valley presents a myriad of activities. You can tread on the paths once walked by ancient civilizations, capture the perfect photo of the stark landscape, or simply sit in silence and watch as the changing light dances over the land. This guide will take you through the top things to do in this majestic place, from the well-trodden viewpoints to the hidden gems known only to the locals.
So, pack your sense of wonder and get ready for an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Southwest. With each step, you’ll uncover more of Monument Valley’s timeless beauty and the enduring spirit of its people. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 most epic things to do in Monument Valley.
Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Monument Valley? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this iconic vacation spot in Arizona. So keep reading to discover all these unique Monument Valley places to visit.
Are you looking to join guided jeep tours that offer a deep dive into the breathtaking desert landscapes and Native American culture? Or would you prefer to gaze at the clear, unpolluted skies of the region, providing a mesmerizing celestial experience? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Monument Valley can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Monument Valley that you should know about.
The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is where you’ll find the towering sandstone masterpieces that define the iconic landscape of the American Southwest. A self-drive tour along the 17-mile Valley Drive takes you up close to massive formations. You’ll see landmarks like the East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte. The road is rough in places, but it’s passable for most vehicles and absolutely worth the effort for the views alone.
For the best things to do in Monument Valley, the Tribal Park should be at the top of your list. Along the drive, pull-offs at key viewpoints allow for photo opportunities and a chance to take in the scenery. Consider a guided tour to access restricted areas where you can see ancient rock art and Anasazi ruins. Local Navajo guides share stories that give context to the landscape and deepen your appreciation for the area.
The park is more than a scenic drive; it’s an opportunity to witness the living history and culture of the Navajo people. As you explore and buy from local vendors, you contribute to the local economy. Interacting with guides, you take away a richer travel experience.
For those who prefer to explore on foot, the Wildcat Trail offers an immersive experience in Monument Valley. This 3.2-mile loop is the only self-guided hiking trail within the park boundaries and it circles the West Mitten Butte. The trail provides a unique perspective of the Mitten buttes, allowing hikers to appreciate their grandeur up close.
Starting at the visitor center, the trail descends into the valley, offering a moderate hike that is accessible year-round. Remember to carry plenty of water, as the desert climate can be unforgiving, especially during the summer months. As you walk, keep an eye out for local flora and fauna that have adapted to the harsh environment.
The Wildcat Trail is one of the best things to do in Monument Valley for active travelers. It’s a chance to disconnect and enjoy the natural beauty without the hum of car engines. The trail is well-marked, but it’s still important to stay on the path to protect the delicate desert ecosystem.
Completing the Wildcat Trail gives a sense of accomplishment and a deeper connection to the landscape. It’s a reminder that sometimes the best way to see a place is to slow down and experience it at your own pace.
Jeep tours with Navajo guides are a thrilling way to explore the rugged terrain of Monument Valley beyond the main roads. These tours can take you to areas that are otherwise off-limits to the public, such as Mystery Valley and Hunts Mesa. You’ll have the opportunity to see natural arches, ancient petroglyphs, and traditional hogans up close.
Jeep tours in Monument Valley present an opportunity to witness the breathtaking beauty of the area’s iconic rock formations. You can view these natural wonders at various times throughout the day. Some tours are specifically scheduled to coincide with the sunrise or sunset. Experiencing the dramatic change in the colors of the rocks under the shifting light is truly unforgettable.
The guides, who are often local Navajo residents, provide valuable insights into the history and culture of their people. They share stories and legends that have been passed down through generations, adding depth to the stunning landscapes around you. These tours vary in length, but they all offer a unique perspective on the valley.
Among the coolest things to do in Monument Valley, taking a Jeep tour stands out for its combination of adventure and education. You’ll learn about the geology, archaeology, and mythology of this sacred land. The tours are also a great way to support the local economy and gain an authentic experience.
A visit to the Monument Valley Museum is a must for those looking to delve into the history and culture of the area. Located at the visitor center, this small but informative museum offers exhibits on the geology, history, and culture of the Navajo Nation. It’s an ideal place to start your visit, providing context for the stunning landscapes you’ll see.
The museum showcases traditional Navajo artifacts, jewelry, and crafts, along with historical photographs and stories of the valley. It’s a quiet space where you can take your time to read and absorb the information. The displays are well-organized and offer a concise overview of the Navajo people’s connection to the land.
Exploring the museum is one of the more reflective things to do in Monument Valley. It allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the region before or after they explore the outdoors. The knowledge gained here enriches the rest of your trip, making the sights and experiences more meaningful.
Admission to the museum is typically included with the entrance fee to the park. It’s a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in the intricate tapestry of American history and indigenous culture.
Goulding’s Lodge offers one of the most memorable stargazing experiences in Monument Valley. Here, far from the city lights, the night sky unveils a cosmic display that is hard to find elsewhere. The lodge organizes guided stargazing events. Here, you can gaze upon the Milky Way with remarkable clarity, and the iconic buttes cast their shadows against a star-filled sky.
The lodge’s location provides a perfect dark-sky environment, ideal for astronomy enthusiasts and romantics alike. You can sign up for a night sky photography workshop. Alternatively, join a stargazing tour where guides will help you identify constellations and share insights into Navajo astronomical traditions.
Stargazing at Goulding’s is among the unique things to do in Monument Valley. The experience offers a tranquil escape. The only thing rivaling the silence of the desert is the occasional gasp at the sight of a shooting star. Whether you’re an amateur astronomer or simply looking for a peaceful night under the stars, this experience is sure to captivate.
Don’t forget to check the lodge’s event schedule for special astronomy nights, which may feature telescopes and additional educational resources. This celestial spectacle is a profound way to end a day of exploration in the valley.
For an authentic Western experience, saddle up for a horseback ride at John Ford’s Point in Monument Valley. This iconic location is named after the legendary filmmaker who used the valley as a backdrop for many classic Westerns. It offers some of the most picturesque trails for riders. Monument Valley Horseback Tours provides guided rides that take you along paths with sweeping views of the valley’s famous rock formations.
Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a first-time rider, the tours cater to all skill levels. The guides, many of whom are Navajo, offer insights into the area’s history and the significance of horses in their culture. As you trot along the rim of the valley, you’ll feel a connection to the land that is best experienced from the back of a horse.
Riding at John Ford’s Point is more than just a scenic jaunt; it’s a step into the cinematic history of the American West. The landscape here has been immortalized on the silver screen. To ride through it is to become part of that legacy.
Booking a tour with Monument Valley Horseback Tours at this specific location promises a memorable adventure. It’s a way to slow down and appreciate the grandeur of Monument Valley from a unique vantage point.
For a deep dive into the local culture and history, the Hubbell Trading Post in Monument Valley stands out as a living museum. This historic site is not only one of the longest-operating trading posts in the Navajo Nation. It’s also a place where visitors can connect with the traditions and artistry of the Navajo people. Here, you can browse through an impressive selection of authentic Navajo rugs, jewelry, and crafts. Each item has its own story and significance.
Among Monument Valley things to do, a visit to Hubbell Trading Post is a journey into the past. It’s a place where you can witness the enduring legacy of John Lorenzo Hubbell, who established the post in the late 19th century. You can also see how his influence shaped trade and relationships in the region. The trading post also offers educational displays, providing insights into its historical importance.
As you wander through the aisles, you’ll find that the Hubbell Trading Post is more than a store; it’s a cultural treasure trove. Engage with local artisans and admire their intricate work. You might even watch as they weave a rug or craft a piece of silver jewelry.
Mexican Hat, a small town in southeastern Utah, is a unique stop for travelers exploring the American Southwest. Named after the sombrero-shaped rock formation just outside the town, Mexican Hat is known for its unique landmark. It serves as a convenient base for those visiting Monument Valley and other nearby attractions.
The town itself is quite small, housing a population of just a few hundred. Despite its size, it offers essential amenities for travelers, including motels, restaurants, and gas stations. The Mexican Hat Rock, the town’s namesake, is the main draw here. This peculiar and photogenic rock formation is easily accessible and provides a great photo opportunity against the backdrop of the vast desert landscape.
Apart from the rock, Mexican Hat is close to some of the region’s most stunning natural attractions. It’s a short drive to the Goosenecks State Park, where you can see a deep meander of the San Juan River. The Valley of the Gods, with its scenic drive and striking rock formations, is also nearby.
Mexican Hat is an ideal spot for travelers looking to explore the area’s natural beauty without the crowds of more popular destinations.
Tear Drop Arch stands as a hidden gem for those looking to escape the typical tourist spots of Monument Valley. Photography enthusiasts flock here, especially during the soft light of early morning or late afternoon. The arch provides a unique natural frame for the sprawling desert behind it. Capturing this scene doesn’t require fancy equipment; even a smartphone can do the trick in the hands of an eager photographer.
Guided tours to Tear Drop Arch are practical and down-to-earth, focusing on helping you get the best shot without the jargon. The guides are locals who know the land and the light. They’ll point you to the right spot, at the right time, for that postcard-perfect image. These tours are less about technical skills and more about experiencing the place.
You’ll find that the arch provides a quiet spot to appreciate the vastness of the desert. It’s a place where you can take your time and set up your shot. You might also learn a thing or two from the guide or fellow photographers. The experience is straightforward and rewarding, offering a different angle on the valley’s iconic scenery.
Photography at Tear Drop Arch is a must-do for capturing the essence of the desert in a personal and memorable way.
The Valley of the Gods might be lesser-known than its famous neighbor, but it’s a marvel in its own right. Here, you can drive along a 17-mile dirt road that winds through towering sandstone formations and vast, open skies. It’s a self-guided adventure that puts you in the driver’s seat—literally. The freedom to stop and start as you please allows for a personal connection with the landscape.
One of the best things to do in Monument Valley is to take this off-the-beaten-path tour. The Valley of the Gods offers solitude and the kind of silence that makes you feel like you’re the first to discover it. There’s no rush here; you can take your time to admire the natural sculptures that have stood for millennia.
The area is accessible to most vehicles, though after heavy rain, a four-wheel drive might be your best bet. It’s a place where you can picnic under a natural alcove, hike up a short trail for a stunning view, or simply sit and watch as the shadows play over the land as the day progresses.
Exploring the Valley of the Gods is a reminder that there’s beauty in the quiet corners of the desert, waiting for those who seek it out.
Driving the Moki Dugway is an exhilarating experience that combines a sense of adventure with raw desert beauty. This gravel road, with its tight switchbacks, ascends 1,200 feet up the face of Cedar Mesa. It’s a route that’s not for the faint-hearted but rewards the brave with incredible views.
At the summit, Muley Point Overlook awaits, offering a vast outlook over the desert and river below. It’s a prime spot for those who love a grand vista without the need for a strenuous hike. Here, the landscape unfolds in a panoramic display, with landmarks like Monument Valley visible in the distance.
The area is accessible for most vehicles, and the journey up and down is an adventure in itself. The overlook is a perfect place for a scenic break, a casual picnic, or just a moment to take in the sights. It’s straightforward, no-nonsense, and utterly breathtaking.
For a traveler looking to mix a bit of a thrill with their sightseeing, tackling the Moki Dugway is a must-do. It’s a drive that’s as memorable as it is photogenic, offering a unique way to view the area’s iconic landscapes.
Delving into the ancient history of the region, the Anasazi Ruins near Monument Valley offer a tangible connection to the past. These ruins, remnants of the Ancestral Puebloans, are scattered throughout the area, hidden in plain sight. They beckon the curious to explore and ponder the lives of those who once thrived here.
Visiting these sites is like stepping back in time. You can walk among the remains of dwellings, granaries, and kivas, all set against the backdrop of the desert’s timeless beauty. It’s a hands-on history lesson and a hike rolled into one.
One of the coolest things to do in Monument Valley is to explore these ancient sites. They’re not just historical points of interest; they’re a testament to human ingenuity and survival. The ruins are accessible via short hikes. While some are well-known, others are hidden gems that require a bit of searching.
These excursions offer more than just a walk. They’re an opportunity to connect with the landscape and its history on a deeper level. It’s a chance to reflect on the centuries of stories etched into the very rocks and walls that stand before you.
Looking for more content on the top things to do in Monument Valley? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Monument Valley:
Spring and fall are ideal for visiting Monument Valley, offering comfortable temperatures for hiking and photography. April to June and September to November see fewer crowds and pleasant weather. Summers are hot; winters can be cold with occasional snow, affecting access to trails and some viewpoints.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park charges an entrance fee per vehicle, which includes all passengers. The fee contributes to the conservation of the park and supports the Navajo community. Rates are subject to change, so it’s wise to check the official park website for the most current information before your visit.
While the main scenic drive through Monument Valley can be self-guided, many areas are only accessible with a Navajo guide. Guided tours offer in-depth knowledge and access to hidden gems and restricted areas, providing a richer understanding of the cultural significance and history.
For a day trip, pack plenty of water, sunscreen, a brimmed hat, and sturdy footwear. Snacks, a camera, and a first-aid kit are also recommended. Depending on the season, you may need extra layers for warmth or a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt for sun protection.
Monument Valley is a family-friendly destination. Kids can enjoy the vast open spaces and the adventure of exploring the iconic landscapes. Ensure they’re equipped with sun protection, comfortable clothing, and hydration. Some trails may be challenging for younger children, so plan according to their abilities.
Accommodations in Monument Valley range from hotels with scenic views to rustic campgrounds. Goulding’s Lodge is a popular choice with amenities and history, while campgrounds and RV sites offer an immersive outdoor experience. Book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your preferred lodging.
Absolutely, Monument Valley is a worthwhile destination for its iconic sandstone buttes and vast, stark landscapes that embody the classic American West. It offers unique hiking trails, guided tours, and the opportunity to learn about Navajo culture. The views are unparalleled, making it a must-see for photographers, adventurers, and anyone seeking to experience the area’s natural beauty and cultural richness.
Exploring Monument Valley is an unforgettable journey into a landscape that’s as rugged as it is beautiful. Here, every trail tells a story and every butte holds a piece of history. It’s a place where adventure is around every corner, whether you’re navigating the back roads or gazing at the stars in the clear desert sky.
The Valley isn’t just a travel destination; it’s a cultural experience. The Navajo traditions and stories enrich the visit, offering a deeper appreciation for this sacred land. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to step into a world that’s been captivating travelers for generations. Monument Valley awaits to leave its mark on your traveler’s soul.