The Complete Travel Guide to Monument Valley

Forest Gump section of Monument Valley in Utah & Arizona

For those who crave the untamed beauty of the American West, Monument Valley stands as a vibrant chapter in the story of the red rock desert. This travel guide is your compass to navigating the iconic vistas and culturally rich experiences found within this timeless expanse. Whether you're a photographer chasing the sun's golden light, a history buff drawn to the legacy of the Navajo Nation, or an adventurer seeking outdoor thrills, Monument Valley offers a tapestry of experiences. Let's unfold the path to an unforgettable expedition through this red land.

Girl and guy run the Forest Gump section of Monument Valley
Running the Forest Gump section of Monument Valley

What is Monument Valley?

Monument Valley, a majestic and sprawling landscape, lies at the heart of the American Southwest. It's not just a valley but a canvas painted with towering sandstone buttes, vast skies, and an effortless blend of natural beauty and cultural history. Famed for its mesmerizing sunsets and unparalleled vistas, it serves as a gateway to exploring the rich traditions of the Navajo people. For adventurers and dreamers alike, it's a place where every view has a story, and every story invites you to step into a world where the earth meets the sky.

Where is Monument Valley?

Straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is nestled within the heart of the Colorado Plateau. This iconic landscape is easily accessible for travelers roadtripping to visit the American Southwest most popular locations. The nearest towns are Kayenta in Arizona and Mexican Hat in Utah. While small, these two towns serve as your starting and ending points for an awe-inspiring adventure into the vast, open desert that promises unforgettable memories at every turn. Neither town offers a lot by way of amenities or lodging, but we'll talk more about this later. If you're looking for a town with a bit more variety to be your basecamp when exploring the area, we recommend either Page, AZ or Kenab, Utah. Both serve as a great home base for exploring other popular sites including Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon National Park, Antelope Canyon, and even The Wave.

We highly recommend visiting Monument Valley as a part of a larger roadtrip visiting some of the most iconic spots in the American Southwest. Do note that the Southwest is a very large region and that this roadtrip will include a lot of driving. If time allows, we would definitely recommend visiting as many of the places in this area as possible. For more information regarding things to do in Monument Valley you can jump to our section about what to do near Monument  Valley here.

Kayenta, Arizona to Monument Valley: 21 mi | 24 min | Google Maps

Mexican Hat, Utah to Monument Valley: 23 mi | 27 min | Google Maps

Kenab, Utah to Monument Valley: 197 mi | 3 hr 11 min | Google Maps

Page, Arizona to Monument Valley: 121 mi | 1 hr 57 min | Google Maps

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: 238 mi | 4 hr 13 min | Google Maps

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona to Monument Valley: 123 mi | 2 hr | Google Maps

Grand Canyon National Park (south rim) to Monument Valley: 174 mi | 2 hr 59 min | Google Maps

Grand Canyon National Park (north rim) to Monument Valley: 243 mi | 4 hr 9 min | Google Maps

Antelope Canyon, Arizona to Monument Valley: 115 mi | 1 hr 48 min | Google Maps

The Wave to Monument Valley: 168 mi | 3 hr 3 min | Google Maps

Flagstaff, Arizona to Monument Valley: 171 mi | 2 hr 49 min | Google Maps

Phoenix, Arizona to Monument Valley: 315 mi | 4 hr 59 min | Google Maps

Las Vegas, Nevada to Monument Valley: 395 mi | 6 hr 16 min | Google Maps

Orange landscape in Monument Valley

What state is Monument Valley in?

This is a confusing answer because Monument Valley stretches between two states: Utah and Arizona. The area that people refer to as Monument Valley is a very large region in both states, but the 17-mile Loop Drive that charges admission is entirely in Arizona.

Why is Monument Valley famous?

Monument Valley is renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes that have captivated hearts and sparked imaginations across the globe. It's where towering buttes and vast, open skies create a natural masterpiece that seems almost otherworldly. This iconic landscape has been the backdrop for countless movies (most famously Forest Gump) and advertisements, embedding itself in the cultural consciousness as the quintessential image of the American West. More than just a picturesque destination, it's a place where stories, adventures, and histories intertwine, making it a must-visit for anyone eager to experience the heart and soul of outdoor exploration.

Is Monument Valley a national park?

Monument Valley is not designated as a national park, but rather it's a tribal park on the Navajo Nation reservation. This distinction underscores its cultural significance and ensures that visitors not only explore a stunning landscape but also immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the Navajo people.

Van life in Monument Valley
Our friend, Caroline, with her van in Monument Valley with the moon still visible at sunrise

When to visit

Monument Valley's appeal is a song sung best by the seasons. The cool, crisp air of spring and fall brings the most moderate temperatures to the valley which is a selling point for more visitors. Winter brings the coldest temperatures and shortest days but winter guests will be greeted with the lightest crowds in Monument Valley. Summer is the most popular time to visit Monument Valley but keep in mind that the temperatures get extremely hot with practically no shade to escape the harsh sun rays. Summer will also bring the heaviest crowds to plan and book reservations in advance!

We visited in late February and lucked out with moderate temperatures by their winter standards (I believe it was around 30 degrees overnight and 50 degrees during the day)

How much does it cost to visit Monument Valley?

The entry fee to the official Monument Valley for a single car (which includes up to four passengers) is just $20. Each additional general admission ticket is $10 with children under nine being free. This ticket grants you access to the stunning landscapes and winding roads of the Valley Drive, where you can explore at your own pace. Plus, your contribution goes towards preserving this incredible site and supporting the Navajo community.

Keep in mind that there are really two different parts of Monument Valley: the first being the official Monument Valley with Valley Drive and the second being Olijato-Monument Valley. Many people only drive the section of these two valleys down highway 163. To drive 163 is completely free and includes some incredible views including the famous Forest Gump site. For visitors who have a bit more time to spend in the area, we do recommend driving Valley Drive.

Land Cruiser driving through Monument Valley
Land Cruiser driving through Monument Valley

Where to stay

Choosing the right place to lay your head can elevate your retreat from good to great. Monument Valley and its surrounding areas offer a spectrum of lodging, each offering unique perspectives of the monument.

Hotels

The View Hotel

For those who seek to be fully immersed in the valley, consider The View Hotel. While the accommodations are clean but relatively basic, the views are what set this place apart. With a name that speaks for itself, this hotel delivers sunrise and sunset views of the iconic buttes and mesas. Visitors should note The View Hotel also features a campground on site with both hook up sites and wilderness sites available.

Address: Indian Rte 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536 | Google Maps

BOOK HERE

Hampton Inn Kayenta

Hampton Inn is one of Hilton's more budget friendly hotel options and their location in Kayenta offers a comfortable and clean place to catch a good night's sleep before or after exploring Monument Valley.

Address: US-160, Kayenta, AZ 86033 | Google Maps

BOOK HERE

Gouldings Lodge

This former trading post offers comfortable rooms in the heart of Monument Valley with private balconies for most of their rooms. The location of Gouldings Lodge is right in the midst of the monument giants making it perfect for those who want to soak in every ounce of the valley's beauty.

Address: 1000 Gouldings Trading Post Rd, Oljato-Monument Valley, UT 84536 | Google Maps

BOOK HERE

Amangiri

If you've never heard of Aman, you need to do yourself a favor and go look up this truly unique hotel chain. Actually, if you're like us and oftentimes travel on a budget, don't go look them up. While I haven't yet had the chance to stay at one of their incredible properties myself,  I've been told that once you do stay at one of their properties you're forever ruined. Their properties are exclusive, private, and make the Four Seasons look like the Holiday Inn Express. If you're looking to splurge on a bit of luxury while visiting the American Southwest, try and book a stay and Amangiri which is the Aman property just outside Page, Arizona.

Address: 1 Kayenta Rd, Canyon Point, UT 84741 | Google Maps

BOOK HERE

Camping

The View

The View is a hotel and campground on the same property that is located right in the heart of Monument Valley. With both wilderness sites (primitive, no hookups) and sites with hookups for RVs, this campground might be your best bet for taking in the views of Monument Valley from the comfort of your own camper or tent.

Address: Indian Rte 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536

BOOK HERE

Monument Valley KOA Journey

While KOA's aren't my favorite type of campground since they usually offer little to no privacy, there is something predictable about their campgrounds that make them an easy pick when traveling. All KOA's offer bathhouses, picnic tables, fire rings and most other basic campground features which takes a lot of the guesswork out of the travel process. The views from the Monument Valley KOA are excellent but the campground offers no privacy between sites and the campground is completely exposed and vulnerable to the crazy winds that often find their way into the valley.

Address: Milepost, 2 Hwy 163, Monument Valley, UT 84536

BOOK HERE

Boondocking / free camping

Given Monument Valley's remote location, it's surrounded by lots of federal land that is free to camp on. Keep in mind that you should always double check your maps to ensure you are in fact camping on public lands, and all keep in mind that not every vehicle will be able to access these more remote locations. To find out more about how to find epic free campsites in the USA, checkout our full blogpost.

Red rocks in Monument Valley
Red rocks in Monument Valley

What to do in Monument Valley

The heart of the Monument Valley experience lies in its timeless geography and rich cultural tapestry. From the silent grandeur of its buttes to the beating heritage of the Navajo, here are the must-see attractions.

Drive the Monument Valley Loop

The Monument Valley Loop is an iconic, scenic drive that you simply can't miss—a testament to the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the area. Winding through the heart of the valley, this 17-mile loop takes you on an adventure past towering sandstone masterpieces, with each turn revealing another breathtaking vista. Expect to allocate at least 2 to 3 hours for this drive, but believe me, you'll be tempted to take it slower, soaking in every moment and every view. Grab your camera and your sense of wonder, because this drive is all about the joy of discovery and the thrill of the open road amidst the giants of Monument Valley!

Sara driving the Monument Valley Loop
Sara driving the Monument Valley Loop

The Mittens

Standing like ancient sentinels over the desert, The Mittens are Monument Valley's iconic duo that absolutely take your breath away! These towering formations, with their 'thumbs' stretching up to the sky, offer a unique and incredible view. Whether you watch the sunrise bathe them in soft pink light or see their massive silhouettes against a sunset, the experience is nothing short of magical. It's one of those awe-inspiring sights where you just have to pinch yourself and savor the moment, feeling a deep connection with the natural world.

Get a photo at the famous Forest Gump spot

The Forest Gump spot is essentially a rite of passage for any Monument Valley visitor. This iconic stretch of road, where Forrest famously decided he was “pretty tired... I think I'll go home now,” offers not just a cinematic pilgrimage but a moment frozen in the vast, breathtaking expanse of the American Southwest. Standing there, with the road stretching out infinitely before you and the monumental landscape as your backdrop, it's impossible not to feel a rush of adventure and a profound sense of being part of something much larger than yourself. Bring your camera, but don't forget to take a moment to just soak it all in – it's an experience that stays with you, long after the road trip ends.

Chris and Sara running the Forest Gump section of Monument Valley
Chris and Sara running the Forest Gump section of Monument Valley

See the Three Sisters

The Three Sisters stand as an astonishing trio of stone, stretching towards the sky in a perfect pose. This remarkable formation resembles three figures standing tall and still over the valley below. Visiting the Three Sisters isn’t just a photo op; it’s an invitation to ponder the timeless tales that these lands hold, making every traveler's experience uniquely unforgettable.

Go horseback riding through Monument Valley

Horseback riding through Monument Valley isn't just an activity; it's a profound connection to the history and heart of the American West. Led by experienced Navajo guides, you'll weave through breathtaking landscapes and uncover hidden stories. It's an unmissable adventure that captures the essence of freedom and exploration and allows you to create truly one of a kind memories.

See the famous Totem Pole

The Totem Pole stands as a breathtaking beacon in Monument Valley, its slender form stretching defiantly toward the sky. This towering spire of rock commands attention and respect from visitors to the valley. Here, you can't help but feel a surge of awe and a renewed sense of wonder at the planet's raw beauty.

Jeep Tours

Ready for an unforgettable adventure? Jumping on a Jeep tour in Monument Valley is like stepping into a living postcard where every turn brings a new, jaw-dropping scene. These guided tours not only offer the thrill of exploration but also provide a deep dive into the rich history and culture of the Navajo people, transforming your adventure into a story you'll be eager to share.

Because Monument Valley is a part of the Navajo Nation, a Jeep tour run by the local Navajo people is a wonderful way to support the local economy and people as well as a chance to see and experience parts of Monument Valley that are only accessible the the local people. On an official Jeep tour visitors can experience parts of the valley that they wouldn't be able to see and experience on their own.

Checkout Hogan Village

Visiting Hogan Village is like stepping back in time, immersing yourself in the heart of Navajo traditions and daily life. These traditional dwellings, shaped from the earth itself, stand as a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the Navajo people. By exploring Hogan Village, you're not just observing; you're connecting with a rich cultural heritage, engaging with stories and customs that stretch back centuries. It's an intimate, unforgettable experience that brings you closer to understanding the soul of Monument Valley.

Drive through Monument Valley

Driving through Monument Valley on the scenic 17-mile loop road is like unrolling an endless tapestry of breath-stopping sights and majestic formations. While the road is dusty and a bit rugged, it's navigable for most vehicles and totally worth the adventure. Zigzag through the heart of the iconic American West, where every turn reveals another stunning vista. Just remember to take it slow, both for safety and to truly soak in the overwhelming beauty around you. It's not just a drive; it's a once-in-a-lifetime road trip adventure!

Other things to do near Monument Valley

Keep in mind that Monument Valley is in a pretty remote location in the USA. We highly recommend a visit to the valley being a part of a larger Southwest USA roadtrip. While I'm including the following ideas as "near" Monument Valley, "near" is relative and some of these might be a few hours. All in all, if you're already in this neck-of-the-woods, we'd highly recommend checking out these famous spots!

Visit Valley of the Gods

Just a stone's throw from Monument Valley, the Valley of the Gods in Utah is a hidden gem that's nothing short of spectacular. This lesser-known landscape is scattered with towering sandstone formations, each with its own story, painting a picture of natural artistry that's as captivating as any famous monument. Driving through the Valley of the Gods, you're greeted with an almost ethereal silence- it's like stepping into another world. Don't miss this off-the-beaten-path treasure that promises an adventure as boundless as the vistas it offers.

Take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon

Witnessing Grand Canyon National Park in all its glory is an unforgettable moment that feels like stepping into a vast painting. This magnificent chasm, carved by the Colorado River over millions of years, ignites the spirit of adventure in everyone who visits. Whether you're gazing out from the rim, hiking down its steep trails, or rafting through its mighty river, the Grand Canyon reminds us of the sheer wonder our planet holds. It's not just a visit; it's a heart-stirring experience in the grand theatre of nature, promising stories and memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Grand Canyon National Park (south rim) to Monument Valley: 174 mi | 2 hr 59 min | Google Maps

Grand Canyon National Park (north rim) to Monument Valley: 243 mi | 4 hr 9 min | Google Maps

Explore Horseshoe Bend

Exploring Horseshoe Bend is like discovering a secret corner of the earth where the water and sky merge into an endless horizon. This breathtaking natural wonder, where the Colorado River takes a dramatic 270-degree turn, creates a vista so stunning, it feels like stepping into a living painting. There's something truly special about standing on the edge, gazing down at the river as it carves its way through the landscape. Don't miss the chance to witness this marvel of nature; it's an experience that truly embodies the spirit of exploration and the awe-inspiring beauty of our planet.

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona to Monument Valley: 123 mi | 2 hr | Google Maps

Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend

Visit Zion National Park

Zion National Park isn't just a place; it's a realm where nature's architecture is vividly on display. Imagine walking through canyons so vast and colors so vibrant they seem to pulse with life. Every trail leads you on a new adventure, from the tranquil riverside walks to the heart-pounding treks up Angel's Landing. Zion is not just a national park; it's a sanctuary inviting you to join its endless adventure. Trust me, you'll want to bring your camera and your spirit of discovery—both will be put to good use here!

Keep in mind that due to the popularity of Zion National Park that permits are required for the most popular sites and trails including the famous Angels Landing. Plan in advance if you wish to hike this infamous hike. (We highly recommend it, the views are incredible!)

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: 238 mi | 4 hr 13 min | Google Maps

Be in four places at once

Have you ever dreamed of being in four places at once? Well, at the Four Corners Monument, you can do just that! It's the only spot in the U.S. where four states—Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado—intersect at a single point.

Four Corners Monument to Monument Valley: 101 mi | 1 hr 39 min | Google Maps

Walk through Antelope Canyon

Walking through Antelope Canyon is akin to stepping into another dimension, where nature has meticulously sculpted a masterpiece over millennia. With its wave-like structures and light beams dancing through the narrow openings, this slot canyon offers a visual feast that's mesmerizing. It's a photographer's dream and an adventurer's paradise, beckoning explorers with its undulating colors and shadows.

Antelope Canyon, Arizona to Monument Valley: 115 mi | 1 hr 48 min | Google Maps

Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon

Travel tips

Understanding and respecting the dynamics of the land will not just preserve the natural splendor but also enhance your personal experience.

Packing essentials

The best adventures are the ones that you are best prepared for. The desert is an unforgiving landscape with drastic temperatures, harsh sun rays, wildlife, and more. Here are our must bring items that you should take with you to Monument Valley.

  • Water: Staying hydrated is key! The desert can be deceptive with its dry air, so pack plenty of water to keep your adventure going.
  • Sunscreen: The sun is no joke out here! Slather on that SPF to protect your skin from the strong rays.
  • Solid hiking boots: Trusty boots are a must for navigating the rugged terrain and ensuring your feet stay comfortable on those epic hikes.
  • Garmin InReach Mini 2: For those who wander but still want to stay connected. This compact satellite communicator is a lifeline in the vast wilderness.
  • Lightweight, breathable clothing: Keep cool under the sun with clothes that wick away sweat and allow your skin to breathe.
  • Hat and Sunglasses: Protect your face and eyes from the sun is essential but often overlooked. Keep the eyes and face safe with a hat and sunglasses.
  • Camera or smartphone: You're going to want to capture the breathtaking vistas, so make sure your camera or phone is charged and ready.
  • Snacks: Keep your energy up with some nutritious snacks. Trail mix, energy bars, and fruit are perfect for on-the-go munching.
  • First-Aid Kit: Always good to have on hand for any minor scrapes or bumps along the way.

Safety precautions

Navigating the rugged beauty of Monument Valley is an adventure that will leave you with stories to last a lifetime. But, adventurers, be mindful! This majestic landscape is also a land of extremes. Prepare for the sizzling midday heat by hydrating like a champion and donning protective sun gear. Cell service can be as elusive as a desert mirage, so download maps and important info before you set out. And remember, we're visitors in the home of some pretty wild locals—desert critters and snakes! Keep your eyes peeled and give them the space to roam free. With a dash of preparation and a sprinkle of caution, you're all set for an epic exploration, capturing memories and soaking in the vastness of Monument Valley safely.

Respecting the land and culture

Adventuring through Monument Valley isn't just about soaking up the breathtaking sights; it’s about stepping into a vibrant tapestry of culture and history. The Navajo Nation owns and stewards this sacred land, and as visitors, it's our privilege to honor and respect their traditions and ways of life. This means staying on designated paths, respecting signage, and being mindful not to disturb the natural and cultural artifacts that make this place so special. When you visit, you're not just a traveler; you're a guest. By showing respect, you're contributing to the conservation of this magnificent landscape and supporting the Navajo community, ensuring the splendor of Monument Valley lives on for generations to come. Plus, engaging with the local community and culture offers a richer, more meaningful adventure – trust me, the stories you'll hear and the memories you'll make are absolutely golden.

Conclusion

Monument Valley is more than a backdrop for Western films or a photo on your timeline—it's a living exhibit of nature's perfection. By following this guide, you're setting off on a fitting adventure for the nature enthusiast. Remember, the red earth of Monument Valley is as giving as it is unforgiving. With careful planning and a spirit of reverence, you'll carry the stories of these crimson cliffs with you for the rest of your days.

Like this article? Checkout these other travel guides to nearby locations.

The Complete Guide to Visiting Monument Valley
The Complete Guide to Visiting Monument Valley

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Hi! We're Chris and Sara a husband and wife video making, storytelling, travel loving duo with a passion for sharing travel tips, tricks, and inspiration with others.
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