It was the spring of 2017 when I flew to Las Vegas with my wife and in-laws. Once we arrived we rented a van and began a week-long exploration of the southwest. We stopped at the Hoover Dam, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon before making our way to Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is essentially on the border of Arizona and Utah. It’s approximately 100 miles west (by car) of Four Corners Monument. It took us about two and a half hours to get to Monument Valley. Once we arrived, we paid an entrance fee and drove into the famous park.
Monument Valley isn’t a National Park or a National Monument; instead it is part of a Navajo Tribal Park. It is about 30,000 acres and was established in 1958. Monument Valley is home to stunning red rock buttes and mesas surrounded by sandy desert plains. While the place may not immediately sound familiar to some, if you see photos of its iconic landscape you’ll surely recognize it. Several westerns and TV shows have been filmed in Monument Valley and photos of the famous sandstone formations have graced countless magazine covers.
We had reservations at the View Hotel, which is the only lodging option within the tribal park. We went to the hotel and visitor center and admired the phenomenal view of Monument Valley. I took a bunch of photos of The Mittens and Merrick Butte (the most famous formations within the park).
Monument Valley is not a dramatic, overpowering landscape like Yosemite Valley or Yellowstone. It’s also not nearly as crowded as those places. It is more of a desolate beauty. I wouldn’t want to be stuck out there with no water, but at the same time I found the scene to be peaceful and calming. There is a certain rugged tranquility to it.
We walked around a little bit and decided there wasn’t a whole lot more to do than take photos. There is only one marked hiking trail and the Valley Drive, which is a rugged 17-mile drive that takes 2-3 hours. Ashley was several months pregnant at the time, so neither the drive nor the hike sounded like great ideas. It was also very hot out (it usually is there). If the hotel had a pool I could see my wife and her parents wanting to stay, but it didn’t so we decided to move on about an hour after we arrived. I would have been content exploring and photographing the barren landscape all day and especially at sunset and sunrise, but I completely understood their reason for wanting to leave.
We proceeded to Lake Powell where we spent the next two days. We enjoyed a couple of the American Southwest’s most notable sights near there. We explored Antelope Canyon on Easter, which was an amazing experience. Then, the next morning we hiked to the overlook above Horseshoe Bend.