Complete guide to Monument Valley Scenic Drive
Monument Valley is the most iconic destination for classic American West landscapes.
The area served as a natural backdrop to many great American Westerns and is the ultimate playground for anyone who dreams of playing cowboy during their USA road trip.
Belonging to the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley can be explored with a guide, or by means of a dirt road that leads straight through the heart of this legendary place: the Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
Map of Monument Valley Scenic Drive
#1. Main scenic points
A free Monument Valley Drive map is included with park admission. The map indicates the main scenic points along the drive.
While the entire site is magnificent, there are at least 9 spots where you simply must stop:
The Visitor Center offers stunning photo opportunities of West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte.
They are especially gorgeous at the end of the day because of the rich colours.
This is also the perfect spot to watch the sunrise or sunset, with no restrictions on opening or closing times.
With a little imagination, this butte can be said to resemble an elephant… Be creative.
These three sandstone spires stand in a row and are extremely photogenic in the morning.
John Ford’s Point
The most famous viewpoint is named in honour of American film director John Ford, who made the area famous in 1939 with Stagecoach starring John Wayne.
This is one of the most spectacular locations in the entire valley. In fact, the iconic photo of a Navajo cowboy on horseback was taken here (for a few dollars, you can have your picture taken with a local Navajo resident).
Again, with a little creativity, you may succeed in seeing a camel at this stop.
This solitary geological formation, more than 45 metres tall, is quite impressive.
Standing next to a group of thin spires called the Yei Bi Chei formation, Totem Pole is 140 metres high and 12 metres in diameter.
Offers majestic views of West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte.
Definitely one of the musts of the park!
A short 5-minute walk leads to a beautiful view of East Mitten Butte, framed by Elephant Butte and Cly Butte.
You'll have the impression you're looking through a window.
#2. Park access
The 27-kilometre scenic loop road leads through the heart of the valley's buttes, spires and mesas.
It can be reached via Route 163.
The entry fee to Monument Valley Tribal Park is $20 per vehicle for up to 4 people. Each additional passenger must pay $6.
Note that park entry is free for children under the age of 6.
#3. Guided tours
In the Visitor Center parking lot you will find a wooden booth where Navajos guides offer tours guided tours.
Starting prices can be quite high; don't hesitate to negotiate!
The best way to get a lower price is to give the impression that you're not that interested (while remaining respectful, of course).
Warning: As the road is unpaved, it is better not to go with a low-riding vehicle (e.g. a sub-compact) or RV.
In these cases, I definitely suggest opting for a guided tour.
Advantages of a guided tour:
- You can ask questions and learn all about Navajo culture and history
- Often, your guide will take you to visit a traditional house made of earth and logs, called a hogan
- Much of this mythical territory (the backcountry) can only be visited with a Navajo guide
- Authentik provider: Sacred Monument Tour
- Duration: 2 hours
- Season: Year-round
- Departing from: the Visitor Center, next to The View Hotel
- Price: €104 / person. Children under 3 are not accepted.
Touring Monument Valley on horseback is like taking a trip back to the Wild West.
This is probably the most authentic experience to be had in the American West!
- Authentik provider: Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours
- Duration: 2.5 hours
- Season: April to November
- Departing from: Lobby of The View Hotel
- Price: €67 / adult | €36 / child aged 6 to 12 | Free under age 6
Explore the landscapes and formations of Monument Valley from the comfort of a Jeep.
You will be able to get out several times to take photos.
#4. Duration of tour
Including stopping time at the main scenic points, allow about 4 hours to complete the drive.
In several places, you will find small kiosks where you can buy souvenirs (crafts and jewelry) made by Navajo artisans.
#.5 Opening hours
Monument Valley Drive and the Visitor Center are open:
- May to September: from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Visitor Center closes at 8 p.m.)
- October to April: from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Visitor Center closes at 5 p.m.)
The Visitor Center deck is accessible 24/7.
And there you go!
If you have any questions and/or suggestions, don't hesitate to share them in the comments section below!