After heading to the Four Corners Monument in Arizona (or was it Colorado? or Utah? Or New Mexico?), we were relatively close to the site of 5 (!) John Wayne movies: Monument Valley, straddling the border of Arizona and Utah.
“Monument Valley is the place where God put the West.” (John Wayne)
The closest point of civilization for many visitors will be Kayenta, Arizona, which is a little over 20 miles south of Monument Valley. Monument Valley is part of the Navajo tribal land which occupies about 27,000 square miles. Tourists to the area (particularly those who travel from outside the United States) often are enamored with one Hollywood actor: John Wayne. The Duke starred in “Stagecoach” (1939), “Fort Apache” (1948), “Rio Grande” (1950), “The Searchers” (1956) and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1959). However, Monument Valley makes an appearance in a host of other movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Thelma & Louise, Forrest Gump and Mission: Impossible II.
Forrest Gump Making His Trek Through Monument Valley
During peak season (May 1 – Sept 30), Monument Valley is open from 6:00am – 8:00pm, 7 days a week. During the off season (Oct 1 – Apr 30), park hours are limited to 8:00am – 5:00pm, 7 days a week. Admission is $20 per vehicle, and as this is Navajo land, the US National Parks passes are not valid. It is strongly encouraged that you arrive before the tour buses do, which tends to be around 10am-12noon.
Monument Valley Beauty
The monuments in the park often have descriptive names as they were created by the early settlers of Monument Valley (the kids will love this). The park consists of mesas, buttes and spire rock structures. For those who do not have the time, or inclination to hike, there is a magnificent 17 mile scenic drive around the park in the comfort of your vehicle. You can see the road in the photograph above, which should give you a sense of how rough conditions can be. It is advised that you consider a rental car with some clearance, though we did see a number of smaller vehicles doing just fine (just driving a little slower).
East and West Mitten
Mini Rock Piles Throughout the Park
The View From the End of the Scenic Drive
If you are planning on re-creating the famous shot of Monument Valley that you are likely to be familiar with (and seen above in the Forrest Gump shot), you must head approximately 12 miles north of Monument Valley into Utah on Highway 163. That view of Monument Valley is not from inside of the park, and until we were informed of this by a local, we were puzzled.
The Picture of Monument Valley You Are Most Likely Familiar With
Monument Valley was scenic, and absolutely a destination unto itself. We were all delighted that we had included it in our itinerary for the trip to Arizona. Though it did not possess the sheer and intense beauty of Antelope Canyon, or the grace of water flowing in Horseshoe Bend, it was so stark that it was incredible to see.
Total distance driven to this point: 810 miles.