Monument Valley

Monument Valley is perhaps the most famous example of the classic American West landscape. Located within the Navajo Nation on the border of Arizona and Utah, the valley has been the backdrop for numerous movies and advertisements, ranging from Marlboro cigarette ads to the films of John Ford to Back to the Future 3 and Forrest Gump. In cinema and television, its landscapes are often used to represent the Old West of the cowboy era.

Understand

Note that the Navajo Nation and the State of Utah observe Mountain Daylight Saving Time from April through October, however Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving time, so when you are in the State of Arizona and are not within the Navajo Nation, the time will be one hour earlier.

The distances are vast in the United States, and many people do not allow sufficient travel time, especially when they are used to the distances in European and Asian countries. Many of Monument Valley's visitors are European and Japanese, and it is difficult for them to comprehend the distances you have to travel between destinations. If you travel from Las Vegas or Phoenix, your trip will take almost the entire day. You cannot see Monument Valley and also go further than the Grand Canyon to the South, and Moab to the North in the same day. Even this is cutting your stay extremely short relative to what there is to see and the stamina of the average person.

History

Archaeological evidence indicates that the ancient Anasazi people inhabited the valley until AD 1300. Today over 100 sites and ruins have been found dating from these ancient people, including rock art. The Anasazi abandoned the area in the 1300's, leaving it empty of humans until the arrival of the Navajo.

Flora and fauna

The Monument Valley area has wide a assortment of vegetation including, Juniper trees, yucca, Russian thistle (Tumbleweed) and Navajo Tea to name just a few. Much of the vegetation is still used by the Navajos for medicinal purposes, and as dyes for their world famous hand-woven rugs.

Landscapes in the Four Corners states often have Cryptobiotic soil, a biological soil crust composed of living cyanobacteria, green algae, brown algae, fungus, lichens, and/or mosses. Cryptobiotic soil crusts are important members of desert ecosystems and contribute to the well-being of other plants by stabilizing sand and dirt, promoting moisture retention, and fixing nitrogen for plants to use.

Because of their thin, fibrous nature, cryptobiotic soils are extremely fragile systems. A single footprint or tire track is sufficient to disrupt the soil crust and damage the organisms. While some species within the soil crust system may regrow within a few years of a disturbance, the damage to slow-growing species may require more than a century before the delicate soil returns to its former productivity.

This sensitivity to disturbance means that travellers should be mindful of their impact on cryptobiotic soils. As a general rule, visitors should stay on pre-existing roads and trails, only traveling off-trail on durable surfaces such as bedrock or river gravel.

Climate

Temperatures range from the upper 80's to low 90's in the summer. Winter temperatures are usually above freezing in the daytime and below freezing at night, and sometimes drop below zero Fahrenheit during the nights. The last frost is expected about May 15 and the first frost is expected sometime in October. Summer nights are cool and comfortable, ranging from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The summers are dry except during the monsoon season beware of flash flooding during this time. Winters see some snow which can remain on the ground for several weeks, highlights the rock formations in new and spectacular ways.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 40 47 58 67 78 88 92 89 81 68 52 41
Nightly lows (°F) 25 29 36 42 54 64 69 65 58 46 34 26
Precipitation (in) 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.1 0.5 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.4 0.2

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Get in

Highway 163 is the only way to reach the park.

The Valley lies mostly in northern Arizona, but the Northern part of the park is in Utah. The nearest town is Kayenta, about twenty miles to the south.

Fees/Permits

Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal park (not a United States National Park) and charges a fee of $20 per car (4 persons included; each additional person $10 extra) for access to the loop road through the valley. National park passes will not be accepted. Except for a few trails, individuals wishing to hike in the valley or to visit sites not on the loop road must hire a Navajo guide for an additional fee.

Get around

While many incredible formations can be seen from the main roads, the best views can be had from the 17-mile loop road that runs through the valley. The road is open 6AM-8:30PM in the summer (May - Sep) and 8AM-4:30PM in the winter (Oct - Apr).

The loop is not paved and can be quite rough and dusty, but most vehicles should be able to manage. You are not permitted to deviate from the loop drive without a native guide present. The loop drive can be done in as little as 30-40 minutes, but most visitors will take several hours to enjoy the scenery. There is no shortage of native guides eager to take you (for a fee, of course!) to the restricted areas.

Do

Self-guided tours

It is easy to tour the valley on your own, by taking the 17 mile loop road. This usually takes about 2 or three hours, depending on how much you stop. If you get out and walk very much, it will take longer.

Horseback rides

John Ford's Point

Horse rides are also available from various establishments both inside the park and in the general Monument Valley area. Rides may be only an hour, or overnight camping trips, and rates vary widely depending on the length of the ride from as little as about $30 dollars per person for a half-hour ride, to hundreds of dollars. Horseback rides are available at John Ford's Point, a couple of miles into the valley on the loop road. Other Navajo guides will offer you horseback rides near the visitor center.

Guided tours

Navajo guides are required for travel off of the valley road. A number of companies provide guided tours of the Monument Valley that include transportation from the surrounding areas. Some companies will provide bus travel from nearby towns while others begin in Monument Valley Tribal Park. Some will provide just a brief tour with small stops, while others may take you on a hike and arrange all your meals. Most of these are done in windowless buses or trucks be prepared to get covered in dust. You may wish to take a cue from the Japanese and bring a mask.

Buy

The visitor's center has a large gift shop with a wide variety of souvenirs. They also showcase an impressive amount of hand-crafted Native American Arts and Crafts.

Eat

The View Restaurant is located at the visitor center, and is open for 3 meals, serving American and traditional Navajo cuisine. Goulding's Lodge also has a restaurant, there is a deli at Goulding's gas station, and Goulding's Grocery has enough food for a nice picnic. The park's visitor center sells snacks, and there may be stands around the park offering Navajo fry-bread and other items.

Drink

Drinking water and other beverages are available at the visitor center and at Goulding's grocery and campground.

Note that alcoholic beverages are prohibited within the Navajo reservation. The nearest alcoholic beverages are sold at the gas station in Mexican Hat, about 22 miles from the Park, but if you want much besides beer you should get it in Moab or Flagstaff. There is also a bar at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, and other restaurants in Mexican Hat sell alcohol.

Sleep

Kayenta, AZ is the nearest town to the south (~20 miles away), and has several hotels. Mexican Hat, Utah is 22 miles north on Hwy 163 & also has accommodations. Closer options include The View Hotel at the rim of the valley, and Goulding's Lodge about five miles outside the park. Make reservations a year in advance to be sure of getting accommodation during the summer months, especially August.

Lodging

Camping

Stay safe

Regulations within the valley include the following:

Dangers in the valley are minimal, but visitors should not reach under rocks, ledges or bushes due to dangers from rattlesnakes, scorpions and spiders.

Go next

Unless you plan to keep the native guides busy, this is a one-day stop.

Monument Valley is part of the Grand Circle, which includes the Grand Canyon National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Arches National Park and many other attractions.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.