Things to do in Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley is a stunning natural wonder on the border of Arizona and Utah. This awe-inspiring destination is a must-see for anyone who loves adventure and natural beauty. The park is home to a breathtaking landscape of towering sandstone formations that have been sculpted by the elements over millions of years.

Located on Navajo land, the park is a sacred and spiritual place for the Navajo people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. Visitors to Monument Valley can experience the park’s unique beauty by hiking, biking, or driving through the park’s scenic routes. With its stunning vistas and otherworldly rock formations, Monument Valley National Park is a bucket list destination that should not be missed. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what makes this park so special and why it should be at the top of your adventure travel list.

John Ford’s Point

One of the most memorable experiences in Monument Valley, Utah, is capturing breathtaking photos at the iconic John Ford’s Point. Named after the famous director who filmed numerous Western movies in this stunning location, John Ford’s Point offers a mesmerizing view of the vast desert landscape and the towering sandstone buttes that have become synonymous with Monument Valley.

John Ford's Point - Monument Valley, Utah
John Ford’s Point – Monument Valley, Utah by Trodel

As you stand at this vantage point, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from a classic Western film. The panoramic vista includes the majestic Mittens and Merrick Buttes, which rise dramatically from the desert floor. The contrast between the deep red hues of the sandstone and the clear blue sky creates a visual masterpiece that is begging to be captured.

Tip: To truly make the most of your photography experience at John Ford’s Point, bring a wide-angle lens to capture the expansive views and the grandeur of the buttes. A tripod will help stabilize your camera and ensure sharp images, especially during low-light conditions or long-exposure shots.

Iconic Monuments in Monument Valley

The breathtaking beauty of the iconic monuments rises majestically from the desert floor. These natural wonders, shaped over millions of years by the forces of nature, stand as silent sentinels in the vast expanse of the American Southwest.

The most famous of these monuments is undoubtedly the towering buttes, with their distinct vertical walls and flat tops. These massive formations, composed of layers of sedimentary rock, display a stunning array of colors, ranging from deep reds and oranges to vibrant yellows and earthy browns. As the sunlight dances upon their surfaces throughout the day, the hues shift and change, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that is a photographer’s dream.

The park is also home to mesas, arches, and spires, each with its own unique shape and character. From the sweeping curves of the mesas to the delicate arches carved by wind and water, every formation tells a story of the timeless forces that have shaped this extraordinary landscape.


Petroglyphs and pictographs adorn the canyon walls, telling stories and secrets of the ancient inhabitants. These intricate and symbolic carvings and paintings reveal glimpses of their daily lives, spiritual beliefs, and interactions with the natural world. Take your time to decipher the messages left behind, and let your imagination wander as you ponder the significance of these ancient markings.

Petroglyphs in Monument Valley
Petroglyphs in Monument Valley by gorbould

Mystery Valley

Mystery Valley is named for the many mysteries surrounding the Ancestral Puebloan Culture. Their settlement here over 1,000 years ago, is witnessed most in this area of Tribal Park in their ancient homes and pictographs and petroglyphs throughout. This tour is really about their Nizhoni Culture, Enjoy and Experience their ancient culture in what they have left behind.

A Nizhoni area of beautiful Natural Arches also provides opportunities for short climbs (moderate/difficult levels) into and near arches, but not necessary to enjoy the beautiful sights. We are happy to accommodate Private and Nonprivate touring.

Hunts Mesa Arches

Located inside the tribal park, it is only accessible by an authorized guided tour company. Climb atop to an elevation of 6,365 ft. above sea level and experience this Majestic wonder. Look over Monument Valley and capture this magnificent aerial view. Hunt’s Mesa is also a land of natural arches and anciently the homeland of the Ancestral Puebloans. Their ancient homes left behind made in the alcoves of beautiful sandstone formations, stand as a witness to their once existence in this rugged and difficult but Majestic terrain.

Hunt's Mesa, shortly after sunrise
Hunt’s Mesa, shortly after sunrise by jfew

The entrance to this climb is driving through a myriad of sand dunes. This terrain is rugged and will take approximately 2 hours to reach the top of this Majestic wonder.

Reach the top and experience the grandeur of Monument Valley! Towering 1,000 feet above Monument Valley, you are overwhelmed by the beauty of our Father Sun, and Mother Earth. This is a Photographers Tour for the experienced and inexperienced!

Activities in Monument Valley

One of the most popular activities in Monument Valley is exploring the scenic drives. The park is home to a 17-mile loop road that takes visitors through some of the most stunning vistas in the American Southwest. As you drive along this route, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of towering buttes, mesas, and sandstone formations that have been shaped by millions of years of erosion. Be sure to bring your camera along, as there will be countless opportunities for stunning photos.

Hiking trails

From easy walks to challenging treks, there are options for all skill levels. The Wildcat Trail, for example, is a 3.2-mile loop that allows hikers to get up close and personal with the iconic West Mitten Butte and East Mitten Butte. As you walk along the trail, you’ll feel a sense of serenity and connection with the rugged landscape that surrounds you.

Navajo Tribal Park

Located at the entrance of the park, the Navajo Tribal Park Visitor Center is a hub of information and a gateway to understanding the significance of Monument Valley to the Navajo Nation. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by friendly park staff who are passionate about sharing their heritage with visitors.

Visitors can learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Navajo Nation through guided tours and interactive exhibits. You’ll have the opportunity to visit traditional Navajo hogans, witness traditional dances, and even try your hand at Navajo arts and crafts. This immersive experience provides a deeper understanding of the history and traditions that continue to shape the area.

Take a guided tour through the park, led by knowledgeable Navajo guides who will share fascinating stories and provide insight into the significance of the ancient rock formations and petroglyphs.

Guided sunset or sunrise tour

Start your Nizhoni (Majestic) day by greeting Father Sun. From beautiful locations inside the tribal park, see the rising of the Sun and afterward, enjoy the beautiful land of backcountry arches and rock formations.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park , Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, Navajo Nation Reservation - summer 2000 - Patrick Nouhailler ©
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, Navajo Nation Reservation – summer 2000 – Patrick Nouhailler © by Nouhailler is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

These tours offer a unique perspective of the park as the light transforms the landscape into a kaleidoscope of colors. As the sun sets or rises over the iconic rock formations, you’ll witness a breathtaking display of nature’s beauty that will leave you in awe.

Monument Valley Wildcat Trail

The Wildcat Trail is a 3.2-mile loop that takes you through the heart of Monument Valley. The trail begins at the visitor center and winds its way through the red sandstone buttes and mesas that define this iconic landscape. Along the way, you will be treated to panoramic views of towering rock formations, wide-open vistas, and the vast expanse of the desert stretching out before you.

Wildcat trail, Monument valley, UT
Wildcat Trail, Monument Valley, UT by joly.fabien

This hike is not just about the scenery, though. It is a chance to connect with the land and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the Navajo people who call this place home. As you walk along the trail, you may encounter ancient petroglyphs etched into the rocks, telling stories of a time long past. You will also have the opportunity to learn about the Navajo’s deep spiritual connection to the land and the traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Near Monument Valley

Many travelers flock to Monument Valley in search of its legendary majesty and beauty. But what few realize is that beyond the valley’s dramatic sandstone towers lies a wealth of other attractions and activities that can make for an incredible vacation experience. Here are some amazing things to do and see near Monument Valley:

Navajo National Monument

The Navajo National Monument is a remarkable destination south of the iconic Monument Valley, offering visitors an opportunity to explore ancient Indian ruins while taking in the breathtaking views of the region’s majestic mountains. For thousands of years, this area has been home to many different cultures and civilizations, each leaving its own mark on the landscape. From the remains of the Kayenta Anasazi community to petroglyphs depicting various scenes, there is plenty to explore here.

Keet Seel - Kawestima - Navajo National Monument
Keet Seel – Kawestima – Navajo National Monument by Al_HikesAZ

Valley of the Gods

One of the most breathtaking experiences near Monument Valley, Utah is witnessing the sunrise or sunset at the Valley of the Gods viewpoint. This iconic location offers a panoramic view that will leave you in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds you.

Valley of the Gods, Utah, for Red Rock Flying
Valley of the Gods, Utah, for Red Rock Flying by mypubliclands

Valley of the Gods is a stunning and undiscovered landscape located north of Monument Valley in Southern Utah. Unpaved but suitable for most vehicles, the 17-mile stretch offers some of the most breathtaking views in the area. Whether savoring the vibrant hues of the afternoon sun or admiring the starlit sky at night, Valley of The Gods is truly a remarkable and unforgettable destination.

With no entry fee required, visitors are free to make as many stops along the way and explore the area at their own leisure. Camping spots are available, allowing travelers to spend days full of exploration and adventure in this secluded oasis.

Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat is the perfect spot for a hiking adventure. Located just off the 163 and near Valley of The Gods, it’s a great destination with plenty to explore. The main attraction of Mexican Hat is its namesake – an impressively balanced rock formation that looks like a hat, perched atop the mountain. While you could drive up to it to admire it from afar, we recommend taking the time to hike up and beneath it – an experience that will leave you in awe.

Mexican Hat Rock -- Mexican Hat (UT) Near Monument Valley 2013
Mexican Hat Rock — Mexican Hat (UT) Near Monument Valley by Ron Cogswell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, when visiting this area, be aware of the prevalence of stray dogs in the area around Mexican Hat. It’s best to stay alert while driving in this area, as these animals may dart across the road suddenly. Be sure to slow down and keep a safe distance so as to avoid any collisions. With a bit of caution, you can navigate around these hazards easily and safely and enjoy all that Mexican Hat has to offer.

Goosenecks State Park

Goosenecks State Park is a spectacular state park located near Mexican Hat and Valley of the Gods in southeastern Utah. Its breathtaking canyons, towering sandstone formations, and stunning views of the San Juan River make it an ideal destination for anyone looking to be inspired by nature.

Color contrast of Goosenecks State Park
Color contrast of Goosenecks State Park by BLMUtah

The main attraction at Goosenecks is its unusual formation of the San Juan River flow. The river splits into four separate channels, each cutting through its own deep, steep-sided canyon. From the overlooks, visitors can watch from above as water flows almost 1500 feet below, giving the appearance of a giant horseshoe – similar to what you might find at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona or Deadhorse Point State Park in Capital Reef National Park.

FAQs about Monument Valley

Can you still drive through Monument Valley?

Yes, driving through Monument Valley is a popular way to explore the landscape of this iconic desert region. You can either take the 17-mile Drive or the Valley Drive within Monument Valley Tribal Park; both offer stunning views and plenty of photo opportunities. If you decide to go on your own, be sure to inform yourself about the rules and regulations before entering the park.

Is the 17 Mile Drive in Monument Valley open?

Yes, the 17 Mile Drive is currently open and visitors are welcome to take part in this scenic tour through Monument Valley Tribal Park at their own pace. Make sure to check the opening hours each day for the best experience, as the drive is closed during certain times.

Is Monument Valley in Arizona or Utah?

Monument Valley is located in the northeastern corner of Arizona, just south of the Colorado-Utah border. This region is made up of millions of acres of tribal lands belonging to the Navajo Nation and offers a unique combination of high desert plains and vast rock formations that have been shaped by nature over centuries.

What is Monument Valley famous for?

Monument Valley is most famously known for its dramatic sandstone buttes and mesas that have appeared in countless Western films over the years. Its iconic landscape has also been featured in music videos, video games, literature, and art. The valley is also home to several ancient Native American sites, making it an important cultural location as well.

Is Zion in Monument Valley?

No, Zion National Park is not located within Monument Valley. Zion is located in southwestern Utah, while Monument Valley is located in northeastern Arizona. Although the two locations are fairly close geographically, they are quite distinct from one another.

What city is closest to Monument Valley?

The closest major city to Monument Valley is Flagstaff, Arizona, which is about three hours away by car. Other nearby towns include Kayenta, Tuba City, and Cameron.

How long does it take to drive the loop at Monument Valley?

Driving around the entire loop in Monument Valley typically takes between two and three hours, depending on how often you stop to explore or take photographs. However, keep in mind that roads can be muddy during rainy periods, so plan accordingly if bad weather is expected.

How long does the 17-mile drive in Monument Valley take?

The 17-mile drive in Monument Valley typically takes around two hours to complete when not stopping frequently for photography or other activities along the way. Please note that vehicles longer than 30 feet are not allowed on this road.

How long does it take to drive the Valley Drive in Monument Valley?

The Valley Drive at Monument Valley typically takes around 45 minutes to complete, with some stops for photography or to explore attractions along the way. It’s important to remember that the road can become quite slippery during wet weather, so always check on conditions before heading out.

How much does it cost to go to Monument Valley Loop Drive?

The cost to drive the Loop Drive in Monument Valley is $20 per vehicle (up to 4 adults) or $10 per person if there are more than 4 adults. All prices are subject to change without notice.

Is it worth driving through Monument Valley?

Absolutely! Driving through Monument Valley provides an incredible opportunity to experience this iconic desert region first-hand. With dramatic red rock formations, stunning vistas, and a rich history spanning millennia, Monument Valley is a must-see destination for anyone looking for a truly memorable experience.

What is the best time of day to go to Monument Valley?

While all times of day can be great for exploring Monument Valley, sunrise and sunset are particularly special due to the amazing golden light illuminating the landscape. Try and get there as early as possible to avoid crowds and be sure to make extra time for exploring – despite its small size, there’s a lot to see here!

Can you drive Monument Valley without a guide?

While self-driving tours through Monument Valley are allowed on most roads within the park, we suggest hiring a guide whenever possible. An experienced local guide will be able to provide additional insight into local culture and history that you may not be aware of otherwise.

What is the famous road through Monument Valley?

The most famous road through Monument Valley is the 17-Mile Drive. This road takes you through some of the most iconic views of Monument Valley including John Ford Point, Artist’s Point, and Three Sisters Mesa. Be sure to watch out for wild horses running across the road!

Where is the Forrest Gump Road?

The “Forrest Gump Road” refers to a stretch of pavement near John Ford Point in southern Utah. Though it was only featured briefly in Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 film Forrest Gump, it has become very popular among tourists looking to recreate the iconic scene.

Final Word

We hope that this post has inspired you to explore the magical wonders of Monument Valley, Utah. With its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural history, there are countless activities to indulge in. From hiking to horseback riding, photography to stargazing, each experience offers a unique perspective on the beauty of this iconic destination. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or a history enthusiast, Monument Valley has something for everyone. So pack your bags, embark on a journey, and let the magic of Monument Valley captivate your heart and soul.

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