June 28, 2018
When we travel, we are always looking for a WOW factor and Monument Valley was definitely a Wow destination. If you love western movies you can just picture John Wayne riding down these canyons in “ Stagecoach”, “Rio Grande” or “She wore a yellow ribbon”, as well as some modern movies “Forrest Gump”, “Easy Rider” or Clint Eastwood in the ”Eiger Sanction”. This place is breathtaking, I really don’t know how else to describe it.
From our home away from home (Dolores, Colorado), a visit to Monument Valley required a 2 ½ hour drive (one way!) But we love day trips, so we got up early and headed out to the Navajo tribal area, where this park is located. You actually enter the park in the state of Utah, but when you get to the visitor center you have crossed into Arizona. One reason for our early start is that the temperatures were projected to be over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoon so we wanted to visit in the morning when the temperatures were forecasted to stay below a balmy 90 degrees.
We entered the park and paid a $20 access fee. Since this is Navajo land the entry fee it’s not covered by our national park access card. We were given a map of the self driving, 13 mile loop with lots of warning that the roads were meant for high clearance, 4×4 vehicles. Given that our Jeep met those credentials, we brushed off the warnings and off we went. The drive is nothing short of spectacular and at every turn we were expecting “Cowboys and Indians” to come out at full gallop from some of the many canyons and plains, shooting it out just like in the John Wayne movies. But in reality this is a very peaceful and spiritual place with the only danger being getting stuck behind a safari bus full of tourists. I mentioned we got there early so we avoided that scenario as well, but saw them coming in on our way out of the park. I know I’m being unfair, as I would love this place all to myself, but if you don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle, the safari buses are a great benefit to the average tourist. Making these beautiful parks available to all is always a plus in my opinion.
This park is characterized by sandstone buttes with the largest reaching over 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The drive is absolutely beautiful with every turn of the drive offerings different and interesting rock formations. The sun was wickedly hot so we darted in and out of our Jeep for pictures. Before we knew it we had taken over 200 photos.
Halfway through the drive we found a short spur trail from the main road which led us to a shady spot next to a massive wall, where we set up our picnic lunch, and what a wonderful view we had. Leo mentioned that it will be hard to match any future picnic panorama to the one we where enjoying at the moment. After the drive we went to the visitor center which also housed a Navajo gift shop and a beautiful hotel with breathtaking views of the valley, which has been cleverly designed to blend in with the Mesa it sits on and not spoil the views as you look back from the park.
Overall another unforgettable day trip. I’ll leave you with a video montage of our experience ( turn up the volume)……enjoy!