"Fabulous Cowboy Country" Monument Valley State Park by vichatherly
Monument Valley State Park Travel Guide: 356 reviews and 1,039 photos
I went to Monument Valley State Park in June 2010 on days eleven and twelve of a thirteen day, four state, tour around California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. The plan was to spend three nights in San Francisco and then hire a car to head down the coast to Monterey, staying at Gilroy for the night.
Then it was off for two nights just outside Yosemite National Park, followed by two nights in Death Valley National Park, two nights in the Grand Canyon, one night in Monument Valley State Park and finally one night at Bryce Canyon National Park before leaving the car and departing back from Las Vegas. All went to plan and we had a brilliant time, putting about 2,200 on the hire car mileage.
If you’ve watched any amount of classic western movies then you’ll have already seen a good part of Monument Valley.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located off US163, 20 miles north of Kayenta, Arizona. The park was set aside in 1958 to preserve 50 square miles of sandstone buttes, mesas, spire and arches. A dozen or so Navajo families still live in the park, which they see as one giant sacred Hogan, or dwelling place. The Oljato Mesa is the fireplace, the ranger station is the east facing door and the Sentinel Mesa and Gray Whiskers Mesa are the doorposts. The Mittens are believed to be the hands left behind of the Holy People to signal that one day they will rule again.
The Navajo language is becoming less used by the younger generation, as it is so complex and hard to understand. So complex and hard is the language that Navajo codetalkers or “Windtalkers” were used in World War II to great effect. The language was never broken by the Germans or Japanese
We left the big hole in the ground, also known as the Grand Canyon, after breakfast.
We couldn't hang around for too long though, as we had a two and a half hour trip in the car in real cowboy country and on of the main reasons for the trip. I wanted to see the Buttes and Messa of Monument Valley.
Our original hotel for this part of the trip was outside of the Valley. We prepared ourselves for a two and a half hour trip to the valley and then a three or four hour drive to the hotel. We changed our plans at the last minute because the View Hotel, which is the only hotel inside the valley, suddenly had some rooms free for the night we wanted. The hotel was fully booked for the months of May, June and July. But as soon as the 30 day cancellation date became due I suppose the tour companies, who had originally block booked, firmed up their room numbers. This was excellent news for us. So we booked a room for the night, meaning that we could spend more time in the Valley and enjoy a sunset and a sunrise, both of which were spectacular.
With all the driving that we were doing on the holiday we had decided to book personal tour of the 17 mile dirt road, known as the Valley Drive, that explores the Valley with one of the local guides. This meant that we could jump in the back of their transport and enjoy the scenery and take photo when we wanted. We had arranged the tour via emails from the UK and so weren’t quite sure how it was going to turn out. We needn’t have worried. Although the tour was not cheap, it was well worth going the extra dollar for what turned out to be a very personal tour of the Valley.
We booked up with Roy Blacks Hiking, Jeep Tours & Trail Rides and met them outside in the car park of the visitors centre. Because we were originally not staying in the Valley for the night, I had booked and paid for the 2 ½ jeep tour, but then getting a room at the hotel, at short notice, meant that we might as well upgrade to the half day 4 hour tour. The guides were fine with this late notice upgrade, and I filled in a bit more paperwork and paid over the extra.
Most of the tours are taken on open top jeeps (Navajos call their cars “chitties”) and so when our Navajo guide, Brenda, arrived we hopped aboard. I was expecting the other nine or ten seats to be filled up with others as I had seen other full jeeps in the car park. However we had the tour to ourselves, I suppose that’s what you pay the money for, and had a brilliant time exploring with our local guide. Another good reason for getting the tour was that I don’t think our little hire car would have completed the trip in one piece. The tracks were certainly made for 4x4 jeeps, with experienced drivers. We drove down the tracks and Brenda would stop off every now and then and explain the landmarks and views and give us some details of their history. At one of the stops, John Ford Point there was a horse which you could pay 2 dollars to sit on with all the cowboy gear. My wife donned the cowboy hat, took up the rope and the rifle and clambered upon the horse. I took a few snaps for posterity. The horse didn’t mind that much really and I couldn’t resist. That stop also gave us a chance to taste some piping hot freshly made traditional frybread.
We even went off track and saw some of the homes left behind by the people known by the Navajos as the Anasazi, “the ancient ones”. We also took a look at some petroglyph rock art drawings. We stopped off to see Brenda’s Grandmother, Suzzie Yazzie, who is somewhat a celebrity in these parts, having featured in many a western movie, and she took us inside her Navajo hogan and gave us a demonstration of how she prepares wool for weaving. Suzzie also tied up my wifes’s hair into a traditional Navajo bun, which looked great.
Brenda, then took us to an alcove where you see, if you look closely enough, what seems to be the eye of an eagle in flight. These are special places to the Navajo and so Brenda then sang a native song to pay her respects to the places we had visited.
Time was getting on and so we drove back on the sandy, hilly, twisty, turning track back to the visitors centre. We certainly made the most of our half day tour and it was an unforgettable experience.
As we came back from the tour we noticed that smoke had come in from the huge forest fire near Flagstaff, which gave some unusual smokey photos of the mittens.
We had dinner in the restaurant at the hotel, which was the huge three stews and taco. This was excellent although the blue corn mash was a bit unusual. Other diners had some of the biggest steaks that I had seen. If we were staying for another night then I certainly would have been trying out “The Duke”.
We stayed up for sunset and enjoyed the breath taking view from the balcony. You simply can’t get enough of the view.
Day Twelve - Monument Valley to Bryce Canyon
The alarm was set and we got up about half an hour before sunrise. No trekking miles for us to get a great view. Just simply open the curtains and step out onto the balcony.
The hotel was well worth going the extra mile for.
Sadly we had to leave the Mittens and the Butte and head off to another adventure at our final destination of the holiday at Bryce Canyon National Park
- Pros:Spectacular Scenery
- Cons:Having to leave
- In a nutshell:More than just a movie backdrop
We were luck enough to have a room for the night in the only hotel inside Monument Valley and so after an excellent... more travel advice
They say that you can take your own car down the Valley Drive, and although this maybe the case if you own a decent 4x4... more travel advice
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