Visiting Monument Valley Arizona

Visiting Monument Valley Arizona

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Visiting Monument Valley Arizona had been on my dream destination list for a while before I decided to visit on a solo road trip. “Otherworldliness” might be an overused term for this type of destination but that’s really what drew me in. It just doesn’t look like anywhere else. It looks like it’s going to be a memorable and beautiful experience. Which it is!

The Navajo Tribal Park is beautifully unique due to its towering sandstone formations—some of which are 1,000 feet high. The park crosses state borders and therefore is both in northern Arizona and southern Utah. It covers almost 92,000 acres. In addition to viewing some of the sights from the visitor’s center, it is possible to take a self-guided tour of a 17-mile dirt road.

Other areas like Mystery Valley and Hunts Mesa can only be seen on a guided tour. I opted for the guided tour option—a five-hour sunrise tour to be exact.

The moon setting as the sun rises in Monument Valley Arizona

Getting to Monument Valley

The entrance to Monument Valley is located on Highway 163 between Mexican Hat, UT and Kayenta, AZ. This is just north of the Utah-Arizona border. The closest towns are Mexican Hat and Kayenta, but the closest bigger town (relatively) is going to be Flagstaff.

The only way to get all the way out to Monument Valley is to drive. If you’re flying into the area and renting a car, the closest commercial airports that don’t require a stopover would be in Colorado.

I kicked off my Monument Valley road trip in Los Angeles and drove straight to Flagstaff, Arizona where I stayed for one night. From there I had been planning to go straight to Monument Valley, but when I realized how close the Grand Canyon was I made that my first stop on day two. I went early and left after lunch, driving from there to Kayenta, which is one of the closest places to stay outside of Monument Valley itself.

When I left Monument Valley I spent one night in Sedona before driving back to L.A.

Staying in Kayenta, Arizona

I stayed at the Monument Valley Inn in Kayenta, which you know, gets the job done. One thing to note is that this hotel has a big layout. The building that I was in was removed from the main building, and my room was on the backside of a mostly empty parking lot.

As a solo traveler, I certainly kept my wits about me entering and exiting the building, but there was absolutely nothing that made me feel unsafe. The town is extremely small and I would bet that everyone staying at the hotel is there because they’re going to a park.

The Monument Valley Inn in Kayenta Arizona

Good to know:

  • This area is remote. The internet wasn’t working during my hotel stay but I did have some luck connecting to the free McDonald’s wi-fi across the street.
  • The Monument Valley Inn has a restaurant. When I was there dining in was closed but it was possible to order food to-go. The other local restaurants are cafe and diner style.
  • Kayenta is on the Navajo Nation so the town is alcohol-free.
  • Driving from Kayenta to the Monument Valley park entrance took a bit longer than I was expecting. (I was nearly late for my tour!) I had to leave quite early for my sunrise tour and there is very little light pollution out there. Save for the moon, it was pitch black. I took my time driving on the small roads in darkness.
Staying in Kayenta Arizona

My hotel choice worked out great but if I go to Monument Valley again I would like to experience the The View Hotel, which is right inside the park. When I first looked into booking I kept seeing that this hotel was sold out, but was later informed this was not the case. The View Hotel has an interrupted view which looks really amazing—think waking up with Monument Valley at your feet.

Tours of Monument Valley

When visiting Monument Valley Arizona there are a couple ways to tour by car—you can take a self-tour on the 17-mile Monument Valley Scenic Drive, or book a small tour with a guide. You can also take a tour on horseback! I opted to take a fully guided tour of Monument Valley. Seeing as how I later got into car trouble outside of the park, I made the right call.

Visiting Monument Valley Arizona at sunrise

The sunrise tour of Monument Valley

I booked my guided tour through Viator and opted for the Sunrise Tour of Monument Valley. At the time of booking, this was $85 and worth every penny for the five or so hours.

After entering the park ($8), I met up with my tour group in the parking lot of The View Hotel. This is also where the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor’s Center is located so the parking is free.

Pre-sunrise in the parking lot of the Monument Valley visitor's center.

After climbing aboard an open-air 4×4 vehicle we set off on our journey. (This pre-sunrise part of the day was cold in September, but at the end of the tour it warmed up so much that I had to change my entire outfit.) The group made a few stops while it was still dark out, which was intriguing and exciting.

Monument Valley before sunrise

One particular stop was reserved for the sunrise itself, and our guide played traditional flute songs as we watched the day arrive. The shadows out on that land change by the moment so it’s like an ever-evolving experience. No two photos I took look the same.

From that stop we continued on to many other scenic spots, while getting plenty of history along the way. Some of the sights include the East and West Mitten Buttes, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Mystery Valley, and Hunts Mesa.

One of the perks about taking a guided tour is that you get to access areas of the park that the are off-limits to everyone else. At each stop we had time to walk around and take plenty of photos!

private tour Monument Valley Arizona

When the tour ended I got lunch at the visitor’s center and then stuck around for a while to take photos from that viewpoint.

Good to know: There is a restroom and food at the visitor’s center, and sometimes there is a food truck at John Ford’s Point. However, there are not other facilities within the park. If you opt to take the self-guided tour make sure you’re gassed up with water and snacks on board.

Monument Valley tribal visitor's center

Solo traveling to Monument Valley

I loved every single minute of my solo road trip to Monument Valley. Before I left I was thoroughly prepped on the fact that Monument Valley is quite remote. It’s by far the most remote destination I’ve visited alone.

Much of that area does not have internet or cell service, so I decided to download Google maps to be used offline. Highly suggest! I did this when I was on reliable wi-fi in Flagstaff, which is a good thing because as I mentioned, even my hotel in Kayenta didn’t have reliable internet.

visiting monument valley arizona as a solo female traveler

For me, taking the guided tour was the way to go. While it’s possible to self-drive the 17-mile loop this does take hours to complete, and it’s suggested that you have four-wheel drive or a vehicle that is made for such things. Plus the guided tour came with so much information and was really a fun time.

When I left Monument Valley I did have a little issue…my car got stuck in the sand. I had just barely pulled off the side of the road when I felt my tires sink. My SUV was not going anywhere. As I’ve mentioned it is quite remote out there and I was not able to get internet or cell service to call for help.

Looking back the Monument Valley as a car drives away from the park.

For a few minutes, I nervously stood there just hoping that a car would drive by, and of course, one did. Two men hopped out with a chain and immediately looked under my car for a hook. No questions needed, it was obvious what was going on. They very efficiently towed me out with their pickup truck. A big thank you to the locals for coming prepared.

Since I had started my day so early, it was still only early afternoon by the time I got back to my hotel in Kayenta. I had booked two nights at the hotel but quickly learned that wasn’t necessarily. I could have easily driven to the next location that afternoon.

My suggestion would be to only spend one night in the area unless you plan to spend multiple days in Monument Valley or surrounding parks.

Things to do near Monument Valley

When visiting Monument Valley Arizona you’ll most likely want to see some other sights as well. Luckily it’s remoteness means that there is good proximity to other beautiful parks as well. Plus, there are some bigger cities just a few hours away.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is sometimes referred to as a “mini monument valley.” It’s located in Mexican Hat, Utah and the two parks are only an hour apart. It has many of the same attributes, red sand, big buttes. During good weather normal cars can be fine there, but 4×4’s are suggested.

Distance from Monument Valley: One hour.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon probably needs little introduction—it is a glorious, grand, canyon. I had not been since childhood and I was truly stunned by it. I even teared up a bit—it’s beautiful. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers pretty easy access. Once you enter the park you can drive directly to a parking lot that will access to the rim view trail. No 4×4’s or major hiking required to get great views. Unless you want to!

Note: I went on a weekday morning which meant there was a very short wait to get into the park. I have heard these lines to enter by car can be over an hour long. It’s worth planning your trip around non-peak times.

The distance from the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley is about 155 miles, or a two-and-a-half-hour drive. I spent a half day at the Grand Canyon between Flaggstaff and checking into my hotel room in Kayenta.

Distance from Monument Valley: Two-and-a-half hours.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located in Page, Arizona. It’s another place that looks otherwordly and life-changing. Visiting the slot canyons of Antelope Canon requires a permit and tour with a Navajo guide.

Distance from Monument Valley: Just under two hours.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed places in Arizona. This is also located in Page and sometimes referred to as the east rim of the Grand Canyon. Seeing Horseshoe Bend—which is a meander of the Colorado River—requires a short hike from the parking lot off U.S. Route 89. It’s 1.5 miles round trip.

Distance from Monument Valley: About two hours.

Arches

Arches National Park is named after its 2,000+ natural sandstone arches. You can park and hike around in Arches, as well as take the paved Arches is Scenic Drive which goes for 25 miles. Both Arches and next park on the list are located close to Moab, Utah.

Distance from Monument Valley: Two hours and 41 minutes.

Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park is also located near Moab, Utah. It’s easy to see on foot or driving. There is a 34-mile round-trip scenic drive that makes a good option for seeing it by car. Canyonlands is the biggest park in Utah and offers a great expanse of nature to explore.

Distance from Monument Valley: Two hours and 33 minutes.

Sedona

Once you’ve exhausted the area around Monument Valley, Sedona, Arizona isn’t too far away. Sedona offers many natural sights of its own as well as a more developed town where you’ll find a plethora of hotels and restaurants.

Distance from Monument Valley: Three and a half hours.

Flagstaff

Another option of towns to visit is Flagstaff. Flagstaff is actually a much larger town than Sedona, but it gives off much more of a small-town vibe. (To me.) This might have something to do with the old town downtown and classic buildings.

Distance from Monument Valley: Two hours and 48 minutes.

Best time of year for visiting Monument Valley Arizona

The most popular time for visiting Monument Valley Arizona is in the spring or the fall seasons. In the summer it can get very hot, and in the winter, very cold. I visited in September and the weather was pretty much perfect. There was a bit of wind but the skies were clear and by mid morning it was pretty warm.

Note: Deserts can be prone to flash flooding and Monument Valley and the surrounding areas are not immune to this risk. As anywhere else with flood risks: never drive across water that’s flowing across the road.

Best time of day to visit Monument Valley

You can visit Monument Valley between 8AM-5PM—unless you opt for a private tour, in which case you can visit for sunrise or sunset.

I cannot overstate how incredible it was to go for the sunrise. When I was on the tour I said to myself “I’d do this a million times.” Obviously Monument Valley is going to be beautiful at any time of day, but the sunrise and sunset bring in different colors and lighting. Heading into the park in the dark was intriguing to me both for taking photos and also having a unique way to be close and reverent to the land.

My first experience of visiting Monument Valley Arizona was a success, and I’d return again and again. (Solo or otherwise!)

You might also like: Visiting Sequoia National Park in Winter

FAQs about visiting Monument Valley Arizona

Is Monument Valley safe for solo female travelers?

Monument Valley is considered very safe for solo female travelers. The area is remote and the locals are friendly. Considerations would include understanding the land and carrying food and water when you’re venturing out into the desert.

Can you drive to Monument Valley?

Driving to Monument Valley is the best way to get there. Options for touring the park include guided tours, self-guided drive-in tours, tours on horse-back, and exploring some areas on foot.

Is Monument Valley a National Park?

Monument Valley is a Tribal Park located inside of the Navajo Nation.

Is Monument Valley in Arizona?

Monument Valley is located both in Arizona and Utah. In fact, when you’re driving towards the park you might drive momentarily drive through both states.

Is it hot in Monument Valley?

In the summer months Monument Valley can get up into the 80’s and 90’s. In the winter months the highs are in the 40’s and 50’s.

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