While taking a family road trip through the American Southwest from Grand Canyon National Park to Mesa Verde National Park, our family decided to take a slight detour through both Monument Valley and Horseshoe Bend. As we drove through the high elevation desert landscape, it became abundantly clear that Monument Valley is best know for its amazing sandstone buttes and mesas. Beautiful!
On the border of Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is located in a very remote region inside the Navajo Nation. We found this location to be an easy addition to an itinerary that also included the Grand Canyon National Park, Horseshoe Bend, and Mesa Verde National Park. If these particular sites aren’t in your travel plans, there are other National Parks that may make good additions or substitutions: Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and/or Canyonlands National Park.
With our chosen itinerary shown in the map above, expect a minimum of 7.5 hours of driving, plus time to see the various sites. Since we drove this in a single day, we were quite tired at the end even though we ended up skipping the major activities inside Monument Valley.
If this amount of driving makes you weary just reading about it, consider breaking up your drive with an overnight stay. Just be aware that Monument Valley does not have a lot of lodging options.
In fact, The View is the only hotel inside the park, although they also offer cabins and a campground in addition to a hotel. Another option just outside the park is Goulding’s Lodge. If staying a little further away is okay, the towns of Mexican Hat and Bluff are Utah options, where Kayenta is an option in Arizona. Note that we have never stayed at any of these places and cannot give a personal recommendation.
Cost, Hours, and Restrictions
The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park closes quite early, so make sure that you double check the hours and any Covid restrictions before you arrive! (we found in the summer of 2022 that the Navajo tribal facilities still had Covid masking restrictions that had been dropped in most other places)
Hours: 8-5, last entry 4pm (summer). Winter closes an hour earlier.
Closed: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
The main activity inside Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the self-guided 17-mile loop drive. It takes 1-4 hours, depending on how many stops you make and how slowly the traffic is moving. There are also options for a guided tour, horse tours, and river tours, most of which are led by Navajo tribal members.
Even if you end up not doing this drive, simply driving just outside the official boundaries of the park is stunning. Photographers and natural beauty enthusiasts will be delighted with this travel destination!
Some of the scenes are simply iconic views of the American Southwest. See if you can recognize them from movies such as Forrest Gump (where he’s running cross-country) or Back to the Future III (Hill Valley in 1885).
After starting in the Grand Canyon and already driving 4.5 hours, plus stopping for an hour at Horseshoe Bend, we were already quite tired on arrival. As we drove towards the entry to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, we were already amazed by the scenic sandstone buttes and mesas.
Knowing that if we officially entered the park, we would likely need to spend a minimum of 1 hour, and more likely 2-4 hours to complete the 17-mile drive through the park, we ended up deciding just to admire the park from a distance and continue on our way. It was a little sad to give up a drive through such a beautiful area, but we still had another 2.5 hours of driving to our hotel in Cortez.
As it turned out, our favorite stop ended up being the place where Forrest Gump stopped his back and forth run across the country and decided to go home. Isn’t it beautiful? There was actually signage for the spot, and a group of people taking photographs when we were there.
We enjoyed even this short stop in Monument Valley, definitely worth a stop on an American Southwest road trip.
Keep reading our travel blog for more road trip ideas!
Here are some more posts from this American Southwest trip: