Soaring Over Monument Valley

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley

If there was a main destination on our epic 2000+ mile road trip through the American Southwest it was Monument Valley, which is located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Believe it or not my inspiration for this mega adventure came while riding Soarin’ Over The World an attraction inside Disneyland’s California Adventure Park. And why not? Inspiration can come from anywhere: magazines, guide books, blogs, television shows, food, instagram feeds, and yes, even theme park rides.

Related Post: Wanderlust is Calling!

Soaring over Monument Valley

Family Road Trip to Monument Valley Utah Arizona #monumentvalley
We “flew” over the West Mitten Butte at Disney’s California Adventure.

As I was saying, after “soaring” over Monument Valley on a theme park ride, I just knew I had to see this amazing natural wonder in person. Not only that, this was a part of the United States no one in my family had visited, so it would be something new for all of us.

Related Post: Postcards from The American Southwest

Along the Way

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley #forestgump
Our first view of Monument Valley from Hwy 163.

The drive to Monument Valley from Arches takes around 2.5 hours, and other than a few photo stops along the way, we drove straight through.

Mexican Hat Utah #mexicanhat
We stopped for a quick photo of the Mexican hat rock

It was a happy accident when we decided to stop for a photo in the very place Forrest Gump stopped his cross-country run!

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley #forestgump
The film character Forest Gump ended his cross country run in this very spot on Hwy 163.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley Utah Arizona #monumentvalleyMonument Valley is famous for it’s majestic sandstone buttes, the tallest of which rises over 1000 feet from the valley floor. It’s no wonder that this place has been repeatedly featured in film and media since the 1930s.

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley
The Man on a Horse

Visitors can choose to drive the Park’s 17 mile dirt road in their own vehicle, however the roads are more suited to off road vehicles and much of the Valley is only accessible via guided tour. Along the way you may run into local Navajo people selling handmade goods.

The View Lodge & Visitor Center

Monument Valley Visitor Center #familyroadtriputahUpon entering the Park you’ll find yourself at The View lodge and Visitor Center. Inside you’ll find park information, a museum, restaurant, gift shop, and of course amazing views of the Valley in every direction! Even the elevator has a view. Really! If you plan on taking a guided tour the View Lobby is where you’ll meet your guide.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familytravelutah

Tours of Monument Valley 

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Monument Valley Loop Drive

Realizing that navigating a winding bumpy dirt road for 2 – 3 hours wasn’t the best way for me to see the Valley or to keep my sanity I booked our group on a guided tour. We chose the Dineh Bekeyah tour company, which was a great experience.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Our Guide Steven

Our guide, Steven was kind, friendly, and informative. During our four hours together we learned about the Navajo people, their customs, and their relationship to the Valley. We drove into the backcountry, where we were able to venture onto some of the rock formations and climb mountains of sand. We saw pictographs, “dragons”, and wild horses!

There is really no way to explain the sheer size of the monuments, and how I felt being among them. A little little like Land of the Lost, maybe?

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Camel Butte


Family road trip through Monument Valley Utah Arizona #familyroadtrip
Photographers Point

If you’re a photographer than Monument Valley is the place for you, in fact there is even a place called Photographer’s Point. IF the weather is in your favor, sunrise and sunset are popular times to take photos, as well as after dark when the dark skies allow the stars to come out in full force.

Unfortunately my plans for an astrophotography tour were foiled when an extreme storm complete with rain, wind, thunder and lightening blew through the area. That’s not to say I didn’t get a few snaps, just not night sky.

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley
This crazy storm blew in foiling my plans for night sky photos

I rose before the sun to catch the sunrise. I’m pretty sure a bat flew into my face while I attempted to take some photos in the predawn light. Eeek!

Monument Valley Utah #monumentvalley
I woke up before dawn to catch this sunrise

Gouldings Lodge

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Gouldings Lodge

Our accomodations during our visit to Monument Valley were at Gouldings Lodge, which is located just a few minutes drive from the Park entrance. Our little cabin of sorts, which had a great view of the Monuments and conveniently a kitchenette was perfect for our party of five.

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip

The Gouldings story is quite fascinating. Originally sheep farmers, their farm was struggling during the depression of the 1930s. Through a series of events and luck they brought Hollywood, to the Valley (and with the filming of the famous western movie Stagecoach starring John Wayne) the Valley to the world.. The rest, as they say, is history…

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip
Goulding’s Lodge at Golden Hour

Onsite at Gouldings you’ll find the Stagecoach Restaurant, a grocery store, swimming pool, museum, gift shop, and more.

Tips & Advice:

Monument Valley Utah Arizona Family Travel #familyroadtrip

  • Monument Valley isn’t a state or national park, but rather a Navajo Tribal Park.
  • There is a fee to enter the tribal park.
  • Navajo people live and work within the park’s boundaries.
  • The backcountry is only accessible via guided tour.
  • Hiking opportunities wihtin Monument Valley are limited, and during extreme temperatures the trails may be closed.
  • The View Lodge is the only lodging inside the park and it books far in advance.
  • We booked our guided tour in advance, but same day tours are possible.

Inspiration is Everywhere

Disneyland inspired Monument Valley, but it’s not the only place I’ve ever visited due to a little help from an unusual source. Our visit to Northern Ireland was born out of a desire to see the Giant’s Causeway, but it was my love of Game of Thrones that led me to the Dark Hedges.

#dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges

Related Post: Best. Day. Ever! The Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland!

Scotland had been on my list since I read Harlequin Romance novels as a teen (I admit it was guilty pleasure), but it was the novel Outlander that inspired my visit to Culloden Battlefield in the Highlands.


Related Post: Taking The High Road…

I don’t know about you, but I’d fly to Italy just for the coffee and Spain for a plate of chorizo and manchego… Does it really matter where the inspiration comes from?

Chorizo y Manchego 

Related Post: An Afternoon in Seville!

What type of vacation do you dream of? Have you ever chosen a destination based on an unusual reason? Are you inspired by pop culture, social media, or low airfares? Maybe you just spin the globe and come what may?


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60 thoughts on “Soaring Over Monument Valley

  1. We went to Florence after reading and watching the Da Vinci code!! When I’m away somewhere I love nothing more than reading a novel set in that place. Monument Valley looks amazing Hilary and as always your photos are just incredible. Shame about the storm thwarting your night sky pictures but you got some incredible lightening shots. Still shivering at the thought of that bat though… eek!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your photos are gorgeous even if you weren’t able to get the time of day you wanted. My favorite is the picture of the storm. You captured a rainbow and a lightening bolt in the same shot. Awesome! As far as unusual travel inspiration goes, I am dying to visit Toronto just because of a Canadian tv show I like to watch. The same goes for Prince Edward Island because of Anne of Green Gables. #FarawayFiles

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  3. I still can’t get over the extraordinary scenery in this part of America. It seems so out of this world, almost as if it comes from another planet. I’m loving the predominant orange of the pictures, which are, as always, absolutely incredible. This sounds like the very best kind of family adventure. Wonderful share for #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just wow! Monument Valley realyy is … monumental 😅 and your pics of the storm look so surreal. I would defs love to see that some day.
    Considering unusual travel inspiration: this past summer, we visited the lake district (among other areas of england) because ever since i learned about the romantic lake poets in university i wanted to see the woods, lakes, mountains and small villages myself. And it was sooo worth it 💜

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a pattern in the naming of the valleys, it seems 😀 My blog post on the lake district is not yet up, i’m still working on it – We had such a literary-wordsworthian experience there. And the lakes, oh, the lakes!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Sooo so stunning Hilary! I have always been mesmerized by the red rocks of the American southwest. Probably because it was so different from the green treed landscape of the Pacific Northwest where I hail from. I haven’t been to Monument Valley, but now MUST go! Thanks for sharing this beautiful post with #FarawayFiles, cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

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  6. Oh, I love Monument Valley so much, but I’ve never visited it… Last time we were just 4 hours away but didn’t have enough time. Thanks for your post, because your photos are simply awesome. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  7. This is an amazing post! Just incredible photos! I can’t get over all the different shades of reds and oranges, and even though the storm ruined your night plans, you got an absolutely gorgeous shot out of it! I am totally sharing this to my page tomorrow – just not now since it’s a Saturday night ;). #farawayfiles

    Liked by 1 person

  8. love love LOVE your photos! Hopefully it was worth getting tangled up with a bat! That lightning shot is amazing. And are those wild horses I see? *swoons* Add to that the fact that you get to learn about Navajo culture – I’m sold. Thanks for sharing, Hilary!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hilary – I am always so impressed with your photos. I absolutely love this post. I’m 99% sure we’ll be visiting Utah sometime in early fall next year and Monument Valley is high on my list. Just like Disneyland inspired you, you have inspired me. Thanks for that. 🙂 #farawayfiles

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How I wish there was a Love button on your post! Your photos are simply STUNNING, from the first one down to the last. That sunrise shot is unforgettable, many of your pics make me dizzy with the scale of things in Monument Valley. Definitely one for the bucket list! x

    Liked by 1 person

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