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
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
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.
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 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.
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
Upon 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.
Tours of Monument Valley
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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…
Onsite at Gouldings you’ll find the Stagecoach Restaurant, a grocery store, swimming pool, museum, gift shop, and more.
Tips & Advice:
- 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.
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?
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?
Pin for later:
Really like your posts and they are such an inspiration for trips and things to do when travelling through the United States. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Thank you so much!
Beautiful photography. You never disappoint.
Oh my gosh! Thank you so much!!
Are We Adults Yet
Your photos are so beautiful!
Thank you so much!! 😊
Nancy | MapandFamily
Fabulous photos Hilary, this is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit ever since I was a child and that’s mainly down to Hollywood! When would you say is the best time of year to visit?
Thank you! I’m so glad you like them! I might consider going in late Spring or mid-fall when he temperatures aren’t so extreme!
Your photos and comment are so professional. You should send to travel magazines
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!!
I’m surprised I didn’t wake everyone when I screamed!! I re-read Outlander last year when I was in Scotland! So fun!
Oh my goooodness these pictures are incredible. I just got the travel bug big time! Thank you for sharing this awe-inspiring adventure!!!
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed!
I love love LOVE your photos! Absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to visit Monument Valley someday!
Thank you so so much! I really appreciate that! It was definitely a highlight of our trip! And nothing like I expected!
Hilary you have really outdone yourself with this post. Your photos are amazing.The first photo with the lightning is particularly incredible. You’ve put Monument Valley on my list! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
Thank you Katy!! It was definitely an amazing place and so unique compared to many of the other red rock places we visited.
The parks (national and otherwise) of southwestern America have been on my to do list for a long time. This looks absolutely gorgeous! #farawayfiles
It truly was a beautiful place! But so so hot outside! Mid summer may not be the best time to visit. Tho it is the most popular… 😂
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
Thank you! I’ve also got Toronto on my list! Ooh! Anne of Green Gables! I remember her!
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
It always amazes me at how different and how vast America really is…. it seems to go on forever sometimes! It was a pretty neat stop.
Nicky @ GoLiveYoung
Amazing photos. Love the one with the lightning fork. Would love to visit this part of the US #FarawayFiles
Thank you! Yes it’s a fascinating and beautiful part of the world!
Christine | The Journey of Christine
So jealous! I think I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve been dying to do a trip like this! I was thinking maybe next Spring Break? Love how the United States is full of different beautiful landscapes! #farawayfiles
Spring Break might be a perfect time! The temperatures will definitely be cooler!
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 💜
ha ha! I thought the same thing… Monument Valley is aptly named! I’ve recently seen photos of the Lake District and it looks amazing. Did you blog about it?
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!
That’s cool there is a sign showing exactly where Forrest Gump ended his marathon and really cool that you had a guide to show you around! I would definitely do that! Your pictures are really amazing! #FarawayFiles
Thank you! Without the guide I wouldn’t have had any chance for photos. The “roads” are challenging to say the least.
wooow – those pictures are truly amazing!!! what a great post!
Thank you so much!
Anisa & Katherine (@2travelingtxns)
Hilary – Your pictures in this post are absolutely stunning! Seriously, I can’t get over how amazing Utah is. Your posts are definitely inspiring me to go there. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Thank you so much! I really had no idea before going, and it was truly a unique and beautiful place.
I think a storm photo is equal to a sunset one in terms of drama and beauty. And you got a fab sunrise so all in all a perfect photographic trip I reckon! Your country is so vast..!
Thank you so much! It is SO vast, even with that knowledge, I was still blown away by it as the miles kept passing and the road seemed to go on forever………..;)
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family
We are hoping to make it out West next summer. We will have to add Monument Valley to our places to see. Your photos are beautiful! #TheWeeklyPostcard
Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon were both amazing highlights! Antelope Canyon is next week’s post…
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
I’m so glad I’ve inspired you! As you know I’m also from the PNW and It’s incredible how vastly different they are. Like a visiting a different planet.
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
Thank you!! You were so close, yet so far away…. next time!
fifi + hop
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
Awe, thank you! I was feeling overly critical of the photos and post, so happy you enjoyed it! Enjoy your Saturday night!!
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!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!! The jury is still out on the possible bat encounter, but it was a spectacular place. Thank you!!
Yes! Wild horses!! Amazing right!
Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats
Sounds like you had an amazing time. Utah is a place I’ve actually never been, but Laurence as a photographer has been wanting to go for a few years now. Definitely a place he would love with all the parks!
Utah is definitely a photographers dream!!
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
Thank you so much! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post and photos! YAY! Monument Valley was definitely worth the trip, and I know you’ll love it. xx
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
WOW! Thank YOU for your kind words! Even when there it was hard to fathom the scale of these giant monuments. xx