Visiting Monument Valley
Visiting Monument Valley actually means taking a 17 mile drive through the Valley Drive. You can only travel along the road, driving or walking off road is forbidden.
The only hiking trail here is the Wildcat Trail. It is a 3.7 mile (6 km) walk around the West Mitten butte. The trail begins right next to the valley entrance, you can leave your car on the main parking. To be honest I would not recommend this trail. There is no shade there, you get stuck ankle deep in sand and the view is better from afar.
We begin our tripby driving down to the valley. You will have to beat the tough part described above for start.
A view of the West Mitten, Merric Butte and East Mitten is going to be our stop number 1. Those buttes, also called mittens, are considered by the Navajo to be the hands of a good god, taking care of the valley. You can take great pictures here in the afternoon and during sunrise and sunset.
The Elephant Butte is our stop number 2. It is a huge red rock, looking similarly to everything but an elephant. A very thin wall with a straight edge is its characteristic feature. The best time for pictures is the afternoon.
Now we reach a crossroad, you can take a right, left, or go forward. We take a right, and at the next crossroad left to the Three Sisters – three stone pinnacles, eroded from the Mitchell Mesa. This is our stop number 3. The best time for pictures is morning.
Going back we head left towards the John Ford Point. This is our stop number 4. Here on the edge of a rocky peninsula , everyone takes the most epic photos to show their friends and families. I you want to impress your relatives even more you can take a picture of yourself on a horse. It is highly unlikely that you got to Monument Valley by horse, but it is not a problem. You can rent a horse just for pictures here. It will cost you around 8-10$, but the prices are subject to change.
You can also rent a horse for a ride around the Monument Valley here, but as there is no competition in this area, the prices for rides are significantly higher than for those offered at The View hotel. This establishment is aimed at compulsive visitors, who were so enchanted by the moment that they decided to go for a ride.
It is certainly worth to come by Linda’s hut and buy a frybread – a part of the Indian cuisine, made of flour and water, fried in deep oil. You can eat it there or get it to go. Its nutritional value will allow you to skip dinner.
We go back onto the main road. The Camel Butte is our stop number 5. If you look hard enough you will be able to recognize a camel silhouette in this rock. All of the 3 locations listed above are best photographed in the afternoon.
Further down the main road you will reach The Hub Point, which is our stop number 6. There are two interesting pinnacles in an alley between two mesas here – The Bird and The Hand, in addition to a view of a red butte. You can already see the Totem Pole in a distance from here.
And the Totem Pole and the Yei Bi Chei are our stop number 7. In my opinion this is the most unusual and amazing rock formation in Monument Valley. Yei Bi Chei consists of a couple rock columns of various heights. The neighboring Totem Pole is the highest, measuring 250 feet (75 m). Unfortunately the viewing point is quite far, if you want to get closer, you will have to book a trip with an Navajo guide. You will take the best pictures here in the morning.
Right nearby the Sand Springs are located, our stop number 8. Here you will find orange sand dunes surrounding the Sand Spring – one of the few water sources in Monument Valley. This point will give you a better view of the Totem Pole than the last one, as it is located a bit closer. Here and on the previous point it is best to take pictures in the morning or late afternoon. Not far away from the Sand Springs there the Cube – a big boulder in the shape of the cube.
Now we are heading north towards stop number 9 – the Artist’s Point. Here you will witness an amazing overview of the Monument Valley, as well as a view of all the buttes, with a picturesque Spearhead Mesa in the background. This is my favorite spot in the valley, as it is located a bit on the side, with very few tourists stopping here.
It is time to head back. On the way we will visit the North Window, our stop number 10. North Window is a view of the East Mitten laying between the Elephant Butte and a butte called Clay Butte. You can leave your car on the parking and walk a quarter of a mile closer to fully enjoy this view. Here you are allowed to move freely.
Right before driving back onto the main road you will pass by The Thumb, our stop number 11 and the last one for the trip. The Thumb is a stone pinnacle right next to the Camel Butte, looking a bit like a thumb, hence the name.
Now we finish our sightseeing. This is everything that we can see without a Navajo guide. But there are amazing arches, Indian ruins, petroglyphs, pinnacles, buttes and amazing landscapes all around here. So why not go for a tour with a Navajo guide?