The Southwest’s Crown Jewel: Monument Valley Utah

Driving Tour of Monument Valley Utah

Monument Valley Arizona

Have you every been driving down the road and you’re completely taken back by the scenery? And you think “I should stop here to take a photo.” But then you think “what if the next spot is better?” and you continue on and on. And then you come to the end of the beauty and you’re like “you dumb ass you missed your photo opportunity”.  And who has time to go back to snap a few photos? 

This is how I felt about The Valley Of The Gods just outside of Mexican Hat Utah, which in case you were wondering has a rock structure that slightly resembles a Mexican hat. If I were a better person I would have taken a photo of it. But I didn’t and you’re just going to have to trust me that it looks like a hat. Or you can see a photo by someone else of the Mexican Hat.

I also missed my opportunity with The Valley of the Gods. And for that I am sorry that I did not take any photos of it as I drove through with my mouth gaping open from the stunning scenery. This is one of the flaws of traveling alone. You have no one to say “why don’t you stop and take a photo”. Boomer, although a faithful companion, gives me no such guidance. The only time I ever hear him chirp about stopping is when he sees large bodies of water for him to swim in.

But I can make it up to you. Because I DID take photos of Monument Valley. Which is located near the Valley of the Gods and has similar scenery. My excuse is valid for not taking photos of The Valley of the Gods (which I will give you my excuse now, because who doesn’t love to hear excuses?) Monument Valley, according to what I had read online and in my guide books, was to be the most stunning place in the southwest. Now that’s a pretty tall order… have you seen Zion National Park? But I was willing to believe what I had read as the photos I had seen online were pretty amazing and how could so many websites and blogs be wrong?

Driving Tour of Monument Valley Utah

“the” shot of Monument Valley

As I approached one of the most photographed sites of Monument Valley, I knew I had to stop. There would be no mouth gaping open distractions that would excuse not stopping. The road was not heavily traveled which came in handy as the only way to capture the shot is to stand in the center of the highway.

After snapping the shot we continued on to the entrance of Monument Valley, paying our entrance fee. Monument Valley is managed by the Navajo Nation, not the National Park Service, so the America The Beautiful Pass will not cover your entrance fee here.

Driving Tour of Monument Valley Utah

3 Sisters

I took a quick tour around the visitor center. I am not one to spend a lot of time in museum like settings, but I did pick up a few interesting facts that I did not previously know. The Navajo Nation have their own president, who is reelected every 4 years as well as their own congress. I also learned that the people who live on the Navajo Reservation, where Monument Valley is located, are considered to be at or below the poverty level.  They choose to live in poverty in order to keep their traditions alive, passing them on to future generations.

Driving Tour of Monument Valley Utah

Monument Valley Utah

One disappointing fact that I did find was that the abundance of traffic traveling through the park is actually damaging the monument.  Yet the traffic is still allowed to travel through. And yes I will admit that I contributed to that damage as I drove my own car through the moment. There are guided tours offered for an additional fee, which helps reduce the impact, but there were far more cars in the park than guided tours.

Driving Tour of Monument Valley Utah

Rock bluffs in Monument Valley Utah

The park as a whole is a wide open space with towering rock bluffs sprinkled about. The valley road has 11 stops along the dirt road, all with significant rock structures with short written blurbs about how the rocks got their names or the meaning to the Navajo people. The road is 17 miles (27.35 km) round trip and takes 1.5 to 2 hours to complete (including stops for photography). Dogs are allowed in the park, on leash, which was one of the reasons Boomer and I made the stop. We love places that welcome dogs!

Driving Tour of Monument Valley Utah

‘ugh, it’s so hot” – Boomer

Although we had planned on taking a short hike, the day was much too hot for both Boomer and I to venture off into the desert, so we opted only for the drive around the park.

Monument Valley is located off of highway 163 on the boarder of Utah and Arizona.

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