Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park: The Complete Guide

Three large rock formations in Monument Valley just before sunset

David Toussaint / Getty Images

Map card placeholder graphic

Monument Valley

Address
Indn Route 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536, USA
Phone +1 435-727-5870

Straddling the Arizona/Utah border, Monument Valley is one of the nation’s most recognizable landscapes, thanks to its appearance in classic Westerns and movies like “Forrest Gump.” (Forrest decides to stop running against the backdrop of Monument Valley’s iconic buttes.) But it’s not your typical national park. In fact, it’s not a national park at all. Located on Navajo lands, Monument Valley is actually a tribal park operated by the Navajo people, who consider it a very sacred place.

As a result, access is restricted within the park. While you can drive a 17-mile section through the park on your own, you’ll need a Navajo guide to do anything more than that. However, that’s part of what makes Monument Valley so unique—you learn about Navajo history, culture, and traditions from the tribal member welcoming you into their lands. Plan to spend the night at the park’s hotel, The View, so you can watch the sunrise, sunset, or both over the amazing rock formations.

Things to Do

If you’re short on time, drive the 17-mile, extremely rough dirt road past the Mittens and Totem Pole formations on a self-guided tour. If you have more time, book a tour with a Navajo guide online or at the park’s visitor center. Tours range from 90 minutes to full-day adventures. Some guides even offer traditional meals, entertainment, and overnight stays in a Hogan.

Beyond that, activities are limited in the park. There are no ranger-led programs, helicopter rides, or hot air balloon rides here. You can’t mountain bike, off-road, or ride your own horse through the park either. Want to climb the monuments? Forget that, too. Rock climbing is strictly prohibited.

Monument Valley

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Hiking in Monument Valley

The Wildcat Trail is the only one you can hike unescorted in Monument Valley. If you want to do anything more, you’ll have to hire a Navajo guide. Book a hiking tour before you go. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee a guide at the visitor center will be available—or prepared—to take you on a hike when you arrive.

Wildcat Trail: This 3.2-mile trail begins at the campground next to The View Hotel and loops around the Left Mitten before returning. Go at sunrise. Not only is it cooler, but the soft light washes the valley in ever-changing color. 

Types of Tours

Most people experience Monument Valley on a 4x4 tour, but there are other options, including horseback rides and photography tours. Each Navajo guide or company offers slightly different tours, but these are the common ones available in the park:

  • Basic Scenic Tour: Lasting about 90 minutes, these tours follow the 17-mile route through the park that you could drive on your own. So why pay the $65 to $75 per person charge for a guided tour? Many drivers don’t want to subject their vehicles to the treacherous road, but Navajo guides also give you insights on how the formations came to be, point out where movies were filmed, and share their culture.
  • Cultural Tour: Held late in the afternoon, this tour builds on the full valley tours, adding a cultural experience like a weaving demonstration or live music. As the sun begins to set, the tour continues with a Navajo dinner, usually puffy fry bread topped with meat and beans, followed by traditional dancing and music.
  • Time of Day Tour: Because light can change the color of the rock formations dramatically, several tours revolve around the time of the day. Many consider sunrise the best time to take one of these tours, but sunset can be equally impressive as can a night with a full moon. Often a photographer leads these tours.
  • Photography Tours: Led by Navajo photographers, these tours are usually for any skill level with any type of camera—even a cell phone—but you may want to check with the guide or company before committing.
  • Overnight Tours: Want to experience Monument Valley at night? Several companies offer the option to stay overnight in a Hogan, a traditional Navajo structure. Dinner and breakfast are included.
Rider on horse in a desert landscape
 Tuan Tran / Getty Images

Park Guides

You’ll find a list of guided tour operators on the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation website. It’s not unusual for individuals and smaller guide companies to stop offering tours for a length of time only to start up again later, sometimes under another company name, but some companies are fixtures in Monument Valley. These companies have experienced guides and provide a consistent experience for their guests.

  • Roy Black’s Guided Tours: Started by a Navajo person who grew up in Monument Valley, this company specializes in sharing Navajo culture. Tours include the 4x4 adventures and overnight Hogan stays. Roy Black’s Guided Tours is one of the few companies in Monument Valley with guided horseback tours, from 30 minutes to six hours long.
  • Monument Valley Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours: Guides with Monument Valley Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours know the valley better than anyone—they were all born and raised here. The company has an extensive list of tours including Hogan stays, cultural experiences, sunrise/sunset outings, and guided hikes.
  • Goulding’s Lodge Tours: Operated out of Goulding’s Lodge, 5 miles from the park’s entrance, this company takes guests on partial and full-day tours of the valley. It also offers sunrise, sunset, and full moon tours as well as tours of the areas surrounding Monument Valley Tribal Park.
Monument Valley

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove 

Where to Camp

You can camp inside the park at The View Campground. Nearby, camping is also available at Goulding’s RV & Campgrounds and Monument Valley KOA.

  • The View Campground: Located inside the park, this campground has dry RV and tent camping with unobstructed views of the Mittens. The RV sites do not have hookups. Restrooms and showers are available for all campers.
  • Goulding’s RV & Campgrounds: Five miles outside the park, near Goulding’s Lodge, this campground has RV sites with full hookups and tent camping. In addition to restrooms and grills, the campground has Wi-Fi and access to the laundromat, convenience store, and indoor pool at the lodge.
  • Monument Valley KOA: Campers will find full hookup RV and tent sites about 1.5 miles north of the park entrance at Monument Valley KOA. Campsite amenities include a dog park, basic Wi-Fi, and firewood for sale.

Where to Stay Nearby

You can actually stay inside the park at The View, aptly named for its balconies overlooking the valley. However, you’ll pay extra for the privilege and have very limited dining options. Nearby, Goulding’s Lodge is a convenient option with similarly limited food options. Kayenta, 25 miles south of the park’s entrance, has chain hotels and several decent restaurants, some serving Navajo specialties. 

  • The View Hotel: The only hotel in the park, The View Hotel is operated by the Navajo tribe and boasts some of the most outstanding views in the Southwest. Each of its 96 rooms has its own private balcony, and you can sample Navajo dishes at its restaurant. You’ll also find a gift shop and the park’s visitor center on-site.
  • Goulding’s Lodge: Originally a trading post and a base for director John Ford and his crew when they filmed in Monument Valley, Goulding’s Lodge has 152 rooms, Wi-Fi, and cable TV. There’s also a restaurant, indoor swimming pool, museum, theater, laundromat, and convenience store onsite. Planning on a guided tour through Monument Valley? Goulding’s has its own tour company that leaves from the property. 
Road to Monument Valley
 benedek / Getty Images

How to Get There

Monument Valley is quitw remote, the nearest major cities of Phoenix and Albuquerque are both roughly 320 miles away.

From Phoenix, take I-17 north to I-40. Head east to the edge of Flagstaff, and follow signs to pick up US-89 north. Drive approximately 70 miles and turn at US-160, heading east towards Tuba City. Follow this to Kayenta. Turn north on US-163 and continue 25 miles to the park’s entrance.

From Albuquerque, take 1-40 west to Gallup. At Gallup, head north on US-491. Before leaving Gallup, turn left onto SR 264 and head west to Burnside. There, take US 191 north and drive 40 miles north to Indian Route 59. Where IR-59 intersects US-160, turn left. Go 8 miles, and turn right at US-163. Head north 25 miles to the park’s entrance.

Accessibility

The visitor center and facilities are accessible. However, tours may not be. Check with the guide or company before hiring them. Stops on the 17-mile drive are no paved and may be difficult for some to navigate.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Park admission is $20 per vehicle transporting up to four people. Since this is not a national park, America the Beautiful and other passes are not honored here.
  • Navajo Nation observes daylight savings times even though the rest of Arizona does not. When you book a tour, confirm whether daylight savings times will be in effect and adjust your schedule accordingly.
  • Drones, weapons, and alcohol are prohibited on Navajo land.
  • Because the monuments are considered sacred, you are not allowed to climb them.
Was this page helpful?
Back to Article

Monument Valley Tribal Park: The Complete Guide