Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park



On the Arizona/Utah border in the northeastern part of the state, this stark landscape is what most of us imagine the western U.S. to look like—grand mesas, buttes, canyons and needlelike formations rising into the sky. Not surprisingly, these sights have played a part in many classic western movies: Monument Valley has been a notable backdrop for movies since director John Ford made Stagecoach there in 1938, and it continues to appear in television shows and commercials. The park is on the Navajo Reservation and is operated by the tribe. A campground is located in the park, and hotels are available right outside, as well as in the nearby towns of Kayenta, Arizona, and Mexican Hat, Utah.

Most of the valley's dramatic views can be seen on a 17-mi/27-km self-guided scenic drive. Be prepared for a bumpy, dusty trip, though a regular car should make it through OK. If you'd rather not chance it, plenty of guided truck tours leave from the visitors center. Though your ride on the truck will still be bumpy and dusty, some of these tours will take you to sights that are off-limits to nontour vehicles, including Navajo hogans (log-and-mud houses) and cliff dwellings.

Guided hikes and horseback tours of the main valley can also be arranged at the visitors center. Another option is a horseback excursion through Mystery Valley, a serene area that's somewhat removed from the bustle of Monument Valley proper. The tour we took began near El Capitan (also known as Agathla Peak), a massive volcanic monolith, and visited ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, hogans and rock arches. The Mystery Valley tours are arranged through the Oljato Trading Post, located west of the tribal park. 295 mi/475 km northeast of Phoenix.

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