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Monument Valley Itinerary: A Stop-By-Stop Guide

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I’ve visited Monument Valley twice over the last few years, and I wrote this Monument Valley itinerary to help you make the most of your visit.

I grew up seeing Monument Valley in the backdrop of John Wayne Westerns and Forrest Gump. For me, and I bet maybe for you too, Monument Valley is just one of those places that is embedded in my mind and captures my imagination. It never occurred to me as a kid that I’d get to visit Monument Valley for myself one day.

This itinerary covers options for self-driving the scenic loop or exploring the backcountry with a guide. It also provides an overview of every single stop so you can decide which to include in your day.

Monument Valley

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Monument Valley At-A-Glance

  • Entrance fee (self-guided): $8 per person, per day
  • Tour price range: $80-$150 for 1-3 hour tours
  • Monument Valley Itinerary:
    • East and West Mittens
    • Elephant Butte
    • Three Sisters
    • John Ford’s Point
    • Camel Butte
    • The Hub and Rain God Mesa
    • Bird Spring
    • Totem Pole
    • Navajo Code Talker Outpost – Artist’s Point
    • Spearhead Mesa
    • North Window
    • The Thumb

What is Monument Valley? 

Monument Valley is a breathtakingly beautiful region located on the Arizona-Utah border within the Navajo Nation Reservation. Known for its stunning red sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires that tower over the desert landscape, it is one of the most iconic symbols of the American West.

This vast, picturesque area has been featured in countless films, television shows, and photographs.

Monument Valley is not just a place of striking natural beauty but also a significant cultural and historical site for the Navajo people. The valley is deeply intertwined with Navajo history, traditions, and spirituality. Visitors can explore this magnificent landscape through guided tours led by Navajo guides, offering unique insights into the land’s cultural significance and the stories behind the stunning rock formations.

Monument Valley

Who are the Navajo People? 

The Navajo, also known as Diné, are the largest Native American tribe in the United States. Their traditional homeland, Dinétah, encompasses parts of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The Navajo Nation, which covers over 27,000 square miles, is a sovereign entity with its own government, headquartered in Window Rock, Arizona.

Monument Valley is part of the traditional Navajo homeland. The Navajo word for Monument Valley is Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii and refers to the sacred rock formations, mesas, and buttes here.

These landforms are integral to the Navajo creation stories and are seen as the physical manifestations of their deities and spiritual beliefs.

The area has been inhabited by the Navajo for centuries, and it bears the marks of their ancestors’ presence, including ancient dwellings, petroglyphs, and artifacts.

How to Get to Monument Valley 

To get to Monument Valley, you will need to fly into one of the nearby airports. None of them are particularly close, just to set expectations!

  • Flagstaff, Arizona: 2 hours 53 minutes
  • Page, Arizona: 2 hours
  • Las Vegas, Nevada: 6 hours 30 minutes
  • Phoenix, Arizona: 5 hours
  • St. George, Utah: 4 hours 40 minutes

Search for flights to Monument Valley here or in the box below!

Whichever airport you choose to fly into, you’ll definitely need to rent a car. You can search for rental cars here or use the search box below!

Navajo-Led Tours

We highly recommend visiting Monument Valley on a guided tour led by a member of the Navajo tribe. This is the best way to learn about their culture and history, which will in turn will add meaning to the landscape you’re exploring.

We booked a group tour through Goulding’s Tours and had a good experience overall. I think next time I would prefer to book an overnight camping tour so we can experience sunrise and sunset in Monument Valley. I mean seriously how incredible would a stargazing tour be there?!

Here are some recommended tours:

Goulding’s Tours Truck

Monument Valley Map

This map of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Map is provided by Navajo Nation Parks. It includes the locations of sites along the 17-mile scenic drive.

Monument Valley Itinerary – Without a Guide

With one day exploring Monument Valley’s stunning landscapes, we recommend following the 17-mile Scenic Loop. This itinerary will guide you through all the major viewpoints, providing plenty of opportunities to take in the iconic scenery.

1. East and West Mittens

The East and West Mitten Buttes are iconic landmarks in Monument Valley, easily recognizable due to their unique shapes that resemble hands. These formations are more than just geological wonders; they symbolize spiritual beings watching over the valley.

The surrounding formations, Merrick Butte and Mitchell Mesa, carry historical significance as well. They are named after two ex-cavalry soldiers turned prospectors who searched for silver in the valley.

The Mitten in Monument Valley
The Mitten

2. Elephant Butte

This butte resembles an elephant with its trunk reaching out. It’s a massive formation and offers impressive views, making it a great spot for early morning photography.

3. Three Sisters

These slender spires are said to resemble a trio of nuns in habits. They are often featured in movies and offer a unique view of the valley.

Tim with the Three Sisters Rock Formation on Monument Valley
Three Sisters

4. John Ford’s Point

Named after the famous director who filmed many Westerns here, this point offers expansive views of the valley. You might recognize it from “The Searchers,” “Cheyenne Autumn,” and “Stagecoach.”

5. Camel Butte

Shaped like a camel, this butte is another fascinating formation. It’s a great place to take more photographs and admire the landscape.

6. The Hub and Rain God Mesa

The Hub is a fascinating formation that symbolizes the hub of a wagon wheel. To the Navajo people, it represents the fireplace in the center of a gigantic Hogan, which is a traditional Navajo home. This connection to their cultural heritage adds depth to the visual appeal of The Hub.

7. Bird Spring

Bird Spring offers a stunning vista overlooking a vast expanse of sand dunes, adding a unique dimension to the Monument Valley landscape.

8. Totem Pole Lookout Point

The Totem Pole stands as a testament to the relentless forces of erosion sculpting the towering buttes of Monument Valley over millennia. Unlike its wooden namesake crafted by Northeastern tribes, this geological marvel is formed from sandstone, showcasing nature’s artistry in shaping the landscape.

East of the Totem Pole lies the Yei Bi Chei formation, representing Navajo spiritual gods.

Totem Pole

9. Navajo Code Talker Outpost – Artist’s Point

Formerly known as Artist Point, the Navajo Code Talkers Outpost pays homage to the Navajo Code Talkers whose unbreakable code played a crucial role in military communications during World War II.

Navajo Code Talker Outpost

10. Spearhead Mesa

Adjacent to the outpost, Spearhead Mesa commands attention with its striking resemblance to the tip of an arrow or spear.

11. North Window

North Window offers a captivating vista of the lower valley to the north, framed by two prominent formations.

To the left stands Elephant Butte, its imposing silhouette commanding attention against the horizon.

To the right, Cly Butte, named after a revered Navajo medicine man known as Cly, rests solemnly. Cly, whose Navajo name translates to “Left,” is buried at the base of this formation.

12. The Thumb

This rock formation resembles a giant thumb, providing another unique photo opportunity and a chance to marvel at nature’s artistry. It is also said to look like a cowboy boot. We see it!

The Thumb

Monument Valley Itinerary with Backcountry Access – Guided

If you book a Navajo-guided tour that includes backcountry access (which you should!) you will get to see several additional locations that are not part of the self-driving route.

Here are our favorite stops in the Monument Valley backcountry (also called Lower Monument Valley):

Ear of the Wind Arch

The Ear of the Wind Arch stands 134 feet tall over Monument Valley. The arch earns its name from a distinctive geological feature—a natural “ear” formation with an opening that interacts with the wind. This unique configuration creates a wind tunnel effect, producing a distinctive sound that echoes through the valley.

Sun’s Eye

Sun’s Eye is a pothole natural arch with a distinct eye-like shape.

Sun’s Eye

Be sure to take a look at the rock along the base to see the Sun’s Eye Petroglyphs!

Petroglyphs

The Big Hogan

The Big Hogan is a large natural arch in a cave. Like a Navajo Hogan, this formation resembles a circular shelter with a hole in the top.

The Big Hogan

Moccasin Arch

Like Sun’s Eye, Moccasin Arch is another pothole arch. This is one of the largest and most impressive arches in Lower Monument Valley!

Rain God Mesa

Rain God Mesa, accessible only through guided tours, marks the geological center of Monument Valley. This mesa holds great spiritual significance for the Navajo medicine men, who pray and give thanks to the Rain God here. The Rain God is believed to store water for the people, a vital resource in this arid region.

On the south side of Rain God Mesa, you can see dark streaks painted by the natural aquifer seeping out at the base of the sandstone, highlighting the mesa’s importance in sustaining life in the valley.

Sand Springs

The east portion of the dunes near Bird Springs is known as Sand Springs, accessible only with guided tours. Here, a natural aquifer seeps out, marking the convergence point of the De Chelly and Navajo sandstone formations beneath the shifting sands.

More Things to Do in Monument Valley

Forrest Gump Point

At Forrest Gump Point, right off U.S. Route 163 in Utah, you’ll find more than just a roadside view—it’s a slice of movie magic.

Remember that iconic scene from “Forrest Gump” where Forrest Gump decides to end his cross-country run? Well, this spot near Monument Valley is where it all happened.

From here, you get this expansive view of the desert, with those big mesas and rugged buttes stretching out before you. People love to stop here, snap photos, and maybe even recreate that famous running scene from the movie. It’s one of those places that just sticks with you, blending natural beauty with a touch of Hollywood charm.

The GPS coordinates for Forrest Gump Point are: 37.101393, -109.990973

CAUTION! If you decide to take photos on the highway, which we do not recommend, be very careful of traffic. This highway can be quite busy!

Hikes in Monument Valley

There are two hiking trails in Monument Valley. You can sign in for each and get more information at the Monument Valley Visitor Center.

Wildcat Trail

The Wildcat Hike is a 3.8-mile loop trail that typically takes about three hours to complete. This scenic trek around West Mitten Butte offers stunning views of iconic buttes like East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte. The trail, mostly flat and sandy, winds through cactus and sagebrush, providing an immersive experience in Monument Valley’s unique landscape.

Lee Cly Trail

The 2-mile Lee Cly Trail typically takes 1 hour to complete. Don’t let the length fool you, however. Although short, it is definitely a more challenging hike due to the terrain, with some steep climbs and rocky areas.

Along the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of Mitchell Butte, Mitchell Mesa, and Grey Whiskers Butte.

The trail also intersects with the Mesa Rim Trail, which involves some rock scrambling but rewards hikers with unmatched views of Monument Valley from above. Combining both trails into one hike offers an ideal way to explore the park’s most scenic spots for a total of about 3 miles.

Monument Valley

Tips for Visiting Monument Valley

  • GPS: Use a reliable GPS or map application to ensure you stay on course. Be aware that cellular service can be spotty in remote areas.
  • Fuel: Fill up your gas tank before you leave larger towns as gas stations can be few and far between in this region.
  • Prepare: Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. The valley can get very hot, and shade is limited.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear comfortable hiking shoes, a hat, and layers to adjust to the changing temperatures. My biggest recommendation is to wear a buff if you are riding open-air!
  • Camera: Ensure your camera or phone is fully charged; you’ll want to capture the stunning scenery. Note that drones are not allowed!
  • Respect the Land: Follow the Leave No Trace principles to preserve the beauty and cultural significance of Monument Valley.

Where to Stay 

Although many people stay in Page, Arizona when visiting Monument Valley, it’s a full 2 hours drive. We recommend staying in Monument Valley or nearby instead. You can use the map below to search for accommodations near Monument Valley.

Alternatively, here are our recommendations in Page:

What to Pack 

What to Wear:

What to Pack:

  • Hydration: At least 2 liters of water per person; reusable water bottles or a hydration bladder. >>>Here’s my favorite Osprey backpack with hydration bladder.
  • Snacks: High-energy snacks like trail mix, energy bars, or fruit.
  • First Aid Kit: Band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications. >>>This is the medical kit we carry on every hike.
  • Multi-tool or Knife: Useful for various small tasks and emergencies.
  • Emergency Whistle: For signaling in case you get lost or need help.
  • Camera or Smartphone: To capture the stunning scenery.
  • Trash Bag: Leave no trace—pack out all your trash.
  • Flashlight or Headlamp: In case your hike takes longer than expected and it gets dark. >>>This is the headlamp we use.

More Things to Do Near Page, Arizona

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