About Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a world renowned destination where hundreds of massive sandstone formations are located near the four corners area on the Colorado Plateau. A well-known travel destination, Monument Valley is often visited for its beautiful scenery and unique natural rock formations which comprise one of the most dense areas of massive sandstone formations ranging up to 1000 feet. Located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, the Monument Valley Tribal Park regulates visitation of the area and maintains the preservation of the park and its over 91 thousand acres of scenic area. The park is open to visitors who pay an entrance fee and visitors are allowed to drive through an area of a park with their entrance fee. The self-driven route, however, represents only a small percentage of the entire park and the full view of the remaining sights is only available to visitors who purchase a guided tour from a private tour company like Sandstone Tours. Because of the size of the park and the number of different scenic destinations, Sandstone Tours offers a variety of tours lasting from 1 1/2 hours to 6 hours covering different areas of the Monument or Mystery Valley.

Beautiful Mitten formation showing the Mitten framed by a tree branch.

Attractions

What makes Monument Valley so amazing are the many natural sandstone formations you can encounter within the park. The beautiful scenery has been the setting of movies, music videos, balloon and air races and countless photography expeditions. On a full day in Monument Valley you can find arches, spires, buttes, mesas with names like: "Eye of the Sun", "Ear of the Wind", "Totem Pole", "Hunt's Mesa", "Mystery Valley", "Rain God Mesa", "Elephant Butte", "Camel Butte", "Artists Point", "Teardrop Arch", "Honeymoon Arch" and many others. In addition to the many natural formations, there are over 100 ancient Anasazi sites containing petroglyphs and architecture left behind from the Anasazi people who inhabited the area. One of the most truly unique places on earth, Monument Valley is a sight everyone should behold.

Mittens you will see on a sunset tour of Monument Valley.

Geographical History

Near the center of the Colorado Plateau at approximately 5,560 ft above sea level lies Monument Valley, an ancient siltstone valley formed by the deposit of sand and silt from ancient rivers that ran through the area. The rock formations reveal three layers comprised of different types of shale and sandstone mixed with an abundance of iron oxide which gives the entire area the trademark reddish color. The general consensus regarding the formation of the rock in the area is that the rising of the Colorado Plateau and erosion from over 50 million of years created the amazing formations which, in many cases, appear to jut straight out of the ground and high into the air. Some other well-regarded geologists have theorized that the area resembles flood erosion and argue that the formations were created as a result of some type of flood on a large scale. In any case the unique formations have long been a studying tool for geologists trying to understand the forces that shape the earth.

Mittens you will see on a Monument Valley Tour

Cultural And Local History

Monument Valley was thought to be first inhabited as early as 12000 BC by ice age hunter gatherer groups which lived throughout the area for thousands of years. The area became to be inhabited by the Anasazi Indians until the 1300's when they left the area. The Navajo People, Diné, who now inhabit the area, refer to the valley as "Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii", and have lived in the area since the late 1600's. The area was designated as part of the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in 1884 by Chester A. Arthur, and the park was made famous in the 1930's when director John Ford began to set his western films in Monument Valley. The area surrounding the park has since developed into a sparsely populated town consisting of a very modest population. For the most part, the land has not been spoiled by over-development and most man-made structures in the area have been developed to have a minimal impact on the landscape. The local economy is supported mostly by tourism and many of the families who live there have a long standing history living in the area. A visit to Monument Valley is a visit to a relaxing, inspiring location offering great scenic views and an escape from city life.

Monument Valley Tour from Sandstone Tours shows you the Moccasin Arch sandstone formation.

Weather

The weather of Monument Valley is somewhat moderate, however the temperatures do get fairly extreme in some instances. It is possible for the weather to be as cold as 10°F (-12°C) during a cold winter day, and it is also possible for the temperature to hit 105°F(41°C) during a very hot summer day. Due to very limited moisture there are not a lot of rainy days in the valley but snow usually falls at least a couple of times per year in the winter. Sandstone Tours offers tours of Monument Valley all year round and visitors should plan on dressing accordingly for the time of year as it can be very cold or very hot depending on the time of year. The sun is usually very bright and a lot of the reason we have great sunrises and sunsets in Monument Valley but is very intense during the day so it is wise to bring hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen when visiting to avoid sunburn.

Totem pole sandstone formation as seen during a sunrise tour of Monument Valley Arizona.

What to Expect in Monument Valley

A visit to Monument Valley is a visit with nature. The surrounding town is very small and has a shopping center, visitor center, 2 hotels, a school, a gas station, and a grocery store along with a few other businesses and homes located sparsely throughout the valley, so you are left with an intimate view of nature. As you approach the valley, you can begin to see the rock mesas and some of the formations from as many as 10 miles away. The two lane highway Hwy. 163 that takes you to and from Monument Valley, has a junction at Monument Valley Road just North of the Arizona/Utah border. At the junction itself is a popular tourist shopping center and visitor information center is located which has local foods, arts/crafts, jewelry, and tour supplies. Sandstone tours offers a pickup from this location for a tour of the valley, see our reservation information. If you choose to drive through the park without a tour, you must pay at the visitors center and drive the designated dirt road loop for sight seeing. Along the route, there are places to stop along the way and you will get to see several large sandstone formations. There are several posted signs of where you are allowed to go and signs of places to avoid. It is extremely easy to get stuck in the sand in Monument Valley so it is always recommended that you stay on the marked route. The road along this route is not too often maintained, and gets very rocky and filled with potholes and very commonly, small cars will "bottom-out" or hit the ground hard when attempting to drive on that road. For this reason it is best to drive slowly and with caution when driving your vehicle, especially if you are driving a smaller car. Of course you could avoid all of the headache and also get to see the valley in it's entirety by taking the guided tour. Sandstone tours has reasonable rates and we offer a variety of tours to choose from to suit your budget and timing. Sandstone tours uses converted 4x4 pickup trucks which have been converted to seat 12 passengers in a covered open-air style bed. These trucks offer spectacular views of the Valley and are easy to get in and out of. On a guided tour you can expect to be able to ask questions, as well as have opportunities to get out of the vehicle and take pictures and experience the area while outside of the vehicle. Depending on the tour taken you will see a wide variety of formations, but each one will be an unforgettable look into Monument Valley and the amazing scenery it has to offer. Monument Valley offers accommodations at the park itself at The View Hotel. The nearest town with basic services and accommodations is Kayenta, Arizona, which is approximately 20 miles away and has several hotels, businesses, restaurants and a health clinic. If you are looking for the best the valley has to offer you will probably want to stay at The View Hotel as it is the newest and provides the best view and accommodations. Gouldings also offers a campground and RV campsites in Monument Valley which can be reserved online.

 

Monument Valley Tours

Tourism is the main contributor to the economy of the area.  Due to the size of the park and the number of visitors, there are several tour companies who take park visitors on tours of the park.  A very enticing reason for taking the tour is that you get to see many of the sights that are in the restricted areas and not accessible to the public.  Approximately half of the park is completely restricted to the public and you won't be able to see any of it unless you go on a tour.  And because everything is tucked away in a vally, you won't be able to see any of the formations from a distance.  There are companies that offer hiking and horse tours, but the jeep/open-air tours are by far the most popular tours that go out in Monument Valley on a daily basis.  There are many choices of tour companies, some are very large and prone to offering cramped and non-personal interactions for a tour and others have poor guides who are not native to the area, or poor vehicles that look like they had seen better years back in the 80's.  Sandstone Tours is a sure choice for a personal tour experience with a friendly and knowledgable Navajo guide in a comfortable open-air tour vehicle.  Our goal is to provide you with a fun and inspring look at the area and its many sights.  If you want to take a tour of the Monument Valley or Mystery Valley, do it the right way and join Sandstone Tours for a trek through the sights.  You can make your reservation online in just a few minutes.