Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See

Petr Novák

Giant sandstone cliffs, a deep orange-brown desert, and dozens of kilometers of highways in between — few places in the world are as photogenic as Monument Valley, on the border of Arizona and Utah. Although Monument Valley is not officially recognized as a USA national park, it is a reservation of the Navajo Indian tribe. Nonetheless, it remains an unmistakable symbol of the USA’s West and a popular tourist destination.

Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

  1. Table of Contents
    1. Basic Facts about Monument Valley
    2. What to See in Monument Valley
    3. Tips for Monument Valley Visitors
    4. Photos of Monument Valley

    Basic Facts about Monument Valley

    Monument Valley boasts of red sandstone formations over 100 metres high, which were formed hundreds of millions of years ago from the nearby Rocky Mountains. Today, Monument Valley is managed by the Navajo Tribe, who refer to the reservation as Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii.

    Contrary to first impressions, Monument Valley experiences four changing seasons. It is not merely a hot desert. Temperatures usually only exceed 30°C from late May to early September, cooling rapidly after sunset. From December to February, it commonly freezes and the valley can become white with snow. Due to the lack of water, the vegetation in Monument Valley is sparse; mostly consisting of grasses, shrubs, and cacti.

    The valley has served as the setting for a number of famous films, including Back to the Future II and III, Forrest Gump, Billy the Kid, Transformers, and Fort Apache.

  2. What to See in Monument Valley

    The main attraction of Monument Valley is the Scenic Drive, a 16.78 mi route that lets you experience some of America’s most beautiful rock formations along the way. The road is unpaved, so I recommend renting an off-road vehicle. However, even with a smaller car, you won’t miss out on the experience. The entire road has a 15mph speed limit. The drive will take about 3 hours, during which you will gradually see the following landmarks.

    A map of rock formations in Monument Valley will assist with navigation.

    ⛰️ East and West Mitten Buttes

    These rock formations resemble a gloved hand. In late March and mid-September, photographers have a unique opportunity to capture a sunset when the shadow of West Mitten appears on East Mitten.

    ⛰️ Merrick Butte and Mitchell Mesa

    The two rocks were named after two prospectors who discovered a silver deposit in Monument Valley. Legend has it that these prospectors were tragically killed by members of the Ute Tribe, who then stole the recovered silver.

    ⛰️ Elephant Butte

    Elephant Butte is a rock that resembles an elephant standing in the middle of the desert.

    ⛰️ Three Sisters

    The Three Sisters formation was named after three Catholic nuns. It is a remnant of a ridge extending from Mitchell Mesa.

    ⛰️ Camel Butte

    Camel Butte, a 1,058 mi-high rock, is characterized by its humps, hence its name.

    ⛰️ The Hub

    The Navajo named this rock The Hub because it reminded them of a dwelling. It stands 164 ft high and is uninhabited.

    ⛰️ Rain God Mesa

    Rain God Mesa is the geological center of Monument Valley. Navajo shamans and healers prayed to the Rain Goddess at this rock, who they believed brought water supplies to the valley’s inhabitants. On the south side of the rock, a dark coloration is visible, caused by the aquifer flowing at the base of Rain God Mesa.

    ⛰️ Bird Spring

    From Bird Spring overlook, you can see the deep orange Sand Springs dunes.

    ⛰️ Totem Pole

    The narrow, 81 mi-high Totem Pole rock is named after the well-known mythical symbol. It’s a striking example of what erosion can do.

    ⛰️ The Yei Bi Chei

    The Yei Bi Chei formation, located east of Totem Pole, is an important mythical site for members of the Navajo tribe.

    ⛰️ Artist’s Point

    Artist’s Point offers one of the most stunning views in Monument Valley. The cliffs earned their name from the numerous painters who have immortalized the local skyline on canvas.

    ⛰️ Spearhead Mesa

    The Spearhead Mesa rock bears a striking resemblance to a spearhead.

    ⛰️ North Window

    The North Window frames the view of the northern part of Monument Valley. The formation on the left is the aforementioned Elephant Butte, while the rock on the right is named Cly. Cly was named after a famous Navajo healer, who is buried at the base of the rock.

    ⛰️ The Thumb

    The Thumb is a freestanding rock, its shape reminiscent of a raised thumb or a cowboy boot.

  3. Tips for Monument Valley Visitors

    ⏲️ Hours of Operation of Monument Valley Scenic Drive

    The Monument Valley Scenic Drive is open from March 1 through September 30, daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last entry at 5:00 p.m.

    During the winter season, from October 1 to December 31, it is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with the last entry at 3:00 p.m. The drive is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

    🎟️ Tickets to Monument Valley Scenic Drive

    Admission to Monument Valley Scenic Drive is $8.00 per person as of March 2023, payable by cash or credit card. America the Beautiful or other similar passes are not valid here.

    If you prefer not to drive the Scenic Drive yourself, you can opt for a guided tour. These tours are approximately three hours long, with prices typically ranging between $80 and $100.

    🚗 How to Get to Monument Valley

    When planning to visit Monument Valley, you will need a rental car; public transportation is virtually non-existent. Input the address of the visitor center into your navigation system.

    Consider combining the tour with visits to nearby attractions like Grand Staircase – Escalante or Zion National Parks, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyonlands or Grand Canyon. Access to the Monument Valley Reservation is easiest from Highway 163. Click for directions from nearby cities:

    • Albuquerque / 322 mi / 5 hours 20 minutes / route
    • Denver / 504 mi / 8 hours / route
    • Las Vegas / 397 mi / 6 hours 30 minutes / route
    • Salt Lake City / 383 mi / 6 hours 30 minutes / route

    🏨 Accommodation Near Monument Valley

    Affordable accommodation is limited in Monument Valley. More budget-friendly options can be found in towns such as Blanding or Page. Both offer budget motels and hotels that provide good value for your money. It is advisable to adjust your travel itinerary accordingly.

    ℹ️ Good to Know

    The Monument Valley Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can pick up maps and permits there if you wish to explore the backcountry. The center also features restrooms and a gift shop.

    Park rangers limit the number of cars on the scenic road to about 25 at any one time, so be prepared for a wait of approximately 30-45 minutes.

  4. Photos of Monument Valley

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

    Monument Valley – Weather, Map, Tickets & What to See | © Unsplash.com

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