Some things about this classic park may surprise you

Quick notes:

  • Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation

  • The park is located in two states, Arizona and Utah

  • You can see a lot of the park by car

You may have seen media images of iconic Monument Valley with huge buttes set against a broad, southwestern sky. Now you’re planning to see it up close as part of your own trip there. Before you go, there are some things you’ll want to know about the area. We’ve got the scoop.

About Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau that reaches across two U.S. states, Arizona and Utah. As you approach the area, the valley floor gives way to enormous and beautiful red and brown sandstone buttes, the largest of which reaches 1,000 feet above the ground.

The park has been featured in multiple pieces of media. Film fans will recognize it from movies like Easy Rider or John Ford masterpieces like The Searchers and Stagecoach. Dr. Who fans may recognize it from a pair of episodes, and Eagles fans may recognize it from the cover of one of their albums. Anyone who uses Windows operating system may have seen it on their computer screen. Of course, it’s also been featured in the background of ads for Marlboro cigarettes and a range of car advertising campaigns.

You can drive through the terrain and get fairly close to the formations

Lots of parks have clearly delineated trails and hiking areas, which visitors are warned to stick to. This park isn’t so regimented. While visitors should always be careful of the land and respectful of nature, you are generally able to explore at will.


Drivers in the park will need to pay a fee of $20 per car with up to 4 people, and this allows access to a 17-mile loop roadway. You can also hire a guide for a more in-depth experience and access to more out-of-the-way areas.

The park is a part of Navajo Nation

Monument Valley Park is a small part of the much larger and autonomous Navajo Nation. When you are in the park, you are subject to Navajo laws, governances, and customs.  It is also worth noting that while, to Americans, the area may be known as Monument Valley Park, the Indigenous people there call it by another name Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii which translates to the Valley of Rocks. 

The park looks best at sunrise and sunset

Like a lot of other outdoor areas, Monument Valley National Park is at its best as the sun is rising or setting. If you’re hoping to bring home great pictures form your visit, you’ll want to keep your photography skills sharp so that you can catch the colors and shadows that you’ll see. Once you’ve caught the photos you are looking for, enjoy the silence and let the peacefulness of nature sink in.

Nights are colder than you’d expect

If you think that temperatures are always pretty roasty in the Southwest, think again. There are definitely cooler times of the day and of the year.

A lot of people suffer the misimpression that, because it sits squarely in the desert of the American Southwest, Monument Valley is consistently hot. As it turns out, that’s not always the case, and nighttime can be surprisingly cold in the park. If you’re there in mid-fall to early spring or if you’re planning to camp overnight, be sure to have plenty of sweaters long pants, and that your sleeping bag can handle lower temperatures.

See Monument Valley by horseback

If you have the chance to charter a trail horse to see the park, take it. Viewing the park on four legs will help you slow your pace and soak in the atmosphere. It will also leave you feeling like you’d stepped into one of the movies, television shows or commercials that have been filmed here.

A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101

Create the best road trip ever with a scientific algorithm | Vacations 101
See how your idea for a perfect road trip compares with what a computer suggests

California’s Glass Beach isn’t your typical sandy seaside | Vacations 101
This unique beach is one of the most interesting places to visit in the U.S.