Plan your visit to the extraordinary Monument Valley—an area with an untouched quality that enhances its wild beauty.
By Redtail Air Adventures
It’s a beautiful mid-September evening in Monument Valley, and a famous pair of rock formations, The Mittens, stands proudly in the distance. As the golden light of the sun slowly traveled across the sky, the shadow of one Mitten started its highly-anticipated trek up the other. At its pinnacle, The Mitten Shadow became an almost exact reflection on the face of its pair, creating an other-worldly scene that seems almost too perfect to be natural.
And just like that, The Mitten Shadow disappeared as quickly as it arrived.
Few things in life will make it on your list of life-changing moments, but this is one of ours. While you can only witness this stunning display two times per year, the rest of the jaw-dropping scenery on this tribal land is ready to welcome you year round. With Mars-like terrain and untouched, wild beauty, Monument Valley should be at the top of any outdoor lover’s list of must-sees.
This extraordinary area holds a special place in our hearts, and we know it will in yours as well, as long as you plan your trip wisely.
Here is the best way to visit Monument Valley!
Why Visit Monument Valley
Spending time in Monument Valley can feel like stepping back in time before humans impacted the planet. Because it is tucked away from major cities, Monument Valley has an entirely untouched, unchanged quality that enhances the area’s wild beauty.
There’s a reason Hollywood loves using this area as a backdrop for TV and movies. From the iconic running scene in Forrest Gump to the famous rock climbing scene in Mission Impossible: 2, the stunning views of this area quickly become the main character.
Monument Valley is home to some of the most iconic desert views on the map. The staggering and dramatic mesas and curiously-shaped formations will have you craning your neck in wonder at every turn.
Exploring Monument Valley is incredibly unique compared to visiting other types of protected land, like national or state parks. Because it is managed and protected by the Navajo tribal community, this land stays directly connected to its original roots.
Before humans walked the Earth, this area was a basin. After millions of years of erosion, weather, and time, these majestic formations have slowly been chiseled from the sandstone to create rock pieces that seem to defy gravity and reality. From towering spires that seem to pierce the sky and curious matching buttes to the spitting image of a pair of mittens, there is no artist quite like Mother Nature—and Monument Valley is her masterpiece.
Tips for Visiting Monument Valley
- The general entry fee is $8 per person per day.
- Different activities require special permits when entering Monument Park. Hikers who wish to venture out on some trails need a backcountry permit. Visitors who plan to use the land for weddings, photography, painting, or film will need a special use permit. You can learn more and obtain permits at the visitor center.
- Give yourself more time than you think. A 17-mile loop seems like a reasonably short trip. But, it can be a full-day excursion when you factor in the time to get to the valley, the slow dirt road pace, and all the stops you’ll want to make. The last thing you want to feel when taking in these one-of-a-kind views is rushed, so make sure to set aside more time than you think!
- The best time of year to visit Monument Valley depends on what you want out of your trip. Winter has fewer crowds, and a light snowfall can dust the terrain for a unique desert view. Fall offers the best weather and is the most popular time to visit. The spring temperatures are lovely, but this time tends to have strong winds. No matter the time of year you visit, the earlier you reach the entrance, the better chance you’ll have to make it in without too much of a wait.
- Leave the motorcycle at home. Motorcycles are not permitted in the park because it is too easy for the tires to get stuck in the rugged terrain and deep sand dunes.
- Prepare for a wide range of temperatures. The temperatures can fluctuate dramatically if you plan to be in the valley in the early morning or late evening. Bring several layers to stay comfortable throughout the day.
- Treat the land with respect by obeying all signs, staying on the designated route, and keeping the pristine land untouched.
- Monument Valley is notoriously tough to reach. Even when visiting by car, the time it takes to reach Monument Valley can catch people by surprise.
How to See Monument Valley
Several details add to the magic of Monument Valley, one of which is the isolated nature of this land. Monument Valley is far from any significant town and almost 200 miles from the nearest major airport, making it difficult to reach.
Here are the main ways you can reach Monument Valley.
Scenic Drive to Monument Valley
Monument Valley is far from all major towns and cities, so you need to plan how to best make your time count in this area. Take the commute into account when planning your excursion:
- Distance from Moab: 151 miles
- Distance from Flagstaff: 177 miles
- Distance from St. George: 187 miles
- Distance from Santa Fe: 358 miles
- Distance from Salt Lake City: 385 miles
The drive to this park from anywhere is beautiful but long. Because Monument Valley works on a first come, first serve basis, arriving late can mean the difference between cruising right in and having to sit through long wait times. If you hope to be one of the early birds that enters the park in the morning, it can take some serious planning to make it before the crowds and wait times set in.
Once in the park, you can drive the famous 17-mile loop that takes you through some of the most iconic views of the area.
Fly to Monument Valley
The less time you spend in the car, the more time you have to enjoy Monument Valley. So why don’t we ditch the car altogether? Instead, visit Monument Valley by airplane with Redtail Air!
Think that your short Moab trip can’t fit in a once-in-a-lifetime Monument Valley experience? Think again! When you visit with Redtail Air, you can skip the three-hour commute by car and opt for a stunning aerial adventure that will get you to the park in 60 minutes flat.
Not only will you reach Monument Valley promptly, but you can also ogle at several other scenic areas along the way. This scenic narrated flight will fly over Canyonlands National Park, Dark Canyon Wilderness Area, Natural Bridges National Monument, Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch, Valley of the Gods, and into the heart of the Grand Circle and Four Corners. Our airplane tours offer vantage points and access to views that are impossible to experience in one day from the ground. So whether you’re looking for a quick flight or can spend days exploring this valley, the journey by air is as incredible as the destination.
Only have a couple of hours to take in the beauty of Monument Valley? It’s entirely possible with our Monument Valley overview tour. This stunning guided tour will share the land’s exciting stories and rich history while you take in the jaw-dropping views below.
Do you have more time to spend? Our land tour includes the best of both worlds, with airplane transportation to Monument Valley and the chance to explore some of the most stunning areas in Monument Valley on foot. We partner with local Navajo guides to explore The Mittens and other iconic sights on foot, all while learning about the formations and surrounding areas from local experts.
If you have enough time for an overnight adventure, we recommend making the most of your time with a flight and overnight tour package. Travel seamlessly with your luggage from Moab to Monument Valley for a memorable overview and tour of the area, and then rest your head at the area’s premiere accommodations, Goulding’s Lodge. This hotel offers comfortable rooms, great food, and access to the best public and private guided tours.
Plan a Weekend in Monument Valley
Hotel Accommodations at Goulding’s Lodge
Goulding’s Lodge is your best possible option for lodging near Monument Valley. A tucked-away resort in Monument Valley, Utah, this sprawling and historical complex is located outside Monument Valley’s border. The resort offers a restaurant to savor traditional Navajo cuisine, a campground, indoor heated pools, a grocery store, hiking trails, and a museum full of beautiful Native art. With ample amenities, you can rest well in between adventures in this beautiful local lodge.
Dining at Goulding’s Lodge
Nestled in the hillside above the lodge, the Stagecoach Restaurant offers panoramic views of the surrounding cliffs, mesas, and teetering structures of Monument Valley. Stagecoach is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so you will always have the option for a delicious meal from sunrise to sunset. The menu features an extensive mix of authentic Southwestern and native Navajo cuisine, along with classic steaks and vegetarian options. A favorite dish is the Navajo Taco, made fresh with homemade frybread.
Due to Navajo Tribal Law, alcohol cannot be sold on the Reservation, including at the Stagecoach.
What to Do
First things first, make sure you get to witness every beautiful sight in Monument Valley. Here are our top five favorite Monument Valley views you need to add to your list.
If you have access to a car, you can recreate one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history right from the road. Forrest Gump Point, the backdrop of the famous Forrest Gump running scene with Tom Hanks, is located on Highway 163.
Buy local, buy Navajo! Support the reservation and local community by shopping for local Navajo products, decor, and art. Several talented artists in the area use traditional skills to create stunning and unique pieces.
Take an unguided stroll. If you have had your fill of guided tours and want to take in the area’s beauty in silence, take a walk down Wildcat Trail. This is the only trail in Monument Valley that you can access without a guide. This flat and sandy loop is just under four miles and offers distant views of some stunning desert formations.
Monument Valley is one of the most majestic places on Earth. No wonder it makes us work so hard to reach the stunning views. If you are pressed for time on your day trip or weekend getaway to Monument Valley, booking a flight with Redtail Air will allow you to get the richest experience possible out of your short stay.