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How do you really experience Monument Valley? Tips and advice on driving the Scenic Drive.

Monument Valley, my home away from home!

Monument Valley is located on the border of Utah and Arizona and is breathtakingly beautiful. For many people, a visit to Monument Valley is high at the top of their bucket list. The area mostly consists of red desert sand and rugged rock formations and is approximately comparable in size to the area of the province of Utrecht. I was 25 when I first came to Monument Valley (almost 35 years ago now) and it's true what they say: “Once you're there, you'll never want to leave. This area meant so much to me when I first came here that I felt with everything in me that I had to stay here. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful nature, the red desert sand, the rugged rock formations and with one Navajo man in particular.

Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park which means it is located on Navajo territory. The Navajos have lived here for hundreds of years and call it Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii, which means “Valley of the Rocks”. You will notice that the Navajo culture is inextricably linked to the atmosphere and experience of this park. Indeed, when I first came there so many years ago, I had the unique opportunity to stay in Monument Valley. I lived there in a traditional way with the Navajos and through this I got to know the area and the culture, which is virtually inaccessible to whites, up close. Years later I wrote a book about my experiences as a white woman among the Navajos in Monument Valley: My Indian name was “White Apple”. (Note: The first edition is almost sold out, but the adjusted and more extensive second edition will be in stores no later than January 2024!)

In my book I take you on a “journey” through Monument Valley and give you as a reader a look behind the scenes of the fascinating Navajo culture. I hope that with this blog I can also give you an extra experience when you visit Monument Valley, so that you can enjoy this exceptionally beautiful and magical area even more.

Since my stay there I have been there many times, preferably at least once a year, as a traveler, but also as a travel guide to introduce tourists to this place in a "different" way. wonderful place on earth. I have traveled a lot in and through America, but Monument Valley is the place that will forever be in my heart and that is why I would like to share my knowledge about it with you, so that you too can experience the magic of this special place. can experience optimally.

Monument Valley, a first introduction

For many, the Scenic Drive is their first introduction to Monument Valley. It is a route that you can drive with your own (rental) car and where you drive past the most famous rock formations. Just as this first blog of mine may be your first introduction to Monument Valley and Navajo culture. At first I planned to write a one blog post about everything I could tell you about visiting Monument Valley, but I quickly discovered that this is almost impossible. That's why I've decided to dedicate a few different blogs to Monument Valley. This first one is about the Scenic Drive, but there will be a few more to follow about, for example, the different excursions you can do, the different accommodation options available, the fascinating Navajo culture itself and other interesting sights near Monument Valley. So if you're curious about my next blogs, follow me so you don't miss anything.

Highway 163

If you're ever near Monument Valley, don't be satisfied with looking at Monument Valley from a distance from Highway 163. Even though you have a beautiful view from there, you still see you have very little of Monument Valley and you have not “really” seen it and you have not “really” been there. If you're short on time and on your way to another destination, do yourself a favor and at least drive the Scenic Drive to see a little more of Monument Valley! (My advice is to stay here for at least two days, but longer is always better 😉)

Monument Valley and films

Monument Valley is a special park on the border of Utah and Arizona in America. Everyone recognizes the red rock formations of Monument Valley from a certain movie or commercial. The first film ever shot there was in 1939, a John Ford film starring a then unknown actor, John Wayne. Many films have since been shot in Monument Valley, of which Forrest Gump from 1994 is one of the best known. This has even resulted in a “Forrest Gump Point” where almost everyone takes a photo of themselves standing in the middle of the road. Almost everyone, because not me! The reason for this is that I had discovered Monument Valley years before, I had never seen the movie and that Highway 163 was still the road from Monument Valley to Mexican Hat.

The Scenic Drive...

If you arrive in Monument Valley, try to arrive around noon. Please note, unlike Arizona, the Navajo Reservation does participate in daylight saving time, which means it is one hour later in the summer than in Arizona. It is about a three-hour drive from the Grand Canyon in the west and it is also about three hours from Moab in the north. If you take the exit from Highway 163 to the park entrance, you will have to stop halfway along this long road to pay entrance fees to the park. You pay 10 dollars per person or 20 per car. The “America the Beautiful” pass does not apply here, because it is not a National Park but a Navajo park. Once you have paid your entrance fee, you can get in and out the same day. If you leave the park the next day and want to re-enter, you have to pay again.

If you arrive around noon, you will still have plenty of time to drive the Scenic drive of 17 miles (about 27 kilometers) that takes you past the most famous rock formations. The road into the Valley is closed around 3 o'clock, otherwise you won't be able to make the entire round. After 5 p.m., as a tourist you are no longer allowed to be in the park without the accompaniment of a Navajo guide. Driving the drive, which will take you about 2 to 3 hours, will give you a good first impression of The Valley.

Make sure you have a good car, preferably an SUV or truck, because the road through the Valley is in poor condition, not asphalted and sometimes very bumpy. Especially the first part, in which you descend into the Valley, can be a bit exciting. When you see how quickly the tourist jeeps drive over it and how the Navajos themselves easily steer their trucks over the bumpy, battered road, you can really take the risk. The advantage of driving this loop yourself is that at every nice photo stop, and there are many, you can stop the car and get out.

You can also stop at your leisure at the stalls you encounter along the way where they sell jewelry and souvenirs. If you look carefully, you can sometimes find real handmade silver Navajo jewelry among the many beaded jewelry, often sold by the maker himself or a family member. The price is much better than the expensive galleries you find all over Arizona and New Mexico and the nice thing is that you also have a good chance to meet the creator. In any case, it is my favorite activity when I am there and I always find something special.

The Mittens

As you descend the road, you are the first to come face to face with the two Mittens. These are the two most recognizable rock formations in Monument Valley. They resemble two mittens with the thumb sticking out separately. If you can get there around sunset, perhaps after completing the loop, you will get a fantastic effect when the formation of one Mitten casts a shadow on the other Mitten. John Wayne once said: “Monument Valley is the place where God put the West” and when you are here you will indeed imagine yourself in a cowboy movie.

John Ford's Point

The road takes you past the Mittens and The Three Sisters to John Ford's Point. The Three Sisters are seen by the Navajos as three nuns praying. Take a moment to turn off the road there and drive up past the horse coral at The Three Sisters. (For those who have read my book; this is the horse coral of the protagonist in my book.) There you will also find a number of stalls, but you can also buy the famous Navajo Fry Breadin a stall strong>order and eat. This is a traditional dish that the Navajos eat as a kind of base for their tacos and tastes delicious with chili con carne on top. But the sweet variant with honey is also very tasty. There's no better place to sample this than from a bench overlooking John Fords Point.

You will often find a Navajo on his horse at the furthest viewpoint, of which you can take pictures (for a fee of one dollar) or you can sit on it yourself and take a picture (for which you will have to pay about 5 dollars). pay). It is a beautiful place with an amazing view over the Valley, which you have probably seen in travel brochures.

Yei Bei Cheis and the Totem Pole

If you then drive back down, past the horse coral, and continue the ring road again, you will pass a viewpoint from where you have a beautiful view of the Yei Bei Cheis (pronunciation: jee bu tjees) and the Totem Pole. Yei Bei Cheis are the gods of the Navajos and if you look closely it is as if a number of gods are dancing next to each other. You might not believe it, but the Totempole is 121 meters high and the diameter on top is more than 3 meters. You can't get close to the Totempole, but you do have a magnificent view of it from the Sand Springs. In principle, you are not allowed to climb on rocks anywhere in the Valley, but the Navajos once allowed Clint Eastwood to climb the Totempole in the movie “Eiger Sanction”. This rock formation is the heart of Monument Valley and is also a sacred place for the Navajos themselves, where ceremonies are often held at night. Sometimes you can even hear the drums used in a ceremony far beyond the Valley.

Artist's Point

If you then continue along the road, before you arrive at Artist's Point, you will first pass an old abandoned Hogan. These can be found all over the Valley and are remains of families that once lived there. Someone probably died in that Hogan at some point and the Navajos then leave such a place and never return. The test of time will do the rest…

Artist's Point is a viewpoint from which you have a magnificent view of the Valley. If you are lucky enough to be there around sunset or sunrise, you can see the long shadows cast by the rock formations on the valley floor. They don't call Monument Valley for nothing: The land of the long shadows". A perfect moment to take some beautiful photos.

North Window

The next stop is North Window and from there you have a beautiful view between two rock formations, Elephant Butte and Cly Butte, as if you look at the world through a window. You also often encounter this view in advertisements and advertisements.

If you continue along the road, you will eventually reach the horse coral under the Three Sisters and from there you will drive back to the starting point. Don't worry about this road being boring just because you've been here before, because from the other side, the Valley looks completely different.

Hotel The View

When you get back to the starting point and you want to leave again, give yourself some time to look inside The View. The View is a beautiful hotel that opened in 2008 and from which you have a great view of Monument Valley. The hotel is also beautiful inside and in the lobby you will find a gigantic fireplace and many authentic Navajo rugs on the walls. The View also has a restaurant and a shop with all kinds of souvenirs from key rings for a few dollars to real Navajo rugs and jewelry that can cost thousands of dollars. Once you're there, you'll probably realize that you really want to stay here longer. And you think how amazing it would be if you could sleep here for a night in a beautiful room with a view of the Valley. Unfortunately, there is often no availability and you have to reserve a room in The View well in advance.

It might be a good idea to reserve this for next time, because you can immediately book an excursion with a Navajo guide. While driving the Scenic Drive you will see that many roads bend off the road, but all of these roads say that they are forbidden for tourists. A number of Navajo families live in the Valley and they are very fond of their privacy. So it is mostly private property and you are not allowed to go there as a tourist. However, if you book an excursion with a Navajo guide, you can go there and discover that part of the Valley where there are many more beautiful views and rock formations. You will also visit a Hogan, see petroglyphs and old cliff dwellings of the Anazasi's, who lived in this area before the Navajo's, and much more. Highly recommended. So if you don't have time to stay longer in Monument Valley this time, at least you have a good reason to come back again.

How about a Sunset, or Sunrise tour, or a ride on horseback through the Valley? You can read about all these options and more in my next Blog. If you don't want to wait that long and are already convinced that Monument Valley is a place you want to go, please contact me. I have been affiliated with Travel Counselors Netherlands as an independent travel entrepreneur since October 2023, so I can put together and organize the most perfect trip to Monument Valley for you. Of course also in combination with all the other beautiful destinations in America.

This was my first blog with tips and advice about Monument Valley. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below.

Dorothea Born

Mobile: 06 815 33 824

Facebook group Passion for America: http://facebook. com/groups/passionforAmerica

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Dorothea Born

Hallo, leuk dat je er bent en dat je een stukje met me mee op reis gaat! 

Door mijn jarenlange reiservaring in Amerika kan ik heel veel vertellen over de 30 Staten waar ik inmiddels ben geweest. Monument Valley is mijn Home away from Home en vandaar dat mijn eerste blog over Monument Valley gaat. In de toekomst zullen er nog heel veel meer volgen, dus als je het interessant vindt om meer van mij te lezen, volg me dan!  Ik neem je graag mee op reis! 

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