Tsé Bii’ Nzdzisgaii is the Navajo name for Monument Valley and means “valley of the rocks.” This unique area of rock towers sits in the region of the Colorado Plateau on the border of Arizona and Utah. Spanning more than 91,000 acres, Monument Valley Tribal Park is one of the most recognizable places in the United States. If you conjure an image of a western movie, it’s probably an image of Monument Valley Tribal Park.
Monument Valley Tribal Park is known for its cluster of tall sandstone buttes that dot the horizon. The buttes which surround you stretch toward the sky as high as 1,000 feet. It really is an amazing sight to see. The red sandstone buttes and bluffs surround you as you drive into the valley.
Where to stay and what to do at Monument Valley Tribal Park
Monument Valley Tribal Parks offers many ways to stay within the park. The View Hotel offers one of the best views of the park. Nearby, you also have the choice of staying in a cabin, also with an amazing view, or in the campground.
The campground does not have hookups, so you will want to keep that in mind when you visit. However, there are flush toilettes, showers, and water spigots nearby.
I stayed in the wilderness campground, which is for tent campers. And here you also get that amazing view of the famous buttes. These campsites probably have the best views as seen from your tent, more than anywhere else you will camp.
The campsites are walk-up, meaning you have to carry your gear a little way from the parking lot, but it’s worth the trade-off for the view. I guess that’s why they named the hotel, cabins, and campground The View.
When booking your place to stay, you will also want to note that there is an entrance fee to get into the park as well, which can be purchased in advance through the Navajo Nation Parks’ website.
Experience and learn about Navajo culture
The Mission of the Navajo Parks & Recreation Department is to, “protect, preserve and manage tribal parks, monuments and recreation areas for the perpetual enjoyment and benefit of the Navajo Nation.”
While visiting Navajo land, it is important to learn about their culture. Along the roadside that takes you into Monument Valley Tribal Park on the Arizona side, there area several stands set up along the highway where you can purchase Navajo arts, crafts, food, and souvenirs. This is a great way to visit with Navajo people and learn about them while purchasing beautiful and unique items to remember your trip.
During the summer, the Visitor Center at Monument Valley Tribal Park also is home to the Haskenneini Restaurant, which specializes in both American and Navajo cuisine.
You can also visit the Hogan Village and tour sun-baked mud covered homes. Hogan means home in Navajo.
Things to do at Monument Valley Tribal Park
There are plenty of things to do at Monument Valley Tribal Park, in addition to learning about the culture of the Navajo Nation.
Wildcat Trail is a 3.2-mile loop and is the only trail you can hike without a guided tour. This self-guiding hike takes hikers through the famous Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. However, the tribal park offers many other guided tours and treks throughout the park. Taking one of these is a great way to get off the beaten path and really explore the park.
The Valley Drive is a 17-mile scenic drive through the park and showcases many of its beautiful and famous areas. The road is not paved but does not require four-wheel drive. There are many pull-outs with wonderful vistas of the valley. There are 11 points of interest marked along the route. Be sure to get a park pamphlet when you get there. The points of interest are marked there.
Forrest Gump’s last run
Forrest Gump Point gives you an amazing view of Monument Valley Tribal Park from a distance. You probably have seen this seen numerous times. It is most known for the scene in Forrest Gump where he decides to stop running across the country and go home. Forrest Gump Point is a little more than 8 miles from the entrance to Monument Valley on Highway 163, on the Utah side of the park.
When you visit this spot, remember the pictures you’ve seen of a desolate highway are an illusion. I went early in the morning and had to wait quite a while to get a picture without tons of people in it. I gave up on getting the “desolate highway” shot and settled for one with cars and people in the distance. Here’s a pro tip: Morning light is best as you face the west when looking at it.
Also, be conscious of vehicles traveling along the highway if you stand in the center of the road. The speed limit is around 60 miles an hour and vehicles have the right-of-way.
Monument Valley Tribal Park
When visiting the Four Corners Region, a trip through Monument Valley Tribal Park is a great way to learn Navajo culture and see amazing views. It’s no wonder the area has been the backdrop for so many movies.