I recently got in my car for a quick Southwest/Arizona road trip. The finale was a visit and overnight stay at Monument Valley (Navajo Name: Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii), one of the most iconic symbols of the American Southwest. I LOVED IT! :)
5 tips for a visit to Monument Valley:
1/ The most important thing to keep in mind (especially if you have a tour scheduled) is that the valley is located in the Navajo nation and Daylight Savings Time is observed there. The state of Arizona does NOT observe Daylight Savings Time. So compared to my home town of Scottsdale, AZ, I lost 1 hour once I entered the Navajo nation: 1pm became 2pm. If you schedule a tour with a tour company, your confirmation e-mail will likely point this out 3 times as it is very confusing and they want to make sure you don't miss your tour.
2/ As Monument Valley is part of the Navajo nation, you cannot use the "America the Beautiful Annual Pass" which gives you free entry to national parks and national monuments across the country. At the time of writing (November 2018), the admission fee is $20. Don't let that discourage you! It is definitely worth it!!
3/ If you want to have a hotel stay in the valley itself, you can only book at The View hotel. However, this property does have several accommodation options: hotel rooms, cabins (not part of the hotel building), RV parking and camp sites. I stayed in cabin number 3, which was an executive valley rim premium cabin. The cabin was on the 2nd row, but it had an unobstructed view of the valley. It was very clean, had a kitchen area with a large fridge, one queen-size bed and 2 bunk beds. The views from your balcony are amazing and peaceful. Unless you bring your own food, you will have to head back to the hotel building for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No biggie, it's very nearby and the food is pretty tasty (I can recommend the green chili dish for dinner). A few other notes to keep in mind: the Navajo nation does not serve alcohol and WIFI or phone connections are spotty. Pictures of my cabin:
4/ While you can drive your own car through the valley, please note that you need a 4x4 vehicle to do so. I really recommend parking your car at the hotel parking lot and getting on a tour with a Navajo guide. The guided tour vehicles can drive to parts of the valley which are not accessible to people who go out on their own. The guides can tell you so much about Navajo culture, and the geology and history of the area. I went on a Sunset Tour with Navajo Spirit Tours and our guide was Larson. He was a true expert of Monument Valley as he grew up there (his parents were traditional medicine people). He is also a professional photographer, so he knew exactly where to stand for great photos. At one particular location, he took out a traditional Navajo flute and told us all to sit back and relax while he played a Navajo song on the flute. It was a great moment of oneness with the sounds of the valley, the light breeze and dry air of the high desert....not something you will experience when you are all on your own.
5/ Check the weather and dress appropriately! I was there mid October and toward the end of our open Jeep sunset tour it got cold and breezy (and dusty). Bring a bandana to cover your mouth from the dust, dress in layers and wear good hiking shoes.
Leave the flip flops for your vacation in Bora Bora. If you want to get out very early to watch the sunrise over the Valley (a must!) and it's mid October: bring a real coat and gloves! I was not prepared for this kind of temperature change. Scottsdale was 88F and Monument Valley in the early morning was 36F with a breeze, so I just didn't think of this kind of temperature drop. At sunrise: fingers half frozen and lesson learned....
A visit to Monument Valley should really be on your bucket list, especially if you like exploring the American Southwest. I would say that no Southwest tour is really complete without it.
If you want me to book your American Southwest adventure for you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.