Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, on the border of Utah and Arizona, is one of the iconic locations of the American West. Its unique images were widely popularized by Hollywood movies. But there is much more to it than a beautiful scenery. A sacred land, rich in history, culture, and spirituality, Monument Valley inspires visitors to reflect on the past and future of our American Nation.
The states of Utah and Arizona are my favorite American destinations. Dotted with spectacular national parks, they never fail to amaze. Thanks to my credit cards miles and points, I visited this southwest region many times.
Overshadowed by giants like Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks, Monument Valley waited way too long to get its turn.
Where is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park?
I postponed my visit due to the monument’s remote location. It is not far in distance, but there is a whole lot of nothing before you reach it. To get there takes 3 hours from Flagstaff, 6.5 h from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, and 5 hours from Phoenix.
I had mixed feeling approaching Monument Valley. I was excited to see this famous landmark but troubled by images along the road leading there.
Scattered among fields of nothing but dust, single standing shacks obviously served as peoples’ homes. A sad reminder that Native American are still torn between their old way of life and challenges of today’s society.
When to Visit
Monument Valley is a year-round destination. Even though it is a desert, extreme temperatures are not frequent. Its average low is 25 degrees F in the winter. In the summer, an average high is 90 degrees F.
History of Monument Valley and its People
Established in 1958, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (national park within tribal territory) is located within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation.
When visiting, it is important not to see it as another favorite Hollywood location or just a magnificent scenery. It is the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation. Read about it before your visit. Come prepared and show your respect to the land and its people.
Painful history of The Navajo Nation
The Navajo is the largest tribe of all Native American Indians. They arrived in the Southwest between 800 and 1000 years ago and developed a reputation as fierce warriors.
By the 1860s, as more American settlers pushed westward, the Navajo were forced to fight back in order to maintain control of their land. It turned out they were no match for the US army.
What followed next was one the darkest chapters in American History. It is called the Long Walk to the Bosque Redondo. Thousands of Navajos were forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Summer in eastern New Mexico.
The journey took two months. Over two hundred Navajo died from cold and starvation. Bosque Redondo turned out to be nothing more that a prison camp. It was a complete failure of the U.S. government to Americanize the Navajo.
Four years later, the plan was abandoned. Having endured miserable conditions at Bosque Redondo, the Navajo signed the historic US-Navajo Treaty of 1868.
In exchange for peace, they accepted a return of 10 % of their original land. They walked back to their wounded homeland and began their new struggle to survive.
Spirituality of the Navajo Tribe
The Navajo believe that everything on earth is alive and that spiritual and physical world blend together. They worship the winds, sun, and watercourses. I felt this mystic spirit in the valley.
How to See Monument Valley
From the visitor center, see the world-famous panorama of the Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte. To explore more, take a 17-mile self-guided tour or hire a Navajo guide for a Jeep excursion.
Do not rush. It is indeed a spiritual site. My visit to Monument Valley was one of the most moving experiences of my life. At sunset, the red rocks came alive and magnified their presence with a variety of shadows.
The scene pulled me in with both the valley’s visual splendor and an overwhelming spiritual vibe. The peacefulness, the gentle breeze, and the blue sky took me to another place. It was an overpowering feeling of spirituality and unity with nature.
Where to Stay – Goulding’s Lodge
There is only one hotel in the Monument Valley so make sure to make your reservation well in advance. Spending a night at the Goulding’s Lodge is rewarding if it is only for a spectacular sunset.
It is not a fancy hotel, but it is clean and offers all modern necessities and a restaurant.
For those who enjoy a glass of wine, the restaurant does not serve any alcohol. I believe, there is no alcohol for sale within miles surrounding Monument Valley.
See other spectacular sites in the area: