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 the American Nation. Follow Credit Card TravelingMom’s advice on how to visit this incredible land.
Monument Valley – How to visit
I love Utah and Arizona, my favorite American destinations. Dotted with spectacular national parks, they never fail to amaze. Overshadowed by giants like Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks, Monument Valley seems forgotten. But when you get there, you will immediately know that you arrived at the special place.
Where is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park?
I postponed my visit to Monument Valley due to its remote location. To get there takes 3 hours from Flagstaff, 6.5 h from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, and 5 hours from Phoenix. The desert scenery does not impress until you get there, just miles of dirt.
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 Americans are still torn between their old way of life and challenges of today’s society.
When to Visit
You can visit Monument Valley all year round. Its average low is 25 F in the winter. In the summer, an average high reaches 90 F.
History of Monument Valley and its People
Established in 1958, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (national park within the tribal territory) is located within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation. When visiting, remember to see beyond favorite Hollywood location or just a magnificent scenery. You will enter 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 1860’s, as more American settlers pushed westward, the Navajo had 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 than a prison camp. It was a complete failure of the U.S. government to Americanize the Navajo.
Four years later, the government abandoned the plan. 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. Take in its spiritual vibe. 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 unity with nature.
Where to Stay – Goulding’s Lodge
Start planning your visit well in advance if you want to stay overnight. Goulding’s Lodge will be your only choice. I liked the hotel a lot. Nothing fancy but all you need and the sunset to die for! You can eat a good meal at the hotel’s 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.