Heading to Arizona this winter? Looking for a monumental adventure? Head up to Monument Valley, along the Arizona-Utah border.
It’s a place where the history is as colorful as the landscape. We visited for spring break as guests of The View, a Native American owned hotel that opened in 2009, inside Monument Valley. Talk about a room with a view—every room in The View hotel faces the towering red rocks featured in old John Wayne westerns. If you’re a fan of the iconic cowboy, make sure and stop by the hotel’s charming gift shop, where you can find all sorts of memorabilia of “the Duke”.
Directly outside the hotel is the only trail in Monument Valley you can hike without a Navajo guide. It’s a relatively easy three-mile walk. If you want to take this experience to the next level, hire a Navajo guide like Carlos, of Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours, who drove us into areas of Monument Valley that were off limits without a Navajo guide. He showed us ancient cave drawings and educated us about his culture. At one point he brought out his drum and sang a traditional song that rang out through the canyons. This has become one of my “go-to” examples of how travel creates lifelong memories. None of us will forget Carlos singing and playing his drum against these iconic red mountains.
We’ll also never forget spending the night in a hogan, a traditional Navajo home made of clay. An overnight stay in a hogan can be booked through Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours.
Fast Food Nation
Want to learn more about Navajo culture? This may be the only time I’m ever going to recommend stopping by a Burger King. The owner of this fast food franchise in Kayenta, just outside Monument Valley, has created his own exhibit honoring the Navajo code talkers of World War II with items collected from his father.
Native American history really comes alive at the Navajo Council Chambers in Window Rock, where you can see the Navajo Nation government in action. Call ahead to make sure the council is in session when you’re planning to visit.
A trip to Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation is a great chance to bring history to life for your children and have fun doing it. While this region has starred in many Hollywood movies, it’s unknown to most Americans. We’re glad that won’t be the case for our kids.
Need more Arizona vacation ideas? Contact the Arizona Office of Tourism at Arizonaguide.com.
Andrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist. She spent many years as a writer and producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Her travel stories have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent, Make It Better and on-line travel sites.
A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. After giving birth to 2 beautiful children she’s had the joy of becoming a mom again through adoption. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers! You can follow her on Twitter at @AndreaGuthmann