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Stand in four states at the same time – Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Four Corners Monument, officially, Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park, may be the only place in the world where four states, provinces or countries meet at the exact same point.
It’s what’s found at Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park. The park entrance fee is high, because it’s based on $5 per person over age 6. It’s worth it for the photo opportunity. Make this an #AmericanBucketList places to visit.
Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park, Teen Nos Pos, Arizona
The Four Corners monument is managed by the Navajo Nation. The marker itself is a large brass and granite monument with viewing platforms for taking pictures of the whole family sprawled across four states.
The monument is surrounded by kiosks with Navajo craftspeople selling original art and jewelry. Other kiosks feature traditional foods and commercial souvenirs. All the kiosks are leased to Navajo nation residents.
A Tribal Park is the Indian nation equivalent of a U.S. national park. It’s located on U.S. 160 near the center of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation is like a a semi-foreign country surrounded by Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and the Ute Mountain Reservation in Colorado.
So yes, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s a must-do tourist trap. This is a vacation, right, and it’s not a place likely to be visited a second time. Pull out the wallet and give the family and yourself a genuine unique experience. There is no place else in the world where you can do this.
When it comes to family photos, the next person on the overlook is usually perfectly happy to shoot the photo so all family members can get in the picture.
Four Corners Monument is on well-marked Navajo Route 597, off U.S. 160 about 10 minutes east of the Teec Nos Pos Trading Post. From the east, take U.S. 160 to Navajo 597 about 35 minutes west of the junction of U.S. 160 and U.S. 491 where the Ute Mountain Reservation borders the Navajo Nation.
What’s in the Four Corners Monument neighborhood
While a family will spend only an hour or two at Four Corners Monument, its central location makes it easy to travel to some of the most amazing sites in America in the Four Corners region. From the Four Corners Monument, the open road is calling out destinations like Mesa Verde National Park, Navajo National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley Tribal Park and Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
It’s a byway on the road trip of long-held family memories.
1 hour: Mesa Verde National Park. Mancos, Colorado
One of the finest collections of pre-Colombian cliff dwellings is in Mesa Verde National Park between Cortez and Mancos, Colorado. The national park has ranger-led tours—requiring tickets and reservations—to the most popular of the cliff dwellings.
Balcony House, which is shaded in the morning, has a steep stairwell and cut stone staircase descent to a cliff-face terrace. Next, visitors must climb a 30-foot tall ladder to enter the pueblo. It is an extraordinary experience to see the various rooms, granaries and how it was sheltered from weather and invasion. You must be able to climb that ladder to ultimately be able to leave the pueblo site. Rangers politely turn away some ticket holders because of health or physical abilities.
The most famous pueblo, and most photographed is Cliff Palace is visible and readily photographed from an overlook. Entering the pueblo requires tickets and reservations for a ranger-led tour. Cliff House is the largest of the ancestral pueblos at Mesa Verde. It’s very popular, and it’s advisable to secure tickets in advance.
Other cliff houses and pueblos are open to the public, with the most accessible and easy-to-reach being the Spruce House.
Mesa Verde is northeast of Cortez, Colorado. At the junction of U.S. 160 and U.S. 491, take 491 north through Cortez to U.S. 160, which is the route to Mesa Verde National Park.
1 hour: Hovenweep National Monument, between Cortez, CO, and Bluff, UT
Another park with an extraordinary collection of ancestral pueblos is Hovenweep National Monument. Hovenweep is a canyon complex with clifftop and in-cliff pueblos. The intricate construction include multiple stories, a “mushroom” house sprouting from the top of a spire, and the well-named Castle House.
(Note: All directions are from Four Corners Monument). Hovenweep National Monument is southwest of Cortez, Colorado. From U.S. 491, turn west towards the Cortez Airport on Montezuma County Route G.
The road runs west through the southwest Colorado wine country to become Ismay Trading Post Road, Navajo Route 5068. Past the Trading Post, turn north on Belitso Road, Navajo Route 5067. Then follow Route 5067 to the right when it becomes South Hovenweep Road, which goes to the park.
1.5 hours: Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park. Mexican Hat, Utah
Valley of the Gods is Bureau of Land Management public land. It was part of the recently down-sized Bears Ears National Monument.
The park is filled with a cross-section of southwestern geologic features: buttes, spires, towers, hoodoos, fins and arches in formation and collapse. The 17-mile drive takes about 2 hours with stops for photos along the way. The east portal of the valley enters off U.S. 163, and the west portal returns to pavement on Utah Route 261.
Getting to Valley of Gods this way puts the route through Comb Ridge, a massive geologic monocline, or literal wrinkle in the earth’s crust. The road cuts through the ridge. When reaching the bottom, pulling over for a moment to look at the height of the ridge will makes the wrinkle something to remember.
Returning to U.S. 163 on SR 261 passes the road to Goosenecks State Park. A collection of eight deeply carved, steeply turning “S”-curves in the river channel comprise the Goosenecks. Five of the curves make up Goosenecks State Park. Although camping is available, and there are some moderately-difficult and difficult hikes, most can view the scene within an hour or two.
Valley of the Gods has an east entrance north of Mexican Hat, Utah, on U.S. 163. The west entrance is on Utah Route 261. To the east entrance, head west on U.S. 160 from Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park to U.S. 191. Turn north on U.S. 191 to U.S. 163 west of Bluff, Utah. Turn south (left) on U.S. 163 to the Valley of the Gods entrance, a bit over 12 miles. Turn onto the dirt Valley of the Gods Road.
For the Goosenecks State Park, exit Valley of the Gods at the west portal turning southeast on S.R. 216. S.R. 316 is not quite 6 miles. Turn south to the park, about 5 minutes driving time. Return to U.S. 163 turning right from S.R. 316 for about 1 mile.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is about 45 minutes south of Valley of the Gods. If heading towards the Grand Canyon or Phoenix from the Valley, the route goes by Monument Valley’s entrance road.
2 hours: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Oljato, Arizona-Utah
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is one of the most famous views of the American Southwest. The three best-known buttes, Left and Right mittens and Merrill buttes, have been featured in hundreds of movies, television shows, commercials and print advertisements. The buttes are most dramatic at dawn and sunset, but great pictures can be shot throughout the day.
With time, it’s well worthwhile to take a half-day Navajo-guided tour of the tribal park. While there is a 17-mile loop that can be driven by any passenger car, the Navajo guides are able to take riders to ancestral pueblos, a rare “ceiling” arch, and a Navajo traditional hogan and sheep ranch. These sights are not accessible without a Navajo guide.
Monument Valley is referenced as both Arizona and Utah because the state line runs through the center of the park.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is on U.S. 163 north of Kayenta, Arizona. Head west on U.S. 160 into Kayenta. Turn north on U.S. 163 to the park entrance. Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park are about 45 minutes north of Monument Valley. If heading north, U.S. 163 will pass the two sites.
2 hours: Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Chinle, Arizona
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is both a holy site for the Navajo and the site of a horrendous genocide at the hands of the Spanish Conquistadors. The park has two main canyons, and there are north and south rim roads to overlooks.
A steep hike at the White House ancestral pueblo allows access to the canyon floor to see a white-plastered cliff dwelling. There is no public access into the pueblo.
Travel into the canyon must be in the company of a Navajo guide. The half- and full-day tours can be taken in a guide’s vehicle, with a guide in a high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle or on horseback. Within the canyons are ancestral pueblos, caves and many petroglyphs.
Go west on U.S. 160, then turn south on U.S. 191 (about 2.5 miles west of northbound U.S. 191). Chinle is around 60 miles from the intersection. Turn east on Navajo Route 7 (Canyon de Chelly Road) to the park entrance. I.R. 7 also becomes the North Rim Road.
3+ hours: Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon national parks
Four Corners Monument makes a great place to stop when on the way from Colorado and New Mexico to Grand Canyon, Arches or Canyonlands national parks. The parks are all in the 3-hour-plus range from the Four Corners Navajo Tribal Park, so it makes a stop where legs can be stretched, tummies refilled and hand-crafted jewelry and art can be purchased direct from Navajo craftspeople.
Distances in the Four Corners
Four Corners Monument Navajo Tribal Park to:
- Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado 1 hour
- Hovenweep National Monument, Utah 1 hour
- Valley of the Gods, Utah 1 1/2 hours
- Monument Valley, Arizona-Utah 2 hours
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona 2 hours
- Arches National Park, Utah Under 3 hours
- Grand Canyon, Arizona 3 hours
- Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky, Utah 3 hours
About the Navajo Nation
The Dinétah or “land of the people,” as nation is named by the Navajo, is roughly the size of New England—Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Its population, however, is not equal to Wyoming, the least populous state.
About the Ancient Puebloan Peoples
Pueblo Indian elders prefer the villages be referenced as “ancestral pueblos” rather than “abandoned ruins.” The Pueblos had an ancient culture involving travel from region-to-region looking for the “right place.” Leaving one pueblo to build another did not mean the last village was abandoned, because it is believed the Puebloan peoples reoccupied villages over time. The arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors interrupted the
About Navajo Police and Speeding
The Navajo have an independent police force and court system for most traffic offenses. Laws and legal procedures may be different on the Big Rez. If required to post bond, state driver licenses or AAA bond cards may not be accepted, and a cash bond or fine may be required by the Navajo courts. If legal counsel is required, it must be with a member of the Navajo National Bar Association.
The Navajo Tribal Police have a reputation for strict enforcement against drivers traveling at excessive speeds. The Nation is rural, and some roads are straight lines across the desert, making normal highway speed seem very slow. Drive carefully.