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Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a region of famous sandstone canyons, buttes, mesas, and rock formations. This Navajo Tribal Park, consisting of approximately 30,000 acres, is located on the Arizona - Utah border.

Monument Valley is divided into at least three regions, which are known as the Main Valley, Mystery Valley, and Hunt's Mesa.

The Main Valley contains the Visitor's Center, and is the jumping-off point for the main 17 mile drive. From this viewpoint, visitors will see the immediately recognizable East and West Mittens. The top of the Right Mitten was the location of some automobile commercials. Along the Main Valley trail, you can see Merrick Butte and Mitchell Butte, which were named for two soldiers who were killed for attempting to mine silver in the sacred area. John Ford's point is named after the 1st Hollywood director to use Monument Valley for a film set. Further along, you will see Sand Springs – a source of water – and the Hub, which is the geographic center of Monument Valley, and resembles the center of a wagon wheel. Other formations include the Totem Pole, Yei-bi-chei, some dunes, the Three Sisters, Rain God Mesa, Thunderbird Mesa, and more.

To enter the park, there is a small admission fee, which includes access to the 17 mile driving tour, if you are driving your own car. Although the trail can be driven with your own vehicle, tours are strongly recommended. You could probably take a passenger car on the trail, if you are the adventurous road-warrior type. It would probably be advisable to only try the entire drive with a higher clearance vehicle. You should also know how to drive through sand (don't stop). In addition to using 4-wheel-drive to get through sand and other areas, tour guides show visitors the backcountry of Monument Valley. The backcountry that visitors can experience on tours included some ruins, petroglyphs, arches, and other formations.

Examples include: Moccasin Arch, Eye of the Sun Arch, Big Hogan Arch, Ear of the Wind Arch, and a small ruin. Backcountry visitors are sometimes taken to see a traditional Navajo Hogan built of wood and clay. Without a tour or a guide, this country is off limits. Tours can be booked at the Visitors Center and at Goulding's.

Mystery Valley is home to arches, ruins, and deep sand. The scenery is spectacular and, in the opinion of the author, well worth the visit. Baby Feet Ruin is located here. Mystery Valley is not a self-guided tour, and guides are required.

Hunt's Mesa is a bit more on the rugged side. Some of the most spectacular views of Monument Valley are encountered in this area. Hunt's Mesa can be accessed by a hike or 4 wheel drive vehicle. Guides are required whether you are hiking or driving. The hike has some cliff exposure, so is not recommended to visitors with a fear of heights. Overnight campouts to the top of Hunt's Mesa can also be arranged.

Other formations in the area include Tear Drop Arch and Agathalan or El Capitan, the core of an ancient volcano.

A number of movies have been filmed in Monument Valley. These include Stagecoach (filmed in 1938), My Darling Clementine (1946), How the West was Won (1962), The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1980) She wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Eiger Sanction, Ft. Apache, and Back to the Future III.

Services: The Visitor's center contains a cafeteria and a small store. Goulding's has a trading post, and tours can be arranged here.

Note: This is high, wild, rugged country. Do not venture off on your own into the backcountry, since this is illegal and can be dangerous. The elevation here is approximately 5500 ft. (over a mile high). Temperatures can go well below freezing in the winter and can sometimes approach or exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.


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