The sun peeks over the horizon in Monument Valley, Arizona; it is a sunrise that needs no caption:
Accessing Monument Valley from Utah:
If you’ve been following along on my road trip, you’ll know that we spent the night in Mexican Hat, which is 24 miles from Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
Much to my relief, an October 14th sunrise in Monument Valley happens at a kind hour: 7:28 a.m. We set our alarm for 5:45 a.m. the following morning, allowing us plenty of time for the drive. Why so early? Well, the information I found online was a bit confusing. Mostly it boiled down to this:
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Visitor Center
Peak Season (5/1 – 9/30) 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., 7 days/week
Off Season (10/1 -4/30) 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days/week
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Scenic Drive
Peak Season (5/1 – 9/30) 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Off Season (Oct – Apr) 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
So, with sunrise occurring half an hour before everything opens, how were we supposed to access the park? Without a firm answer, I figured, to hell with it, let’s just show up.
Where is the best place to watch sunrise at Monument Valley?
I can’t confirm if it is the best (these things are subjective), but the most popular lookout is at The View Hotel. Set your GPS here: Indian Rte 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536.
On approach to the hotel you will encounter a small service office where you will pay park admission. If you arrive before operating hours, the honour system applies. (So the answer is yes, you can enter the park before operating hours.) From here, park in the large lot and stake out your spot along the cliff’s edge.
What is the best way to explore Monument Valley?
Following sunrise we took a couple of hours to slowly crawl the 17-mile Valley Drive. The drive is a scenic loop which brings visitors down to the valley floor and weaves through many points of interest. One such stop, Artist’s Point – as its name suggests – perfectly frames the iconic West and East Mitten Buttes.
I was surprised by how few people opted to drive Valley Drive. Most ventured only as far as the hotel’s overlook. Shame.
Note: With the exception of Wildcat Trail (3.2 miles), independent hiking is NOT permitted in Monument Valley. You will require a hired guide.
Do you need a 4×4 vehicle to drive Monument Valley’s Valley Drive?
Not in my opinion. Driving with care along the washboard tracks should get you through just fine. However, low clearance vehicles will suffer and I’d reconsider after rainfall, as the dusty road is unpaved.
The time we spent exploring Monument Valley was so special. We were unhurried, stopping many times to snap a photo or simply drink in the view. Down in the valley I felt so small next to the towering buttes. Knowing that this landscape has been – and still is – so important to the Navajo, the passage of time here seems almost tangible.
When you go:
- Admission fee: $20 USD per vehicle (up to four people in a car)
- Washroom facilities: Located inside The View Hotel near the gift shop.
- Monument Valley is located in Navajo Nation, which is sovereign land. Visitors are welcome guests so long as they respect park rules.
Have you caught sunrise at Monument Valley? I want to hear about it. Leave a comment below!