Exploding from the desert floor lie the three iconic monoliths that make up Monument Valley. A site located in the heart of Navajo Nation; Monument Valley is a group of beautiful orange sandstone buttes. These buttes are clearly stratified. They consist of three principal layers, Organ Rock Shale, de Chelly Sandstone, and the Moenkopi Formation capped by Shinarump Conglomerate. Together these geological layers build the brilliant orange buttes that the southwest is so famous for. This barren desert wasteland coincides with the similar but larger landscape of the Valley of the Gods, located due north. The valley’s entry fee is $20.00. Navajo Nation allows visitors from across the globe to immerse themselves in the beauty of the red sandstone. Be advised however, as the main viewing location located at the View Hotel. This spot remains crowded with swarms of tour buses visiting every day.
Feeling like exploring, we ventured down the 17-mile dirt road that snakes through the series of valley buttes. Although not a difficult drive, we suggest having four-wheel drive and a high clearance vehicle, as some sections can be rocky or sandy. This 2-3-hour drive has pull off viewpoints at every butte, giving visitors a fun and personal experience. The road remains busy in the afternoon, so be sure to start your adventure by 0800 to avoid the crowds.
The famous View Hotel sits on the ridge line overlooking the valley, and rewards patrons with a once in a lifetime sunset view. The hotel offers three options for lodging; tent and RV camping, personal lodges, and standard hotel rooms. We chose to camp along the ridge line, as to best enjoy our sunset/sunrise views. Monument Valley is a certified dark skies area, giving campers a magnificent milky way view during summer months.
While obtaining a $40 camping permit requires some pre-planning, reservations can be made online at The View Hotel’s website but be sure to book your site months in advance, as it can sell out quickly during peak seasons (spring/fall). The campground has bathrooms (with showers) as well as Wi-Fi. If you’re hungry pop into the hotel for a quick sandwich or tour the gift shop to learn about the history of Monument Valley.
If you are traveling through during spring months come prepared for late night storms as the southwest winds pick up. After setting up camp, we braced for an oncoming storm inside our tent. Despite extreme winds and a few inches of flooding, our Mammut Tungsten 2P Tent withstood the storm without a hitch. As we rose for an incredible sunrise, we noticed that we were the only campers who survived the night unscathed, with broken tents and distraught car sleepers littered around the ridge line. Rule of thumb invest in your gear, because the right set up is the difference between staying dry and blowing away in the wind.