Across the highway from Goulding is the turnoff that leads to the Navajo Tribal Park. For a fee you can drive the very rough 17-mile dirt road through some of the most famous vistas in the world. Recreational vehicles and vehicles with low clearance will have a very hard time on the road, which is impassible when it rains. If you decide to brave the conditions the best time is at first light or in the late afternoon. During these times long shadows highlight the features and bring out the deep rich colors of the valley. The road will take you by the Mittens, pictured, and also past Totem Pole, a 300 feet high monolith that is less than ten feet wide in some places.
Unfortunately touring other jeep roads or hiking through the park is not allowed unless accompanied by a tour guide. There are a number of tours you can take by jeep, horseback, airplane, helicopter, or foot. The park's Visitor Center can provide you information on local tour guides that usually can be found waiting in the parking lot. A 1-1/2 tour starts at $15, and if you don't trust your vehicle or your driving skills, you're better off spending the money.
To call the Mitten View Campground next to the Visitor Center rundown and austere is almost a complement. The flat 100-site campground is located out on the desert floor and offers no shade from the searing heat. Drinking water, flush toilets and showers are provided, however the facilities aren't in the best condition. Reservations are not accepted so campsites are on a first come, first served basis for $10 a night. You will find better facilities in nearby Goulding at the 62-site Goulding's Monument Valley RV Park, formerly a KOA campground.
However the reason for visiting shouldn't be to camp. Visitors to the area come to soak up the world famous views and typically don't linger for a days on end. Other nearby parks like Natural Bridge National Monument and Canyonlands National Park are less than three hours away. Even the 114-mile drive to Tuba City, Arizona down US Highway 160 is spectacular.
With its ideal location in the southeast corner of National Park country less than 100 miles from Moab, Utah to the north, and 160 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the west, Monument Valley is a required drive when visiting the desert parks of Arizona and Utah. Although Hollywood has portrayed this region as a land of cowboys, hapless tourists, and giant steam powered spiders, the land is as it always will be, a vibrant part of the Navajo Nation.
Just The Plain Facts
Name: Monument Valley
Location: Southeastern Utah, Moab
Nearest Major Air Service: Flagstaff, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Fees & Permits: $2.50 per person from 8 to 59, over 60, $1.00, under 7 years of age, free.
Why Visit: Probably the most famous images from the desert southwest. Incredible scenic views and desert vistas close to a number of area National Parks.
When To Visit: April to November
Essential Gear: Depends on a wide variety of activity. Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, lip balm, camera, binoculars, and plenty of drinking water. Other gear is strongly recommended.
You Should Know: Access on the reservation is very restricted. Do not take pictures of the Native Americans or their property without permission, and expect to pay a gratuity. The area is extremely remote and can be very hot in the summer months. Don't under estimate the poor condition of the park road..
More Information: Monument Valley, PO BOX 360289, Monument Valley, Utah 84536, (801) 727-3353. Goulding's Monument Valley RV Park, PO BOX 360001, Monument Valley, Utah 84536, (435) 727-3235