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Monument Valley / Oljato

Elevation: 5,200 feet (1,585 meters)

The spectacular scenery of Monument Valley is captivating year round. Sandstone formations with fanciful names like Mittens, Elephant Butte, Totem Pole, and North Window reveal their greatest beauty at sunrise and sunset, and can easily be viewed from the native surface road through the Tribal Park.

Available facilities include a visitor center, campground, and restaurant in addition to guided tours. Gouldings Lodge provides lodging, dining, tours with Navajo guides, a museum, a gift shop full of hand-crafted Native American items, a grocery, and a campground.

The Gouldings operated a trading post from the 1920s through the 1960s, serving the local population with groceries and supplies. Harry Goulding made the initial contact with the film industry that continues today. Monument Valley has been the location for over sixteen major motion pictures and scores of commercials.

Day tours include Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Navajo, Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments. Full services.

Located on the southern border of Utah at an elevation of 5200 feet, Monument Valley and Oljato are surrounded by unique sandstone formations. Monument Valley is twenty-five miles southwest of Mexican Hat on US 163. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located here, as is historic Gouldings Trading Post and Museum. The Valley is world renowned for its photographic possibilities. Since Stagecoach was filmed there in 1938, it has been a popular location for many feature films and television commercials.

Oljato, located nine miles west of Monument Valley on County Road 2406, is a tiny Navajo community and Tribal Chapter Headquarters with a traditional Navajo trading post at its center. Oljato Trading Post is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Estimated population of the two communities in 2000 was 1600.

Monument Valley’s sandstone buttes and mesas are among the most iconic images of the southwest. The majestic landscape has been the backdrop for more than sixteen movies, including Stagecoach, Forrest Gump, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, plus dozens of television shows, music videos, and commercials. Straddling the border of southeastern Utah and northern Arizona, Monument Valley lies within the Navajo Nation Reservation's borders. The Navajo name for the area is Tse Bii' Ndzisgaii, which means 'valley of the rocks.'

Monument Valley's isolated rock formations are eroded remains of their Rocky Mountain ancestors, formed by sandstone deposits and geologic uplift and then shaped by wind and water. Three main layers of Organ Rock shale, de Chelly sandstone, and Moenkopi shale are visible in many of the buttes. The largest of the freestanding formations towers 1,000 feet above the valley floor. Part of the Colorado Plateau, Monument Valley sits 5,564 feet above sea level and encompasses 91,696 acres.

A 17-mile dirt road through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the best way to see the famous formations. The scenic drive takes two to four hours, and has eleven designated stops: the East and West Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Camel Butte, the Hub, Totem Pole, Yei B Chai, Sand Spring, Artist's Point, North Window, and the Thumb. Rain God Mesa marks the geological heart of the park and holds special significance for Navajo medicine men. Many of the formations in the park have been named by the Navajo for spiritual references, or by early settlers of the area.

The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park has a visitor center, restaurant, and campground. The visitor center offers Navajo-guided tours which include a visit to a Hogan, the traditional Navajo dwelling. Wildcat Trail, an easy three-mile loop around West Mitten Butte, is the only trail within the park that doesn't require a Navajo guide. Hiking away from the designated stops is not permitted.

Trails outside of the Tribal Park are unmarked and considered backcountry, requiring a $5 day-use permit from the visitor center. Monument Pass is accessible from the southeast side of Highway 163 and passes the Saddleback, King on His Throne, Stagecoach, Bear and Rabbit formations. The six-mile hike across mostly flat benches is moderate, although there are some rocky areas and small cliffs.

Monument Valley can be reached from Bluff, Blanding, and Monticello by taking US Highway 191 to Highway 163, the main road through Monument Valley. This northern approach leads through one of the most familiar scenes: a long stretch of highway running through the deep red desert toward the towering mesas of Monument Pass on the horizon.

Bluff is an excellent base camp for exploring Monument Valley, with several lodging and dining options. Nearby Mexican Hat also offers a couple of eateries, as well as its namesake rock formation. A bit further north along US Highway 191, Blanding and Monticello also offer dining and lodging while still offering convenient access to Monument Valley.