Monument Valley

Monument Valley (MV) is located in the northeast part of Arizona and is over 300 miles from the nearest major airport. It is over 200 miles from smaller airports such as Page, Flagstaff, Grand Junction, and Farmington. As a result, you should plan on combining a trip to MV with other destinations, hopefully in a loop route. MV is half way between Mexican Hat, Utah (21 miles to the entrance road), and Kayenta, Arizona (22 miles).

Where to Stay

RV and tent campers can stay at the Monument Valley View campground which has no hookups or water. There is a nearby convenience store. Good but expensive accommodations can be found in Monument Valley itself at the Monument Valley View hotel and at Goulding's Lodge just outside the park. Gouldings also has an associated campground. You need to reserve the View / Gouldings well in advance if you plan to visit MV in the better months of April to October.

Alternatively you can stay in either Kayenta, AZ, or in Mexican Hat, UT. A reasonably priced but dated place to stay in Mexican Hat is the San Juan Inn which is right on the San Juan River. Mexican Hat is very small and has generally poor services, however it is close to several areas worth photographing. These include Mexican Hat (afternoon), Goosenecks State Park (afternoon ultra wide), Valley of the Gods, the Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Recapture Pockets, and the Grand Gulch. US 163 is more scenic between Mexican Hat and MV than between Kayenta and MV. The "Forrest Gump" image was shot at milepost 13 on US 163 in Utah between Mexican Hat and MV. Kayenta is also a good place to stay, it has much better services than Mexican Hat, and is "close" (50 miles) to Navajo National Monument and Canyon de Chelly. It is also closer to Blue Canyon and White Mesa Arch, covered elsewhere on this site.

When to Go

Monument Valley is open every day of the year except Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving afternoon. Hours are from 6 AM - 8 PM from May 1 to September 30, and from 8 AM to 5 PM during the rest of the year. Winters are cold in MV, and summers very warm. Here is a list of average temperatures:

Average Temperatures (°F)

Month  Min Max
JAN 25 43
FEB 26 47
MAR 33 54
APR 40 65
MAY 47 73
JUNE 58 85
JULY 63 90
AUG 62 88
SEPT 57 82
OCT 41 66
NOV 30 50
DEC 24 42

Most commercial photo tours to MV seem to run during the spring. Other than the favorable temperatures I am not sure why this is the case. Spring is the windy season in the SW and there will be a lot of haze in MV in May and June. I think a better time to go would be late August and September, the park will still be open at sunrise and sunset, in August there is the possibility of dramatic weather, by September temperatures start to moderate, and there will be less haze. It will be hot though. A hot air balloon festival is normally held each year in mid December.

Park Fees

Admission is $20 per car for up to four people as of January 2016, each additional person is $10. National park passes are not accepted. Admission only grants you access to the loop road shown in lavender below. If you wish to visit the Sand Dunes / Totem Pole, Mystery Valley, Tear Drop arch, or Hunts Mesa you will need to go with an authorized Navajo guide. Half day and full day photo tours are available at the visitor center or (better) they can be booked in advance. Here is a list of authorized guides. I have gone with Tom Phillips at http://www.monumentvalley.com/ in the past. Tom passed away recently and his business is now being run by his sons Carlos and Carl. Tom worked with a guide named Roy (Ray?) who is probably in his mid 80s, he is an excellent guide and I hope he doesn't retire. If you hire a guide I suggest you book a sunrise tour so as to shoot the Sand Dunes / Totem Pole area in best light. Afternoon tours generally revolve around Mystery Valley and Tear Drop arch.

Shooting Locations

Whether you go with a guide or not, MV is one of the best photo destinations in the United States. Great photos can be had from the parking area at both sunrise and sunset. From the loop road you can get superb photos of the Three Sisters, you should also shoot facing north from John Ford point, from the North Window, and from Artist's point. Here is a map with some of the better locations identified:

 

USGS 24K Topo Maps

The topo maps Monument Valley, Monument Pass, Mystery Valley, and Gouldings cover the area of interest. The Monument Valley map contains the loop road, the sand dune area and the Totem Pole, and Hunt's Mesa. The Mystery Valley map contains locations that would normally be included during the afternoon of a full day photo tour such as Mystery Valley, Many Hands House, Honeymoon Arch, and Half Moon House. Tear drop arch is on the border between the Gouldings map and the Mystery Valley map. These maps can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right-clicking below:

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Goulding KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Monument Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Monument Valley KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Mystery Valley KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all four maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


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