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The Best Way to Tour Monument Valley
Monument Valley is a spectacular attraction well worth the drive it will take you to get there. Located within the Navajo nation along the Utah/Arizona border, it is not a valley at all, but a vast desert landscape decorated with incredible rock formations towering hundreds of feet in the air. If you are a movie buff, you will probably recognize many of the views here featuring red mesas and gigantic buttes. I counted myself lucky that I am not a movie aficionado as for me, the views were completely novel.
Upon arrival at Monument Valley, you will get your first glimpse of the scenic landscape from the Visitor's Center. The view here is spectacular, and many people do essentially stop here and call it a tour. Yet if you want a closer look at the towering sandstone rock formations at Monument Valley, you will want to at least take a drive along the 17-mileValley Drive. You have two options to tour Monument Valley: either drive your vehicle along a rough dirt road, or book a guided tour.
Choose a Guided Tour at Monument Valley
Tours of Monument Valley are easy to arrange at the Visitor Center. Although there is no need to book a tour in advance, if you'd like to for convenience sake, you can.
Before you balk at the price of a guided Jeep tour through Monument Valley, consider all you will gain by taking a tour. You will have already driven a considerable distance to get to Monument Valley, and if you don't at least travel the Valley Drive, you will miss out on many spectacular views.
Then, consider that even if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, it will get very dirty on your road trip. You won't be able to thoroughly relax and enjoy the views if you are worried about navigating the dirt road. Even if you are completely comfortable with the road and you love 4-wheeling, you still won't have access to many of the most scenic areas of the Valley unless you take a guided tour.
There are additional benefits to taking a guided tour. If you take a Navajo guided tour, you will be provided with in-depth information about the formations and features you will see in the Valley, plus you will learn about the cultural history of the area. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, plus take photographs as often as you like.
When you are ready to book a tour, you have plenty of options available at the Visitor's Center. Some tours seat many passengers within a vehicle, while other operators offer more intimate or personalized experiences.
I opted to take a combination jeep and horseback tour of Monument Valley, as I wanted to spend as much time as possible enjoying the area. I was incredibly impressed with the Valley upon first sight, and although I did not plan to take a horseback tour at all, I couldn't resist when I considered the possibility!
My tour booked with Sacred Mountain Tours consisted of a 3-hour jeep tour of the backcountry of Monument Valley, plus a 2-hour horseback riding tour. I was thoroughly impressed with both parts of the tour. I was not only able to see ancient cave and cliff dwellings and petroglyphs, I learned about the cultural history of what I saw.
The horseback ride provided access to incredible views that I never would have enjoyed without riding the narrow trails. The jeep and horseback tours cover separate areas of Monument Valley, so I enjoyed a variety of experiences throughout the day. Although mine was considered a half-day tour, spending several hours exploring the outdoors at Monument Valley was ample time to experience this incredible place and take many, many photographs.
Monument Valley Visitor Center
Although I stopped in at the Visitor Center to arrange my tour and took a quick look around when I arrived, I spent more time relaxing there at the end of the tour. The restaurant served very good, traditional food, and even after spending hours in Monument Valley, I still appreciated the exceptional view I could enjoy while eating.
There is also a terrific gift shop at the Visitor Center. You can see a wide variety of beautiful Navajo craft items, including baskets, handmade rugs, and silver items on display, and I couldn't resist purchasing a few jewelry items.
At either the start or conclusion of your visit to Monument Valley, you will probably enjoying relaxing at the picnic area near the Visitor Center. You can plan to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it here after your jeep tour, or just relax with a cold bottle of water and take in the view.
If you find you return from your tour near when sunset approaches, opt to stay a little longer. Your sunset photographs of Monument Valley will surely be among the most vibrantly colored and dramatic you take on your visit.