Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Three Mittens

The name Monument Valley (Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks in Navajo) defines an area now part of the Colorado Plateau, characterized by a large number of red sandstone buttes.

The valley used to be a single flat basin million of years ago and became what it is today thanks of sediments, uplifting pressure from below the earth surface and then wind and water erosion.

After John Ford and several directors after hime shot a number of western movies the Valley became synonymous of the American West. There’s a strange sense of deja vu once you drive trough it for the first time. Even for someone like me who grew up in Europe, there’s no escaping the feeling of having been there before. Scale is unexpected, everything is much much bigger that I could have ever imagined. It’s almost like the opposite of revisiting childhood places, that you remember being much bigger. This is bigger than I ‘remembered’ it.

Monument Valley, Road

The Valley red color comes from the presence of iron oxide, while the blue cast is the result of manganese oxide.

The characteristic formations are either buttes, mesas ore some huge stone structures like the Eye of the Sun and the Ear Of The Wind.

The name Monument Valley is currently used to describe a large area which includes the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which would correspond more or less to a Navajo Nation national park.

As a visitor you can purchase an entrance to the park which only gives you access to the 17 miles long dirt road that cuts trough the park. To visit the park properly and have access to the best locations and vistas you will have to book a guided tour. This will give you access to all the closed areas, including the Mystery Valley, Hunts Mesa and the sand dunes around the Totem Pole. Driving on the dirt road might require a vehicle with high clearance underneath, especially after bad weather. That’s one more reason to book a guided tour, which will provide 4×4 Jeeps and trucks.

We booked our tour with Sacred Monument Tours and got to spend the day with T.J. He was amazing, really interesting person, knowledgeable and 100% immersed in Navajo culture. He showed us around his valley with great pride and described in great detail Navajo history all the way to the current way of life inside the reservation.

We decided to spend a couple of nights in the Valley to avoid rushing the visits and having to drive back out at the end of the day. We stayed at The View, which is the only hotel inside the Tribal Park. The Hotel is often sold out, because it offers on every room a balcony that overlooks the valley to the east. This means that you can have a perfect sunrise behind the mittens every morning. Make sure you set your alarm and watch this awesome spectacle from your room.

Sunrise behind the Three Mittens

The Valley is one and a half hour drive from Page and Three from Flagstaff.

The weather can change abruptly, we drove from Page on a mild April day and we found a few snow flakes a few miles before arriving. The nights were very cold and the day sunny bright and cold. Check the weather forecast to find out what to wear.

Getting there:

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Sunrise behind the Three Mittens

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