February 18, 2020
Butte after butte and mesas upon mesas are calling your name. The Valley Drive in the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is just the road for you to heed their calls. Valley Drive is a rough 17-mile dirt road that takes you to 11 spectacular viewing points. However, those who travel by tour bus, motorcycle, low rider, or some passenger vehicles will find this scenic drive inaccessible.
Fear not, there are a number of jeep and van tours available for purchase in the park, some of which provide guided hikes and side trips to destinations that you can only get to with a licensed guide. After poking around the visitor center’s museum and gift shop, it’s time for a tour. Inquire inside or at the sheds in the parking lot about trips. Traditionally, you will pile into a safari-esque Jeep built out for such viewing excursions. You can book a tour of Valley Drive (which you can also drive on your own if you have the right vehicle) or a longer trek such as Mystery Valley, accessible only, as mentioned before, with a licensed guide.
While nothing can really replace the awesome solitude and experience of hiking around the sandstone monoliths in person on trails like the Wildcat Loop Trail, a Jeep tour is a great way to take in the sites that may otherwise have been missed. Prowling over the dusty roads in the way-back of the park and bumping along to your heart’s content is fun.
If your tour takes you on the Valley Drive, you’ll pass, and potentially stop at, 11 different scenic viewpoints. These make great opportunities to take photos of the park’s incredibly scenic landscapes and rock formations. A point of note, if you take photos of the local Navajo people, they will expect a tip.
Most other tours will also take you off the beaten path—where exactly will depend on who you book with and the trip you choose. Often, tours will drive deep into the park and make stops for walks to petroglyphs, arches, or whatever else is on the itinerary. One such majestic section of the park is Mystery Canyon. Areas like these that are only accessible with a guide really give you a bang for your buck.
Jeep and van tours can be booked in advance or on the day of. There is a steady stream of trips leaving throughout the day until about an hour or two before the park closes (times vary based on season). Hire a guide in the parking lot at the visitor center or from Goulding’s Lodge.
The bumpy bliss of traveling to remote locations only accessible via a guide; the tales of history and Native American myth your guide shares with you along the tour; seeing the most beautiful and iconic parks in the country.
People who like to see a lot in a little time. These tours are a great way to take in the surrounding landscape and iconic features without needing to be out for the whole day. The bouncy Jeep rides and shorter tours are great for families looking for something fun to do for the morning or afternoon. The tours are also perfect for motorcyclists, visitors arriving in touring vans, or anyone unable to drive on potentially rutted roads as the tours allow them to see the views that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
Park at the visitor center. Here, you will find a number of guide services offering trips. If you choose a service not located at the main visitor center (such as Goulding’s Lodge), park as directed by the service provider.
The best and most comfortable time to visit is March through early-June and October through September; summer months can be too hot even to travel overland in a jeep. Take a tour any time of day for spectacular views, but try to catch it at sunset if you can; the long shadows and brilliant red hues will not disappoint, especially if the end destination is back to the lookout point above the Mittens.
Entrance fee into the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is $20 per vehicle up to four people with an additional fee of $6 per person over that allowance. Tours range in price from $40 and up. Dogs are allowed in the park and must be leashed at all times; inquire with particular guide services to see if they allow dogs on their tours.
Written by Austen Diamond for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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