The Essential Guide to Monument Valley Camping & RVing
Monument Valley is the picture you have in your head every time you think of the desert. You’ve seen Monument Valley in numerous old Westerns and in one of the most well-known movies, Forrest Gump.
But where is Monument Valley? And what should you do when you get there? Here’s everything you need to know about Monument Valley to plan your next visit.
Where is Monument Valley?
Monument Valley is located right along the southeastern border of Utah and Arizona. Known as “Tse Bii’ Ndzisgaii,” or Valley of the Rocks, to the Najavo who have lived and continue to live in this area, Monument Valley is home to some of the most awe-inspiring rock “monuments” in the desert.
When you’re out at Monument Valley, expect to have very few amenities. There is a local KOA and several camping sites and cabins available in the surrounding area, but you won’t have access to great cell service or stores without driving miles down the road.
Why Visit Monument Valley?
Visiting Monument Valley is a must if you’re passing through Arizona or Utah. There’s nothing quite like Monument Valley in the desert, which is why it’s been a pivotal scene for many Western movies, postcards, and the like.
If you’re a big Forrest Gump fan, Monument Valley is featured in the scene where Forrest continues to run and run and run across the country. He finally stops here, turns around, and says, “I’ll think I’ll go home now.” As one of the movie’s most iconic lines, you’ll often find people pulled over on the side of the road to reenact the scene in real-time.
Beyond the cinema and pop culture references, Monument Valley has some amazing views and history behind it. From every angle, this Navajo treasure has rock formations inside that blow your mind. What once started as a Navajo trading post bringing the local population their groceries has become much more than a blip on the map. From Hollywood to outdoor spectacle, this place is beyond magical each and every time you visit.
What to See & Do at Monument Valley
Monument Valley offers some of the best scenic views on the road. Whether you’re on horseback hitting the trail or driving down the Valley Drive, you’ll know precisely why it’s a must-see place when you lay your eyes on it.
Cruising Through Valley Drive
If you decide to enter the park and take Valley Drive for your sightseeing, expect to pay $20 per vehicle for up to 4 passengers. The drive is about 17 miles long and takes you through both the Arizona and Utah sides of Monument Valley.
You should stop and see several stops along the Valley Drive (you’ll want a vehicle that can master rough dirt roads), including Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Elephant Butte, and Mittens and Merrick Butte. All of these points can be seen from the loop you take once you’re inside the park itself if you take the time to drive through and see it all.
Hiking Monument Valley
There are several hikes to do around Monument Valley and only one hike accessible to the public inside the park.
Wildcat Trail is a 3-mile loop inside the park that circles West Mitten Butte. For any other hikes, you’ll have to pay $5 for a backcountry permit inside the Visitors Center at the Monument Valley Tribal Park. All permits are for day-use only and can be used to hike any trails that are unmarked like the Monument Pass trail, a six-miler that gives view to other rock formations like Stagecoach, Saddleback, and King on His Throne.
Where to Stay in Monument Valley
Though there are places to stay inside the Tribal Park (cabins, campsites, and the like!), there are other options in the surrounding area that are just as good and in some cases, free!
Here are a few places to stay if you’re want to overnight near Monument Valley:
- Monument Valley KOA: Located directly across from the Tribal Park, Monument Valley KOA is your typical KOA campground with bathrooms, a dog park, and hookups. Basic WiFi is available, as well as guided photography and Jeep tours.
- Valley of the Gods Dispersed Camping: Find yourself lost, in the best way, at Valley of the Gods Dispersed Camping. You’ll have no amenities here except the stars at night, so make sure you have everything you need for an overnight stay before heading here.
- Mexican Hat Rock Dispersed Camping: Another BLM Dispersed camping area is Mexican Hat Rock just north of Monument Valley. This is another great spot to dry camp and experience the beauty of Utah at its best.
Tips for Visiting Monument Valley
Visit Early or Stay Late
Like any tourist spot, Monument Valley can get crowded during the busy season. Prepare to visit early or later in the afternoon towards closing to get the best views without a lot of tourists in your photos.
Bring the Essentials (and Then Some)
When you visit Monument Valley, you’ll have very little access to food and water outside of the Visitors Center and restaurant. It’s best to pack more than you need than to pack the bare minimum.
Check the Weather
Monument Valley is desert land, which means that the temperature fluctuates quite a bit between night and day. The elevation, though not crazy high, also allows the valley to experience all four seasons, so prepare for snow in the winter and extreme heat in the summer.
Unlike National Parks, Monument Valley is a Tribal Park. The same rules you follow at National Parks (and more) should be abided by here at Monument Valley. Not only is this place beautiful, but it’s also home to the Navajo tribe and is a sacred place for their people. Be respectful of the rules, heritage, and traditions of this place and leave it even better than you found it.
Take a Trip to the Old West
Monument Valley is truly a place where you can experience the Old West in today’s modern world. The same rock formations that stand today were there when Native Americans made their homes there and cowboys meandered through. There’s a reason that so many people have fallen in love with the landscape of Utah and most of it lies in the southern part of the state, including Monument Valley.
To truly get a feel for the desert, you definitely want to drive the extra miles to see Monument Valley and all it has to offer when passing through Arizona or Utah.
On Your Way To Monument Valley, Take Advantage of the Ample Free Camping
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy). You should give it a try! As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours.
Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
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