When some people hear the words Monument Valley a picture of John Wayne and his faithful horse spring to mind. They have a vague idea of the “Indians” who lived there a long time ago and the fact that it is hot, very hot. There are so many things to see and experience in and around Monument Valley, including the history, the geography, and quite importantly, the culture. This article will explore the history and attractions of Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation tribal lands.



The Anasazi are recorded to have lived in what we know as Monument Valley today starting from around A.D. 1300. This is despite the fact that Monument Valley is a dry and arid, not to mention hot, environment. Archeologists have reached this conclusion based on rock paintings depicting the hunting lifestyle of the original inhabitants. The animals they hunted included:

  • Antelope
  • Deer 
  • Big Horn

It is believed that sometime in the 1300s the Anasazi moved out of Monument Valley. The Navajo settled shortly thereafter but no clear dating has been provided as to exactly when. To this day Navajo families herd sheep and rear livestock which they have done for generations before. They also grow crops but the desert conditions make this near impossible. Only a small proportion of the more than 300,000 Navajo live in Monument Valley. 


The Attractions

It was John Ford who popularised Monument Valley in his movies but today there still are a lot of other interesting things to do in Monument Valley. Chief among them is a guided tour of the Navajo Tribal lands, taking in all the sites which have been made well known by their appearance in movies such as Lone Ranger and others. The scenic 17 mile off road drive is a specialty of Monument Valley Safari. An unpaved road makes a loop around the tribal park, taking in some of the memorable scenes in the movies including the following:

  1. The Three Sisters
  2. John Ford’s Point
  3. North Window
  4. Totem Poles
  5. Artist’s Point

All these natural and unique formations have a story attached to them which has been passed through the generations. Monument Valley Safari guides are Navajo and have lived in Monument Valley all their life. They will share tales from days gone by to make your tour not only beautifully exciting but educational too

Visitor Centre

There is only so much you can learn from the guides accompanying you on the guided tours. For an in-depth dig into the history and cultural aspect of Monument Valley you have the visitor centre. Over the years collections of documents and information have grown into what is now the visitor centre. You can learn about the Navajo people and their culture by reading, listening to and viewing the information provided. Displays include:

  • Pictures
  • Other media forms
  • Physical artefacts
  • Film exhibits and documents such as the “Treaty of 1868”

There is a lot to learn around the visitors centre and so you are highly encouraged to visit on your trip to Monument Valley.


Outdoor Camping

If you want to make an experience of it and you are not short of time then camping in the Mitten View campground is one of the activities you MUST do. Due to little to no light pollution the nights in Monument Valley are extraordinarily beautiful. You can gaze at the starry night sky to your heart’s content. 

The Primitive campground is very popular as it operates all year round.It however is very much in demand and so making  a booking in advance is also worth doing. There are strict rules to follow when camping so as to preserve the legacy left behind, for the enjoyment of the future generations. It is worth remembering that Monument Valley still is home to a large population who require their privacy as much as anybody else. Alcohol and rock climbing is not allowed and campers are urged to respect their surroundings and keep them clean for the enjoyment of everyone.


Another popular activity available to you if you have taken the camping option, or have time on your side, is the 3.2 mile hike around Mitten Butte. Called the Wildcat Trail, which takes you on a loop round Mitten Butte. The trail is suitable for people of most abilities and gives you the opportunity to experience the beauty of the geology. If you are lucky you can come across some of the local fauna such as lizards. This can be a fun part of your holiday with kids as they get the chance to get their hair down and appreciate the outdoors. It is recommended you always have ample supplies of water and other juices to keep hydrated. Also a healthy spread of sun cream will protect you and your family from the harmful exposure to UV rays in the abundant sunshine.


Guided Tours

How many ways are there to enjoy the beauty of Monument Valley you ask? The options are vast but one of the most exciting and memorable experience is the guided tour. Depending on how much time you have available there is a safari to suit you. Monument Valley Safari is a reputable tour operator offering guided tours in Monument Valley. Their guides are born and bred in Monument Valley and are very knowledgeable about the history, as passed down to them through the generations. They will share this knowledge as they drive you in special off road vehicles to help you enjoy Monument Valley in unique and personal experiences. Examples of the safaris available include the following:

  • Lower Monument Valley - enjoy anything from 1.5 hours to 3.5 hours of this award winning tour (rated #1 tour of 2013) where you have the choice of a Scenic or Cultural tour

  • Mystery Valley - extended tour lasting up to 5 hours
  • Hunts Mesa - ideal for photographers who want to capture their best best images, the 18 hour safari includes a campout and takes in all the sights of cultural and scenic significance in Monument Valley
  • Combination Safari - select from two 6 hour safaris going to either Lower Monument Valley and Mystery Valley or Mystery Valley and Tear Drop Arch
  • Full Moon and Starlight safari - spend 3 hours under moonlight as you seek to capture your best shot of Monument Valley at night, another option is the Starlight safari which is available on most nights


We hope this article has given you a new perspective on Monument Valley and ignited the desire to come and experience this beauty first hand. There are countless geographical, cultural, and scenic monuments to enjoy while you are here and the lovely people working here will make you feel at home. Monument Valley Safari are waiting to take you on an experience of a lifetime, click here to make your booking. We look forward to having you here.