Friday, April 21, 2017

Monument Valley!

     The Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park ~ Arizona & Utah
     If one only had one place to choose that symbolizes the American west, then the top pick would definitely have to be Monument Valley.  Monument Valley is recognized worldwide because photos of this place adorn nearly every western travel brochure and this beautiful landscape is the backdrop in many classic cowboy western films.  Monument Valley is the land of tall red sandstone pillars that touch the sky and there is no other place like this on earth.  
     Springtime is the start of the Southwestern travel season and the summer vacation season soon follows.  By mid April, most of the snow has melted in the mile high elevations and the daytime temperatures are comfortable.  Destinations in the lower elevations like Death Valley and the Sonoran Desert have not yet reached extreme heat levels, but by the first week of June the daytime temperature will certainly be in the triple digit range till sometime in September.  Obviously, the high elevation destination offer a more comfortable experience during the summer months.  The Colorado Plateau in the Four Corners region is well over a mile above sea level, so the summer temperatures are bearable in this vast area.  Colorado Plateau destinations include, Natural Bridges Monument, The Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Four Corners, Monument Valley and several other interesting places.
     Monument Valley is one of many scenic destinations that are located in the remote Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.  When planning a trip to Monument Valley it is best to extend the vacation time, so other nearby scenic destinations can be experienced.  When traveling on Interstate Highway 70 through northern Utah, heading south on U.S. Highway 191 will take visitors past Arches National Park, Castle Valley, Moab, Bluff and Natural Bridges on the way to Monument Valley.  Visiting each of these destinations along the way adds up to at least one week of great vacation time.  A second popular travel route to Monument Valley involves traveling from the Grand Canyon to East Highway 160 and Kayenta.  Many great Navaho Tourism destinations like the Tuba City Dinosaur Tracks, Hopi Village and the Navaho Monument are located along this scenic route.  From Kayenta, U.S. Highway 163 runs north and this highway is called the Kayenta Monument Valley Scenic Road for a good reason.  This road offers spectacular views of the entire Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park.
     When touring remote areas of the Southwest, it is best to book accommodations in advance, because during a busy holiday weekend even the campgrounds can be at full capacity.  Accommodations with all modern amenities can be found in Kayenta and Monument Valley.  Oljato is a small community located by Red Door Mesa across the road from the Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park.  Goulding's offers comfortable lodging and camping with great views of the valley.  Goulding's is where John Wayne's Cabin can be seen and there is a great restaurant at the lodge.  RV campgrounds are located in this area too.  There is a high pressure car wash in Oljato and this is good to keep in mind, because most of the tour roads in the Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park are red clay dirt.
     If waking up to panoramic view of Monument Valley in the morning sounds like a dream com true, then booking a stay at The View Hotel in the Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park is by far the best option.  The View Hotel is a modern Southwestern resort that overlooks the entire Monument Valley.  Premium cabins must be booked ahead of time, because this is one of the most popular lodges in the west.  Campgrounds, RV camping, a general store and trading post are on site too.  The restaurant at The View Hotel is famous for native Navaho cuisine and astounding views of Monument Valley.  
     Hiking trails sometimes require permits, so it is best to check with guest services before blazing a trail on foot.  Registration for hiking also acts as a preventative measure, because this is a pristine wilderness area.  Guided tours of Monument Valley are also available at The View Hotel and there are several tour modes to choose from.  Horseback tours of Monument Valley are a great option for those who prefer a few saddle sores over tired aching feet! 
     Personal vehicle tours of Monument Valley require a permit fee.  The dirt roads are very well maintained and I was actually able to drive a low ground clearance muscle car on every road in the Navaho Tribal Park with no problem.  The roads are well marked and maps are available at the entrance gate.  As mentioned before, hiking is limited to permitted trails, because the pristine beauty of this environment is actively being preserved, so venturing off on virgin ground from the road is taboo.  
     There are plenty of places to park and there are scenic overlooks located throughout the Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park.  Each tall red sandstone butte has a name and often the name is symbolic with a story to tell.  The Mitten Buttes look like hands touching the sky.  Elephant Butte and Camel Butte resemble these creatures.  The Hub symbolizes a wagon wheel.  Rain God Mesa is the center of the park.  Further into the park, some of the red butte sandstone has separated into tall pillars called The Three Sisters.  The Thumb, Totem Pole and The Yei Bi Chei are other picturesque red sandstone formations to look for.  
     There are commemorative sites along the car paths that are worth checking out too.  Memorials for fallen Navaho war heroes and the Code Talkers command respect and many people leave flowers at these locations.  Old remnants of the John Wayne film sites can be seen too.  
     One of the greatest spots to visit in the park is Artist Point.  The view of Monument Valley truly is majestic at this scenic overlook.  On any given time of day, several artists can be seen painting the inspirational landscape on canvas at this place.  Artist Point is also a western photographer's dream come true.
     Experiencing the majestic panoramic views of Monument Valley simply must be done at least once in a lifetime.  The Monument Valley Tribal Park is international tourism friendly and this place offers opportunities to learn from cultural exchange.  Spending one day at the Monument Valley Navaho Tribal Park somehow never seems to be enough time and a longing to return will surely occur.  Monument Valley is a Southwestern destination that is well worth planning an entire summer vacation around, because there are so many places to experience in the Four Corners region!