Everything You Need to Know about the Monument Valley Scenic Drive

Monument Valley was the highlight of our Southwest road trip through Arizona and Utah.  Though there are several tours we opted to do the Monument Valley Scenic Drive on our own.  The Monument Valley Scenic drive is a 14-mile scenic loop on a dirt road and takes you to the majority of the monuments such as The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Totem Pole, Yei Bi Chai, Ear of the Wind.  Monument Valley tours from Native American guides take you deeper into Monument Valley, with areas only accessible by guides.

Where is Monument Valley Utah

Monument Valley is located right on the Arizona Utah border.  Google mapping “Monument Valley” will lead you right to it.  We drove to Monument Valley from Page, Arizona and it took about 2 hours.   The actual address of Monument Valley is Indn Route 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ 84536.

Monument Valley Utah Weather

Monument Valley has a dry arid climate and is hot in the summer and cold in the winter months with very little rain throughout the year.  The weather in Monument Valley in November, when we did the scenic drive, was cold in the mornings and evenings.  During the daytime, the weather oscillated between warm and chilly.  It was also extremely windy when we went in November.  Below is a graph of what the weather is like in Monument Valley from NOAA.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Entrance Fee

To enter the self drive scenic loop at Monument Valley the cost is $20 per vehicle.  This can be paid at the entrance to the park or the Monument Valley visitor center.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to pay the fee because there was no one at the entrance to the park or the visitor center!  We went to the Monument Valley visitor center during open hours but no one was there.  Though someone was able to give us a map of Monument Valley Utah.

Monument Valley Map

Inside the Monument Valley visitor center, you can pick up a map of Monument Valley that lists each of the scenic viewpoints.  There are also signs along the road inside the valley.  Also, I would download the Google Map of the entire Monument Valley scenic drive because Google Map also has labels of the viewpoints.  Cellular coverage is not very good in the valley so downloading the map beforehand is very handy.

Where to Stay in Monument Valley Utah

When looking up Monument Valley you might have asked what hotels are there to stay at in Monument Valley?  There is one hotel located actually in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park with a perfect view of the valley.  The View Hotel is located right next to the visitor center and offers spectacular views from every room.  There is also a restaurant at The View that serves amazing food.  For more about The View Hotel Monument Valley click here.

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Monument Valley Scenic Drive vs Guided Tour

When I first encountered Monument Valley and all its mysteries I had a hard time deciding between doing the Monument Valley scenic drive ourselves or doing a guided tour of Monument Valley.  And honestly, I’m so glad I decided on the self-drive tour of Monument Valley, which is why we rented an SUV.  We got lucky and Enterprise gave us a free upgrade to a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was perfect for the do it yourself Monument Valley scenic drive.

We saw the guided tour, it looked miserable because all the vehicles were open!  The weather in November was cold, windy and dusty.  I can’t imagine it would have been fun riding those open vehicles, while we were toasty and comfy in our Jeep Grand Cherokee.  During summer I think it would still be uncomfortable in those vehicles because it’s so hot.  But then again it might be a fun adventure.  Either way, I am glad we chose to do the Monument Valley scenic drive on our own at our own pace with no crowds.

Monument Valley Scenic Drive SUV vs Sedan or Normal Car

What kind of car should you rent to drive Monument Valley?  Can you drive the Monument Valley scenic loop in a sedan or do you need an SUV?  We asked these questions when we rented our car and decided not to chance it and rent an SUV to do the scenic loop at Monument Valley.  We rented an SUV because we had a bad experience driving in dirt roads with a sedan in the Bahamas for Pig Island, so we thought we would play it safe this time around.  I’m absolutely glad we got the Jeep and wouldn’t have changed a thing, but it is possible to drive in the valley with a regular vehicle. We even saw a Mustang make it in and out fine!

Driving the Scenic Loop at Monument Valley

So what is it like driving through Monument Valley?  The descent into the valley was rather steep but after that, it was pretty much a piece of cake.  The roads through unpaved were pretty smooth and were not a problem for any of the cars driving through.  Driving through Monument Valley was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  The buttes and mesas raising out of the ground positively look prehistoric.  At every turn I expected a dinosaur to pop out at us.

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Favorite Monument Valley Scenic Drive View Points

Of the 17 points of interest along the Monument Valley scenic drive loop, my favorite was the first stop which gives you grand views of the Mittens and John Ford’s point.

At John Ford’s point, there’s a little stand that sells delicious Navajo fried bread and hot coffee.  Definitely stop here for a bite on your Monument Valley scenic drive because the fried bread dusted with powdered sugar was delicious.  Monument Valley was super windy in November when we went so we ate this in the car instead of the benches in the area.

How long does it take to drive through Monument Valley

We spent around 3 to 3.5 hours doing the Monument Valley scenic drive and this was more than enough time.  This included stopping off and taking pictures at each point and driving at a rather slow speed.  You could totally do it in 2 if you were a bit more frugal with your time than us.  You will definitely want to make it back in time to catch the sunset at The View Hotel though because it is spectacular.

Monument Valley Tours

There are a variety of Monument Valley tours offered by Navajo tour guides.  There are areas in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park that only Navajo guides have access to and are allowed to take tourists. These restricted sites are definitely worth a visit if we had more time, but we only had one full day here. We also considered doing a sunrise photography tour but the Monument Valley scenic drive was enough for us.

Sunrise and Sunset at Monument Valley

Though sunrise and sunset are both supposed to be spectacular at Monument Valley, we saw neither because it was overcast for both.  So even if you do book a sunrise tour, just remember you can’t control the weather and there may be no sunrise or sunset to see at Monument Valley because of thick cloud cover.  Even without the sunrise and sunset views, Monument Valley was an incredible experience and I would recommend at least one day here to explore during your American Southwest Road Trip.

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