Our next stop on out South-West Parks trip, after flying into Las Vegas, spending a few days climbing down and up the Grand Canyon, and visiting the Petrified Forest was Monument Valley. We got there at sun rise. This picture above is the typical scenery we passed driving from park to park.
We crossed over from Arizona to Utah to visit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. As the name implies, it’s not actually in “Utah” (though Utah and Arizona is physically where you would find it on a map) it is in the Navajo Nation.
We drove through most of the night to get here from the Petrified Forest. The Rangers over at the Petrified Forest had some pretty strong warnings about this plan. Firstly that the roads through the Navajo Nation are very dark and unpredictable. Also, that the farmers and people who live near the roads don’t pen in their live stock, so you might just find yourself blocked by some cows, horses, or anything. And if you accidentally hit one of these animals, then the owner sets the price, with no restrictions, on what that animal is worth and what you have to pay him. In the end we made the trip incident free, we were only stopped once or twice by a small herd of cows in the road. We also filled our tank with some really cheap gasoline!
Visiting Monument Valley, which is run by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation, gave me a new appreciation for how the parks run by the US Parks Department are so well organized. The information desk never actually opened the day we visited. There was a person who took a fee at the main entrance, who gave us a map. As well as a gift shop that made it clear that they were not an information desk.
During our stay we drove all the paths that you can drive (getting out at each monument to admire it) and hiked a few more. We saw the whole park with the exception of the areas that are considered too sacred for non tribe member to go walking through. I think the whole park is considered sacred, but only some areas are off limits. If you really want, a guide can bring you to some of them.
Each rock formation has a cool name based on what it looks like and a story that goes along with that. These are the “Three Sisters” which is a formation of a Catholic nun facing her two pupils. I don’t remember them all now, but there is a list for those who are curious.
Director John Ford used the park for some of his movies, including Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956), as well as other Western movie directors. Critic Keith Phipps said about the area, “its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.” Below is a picture of “John Ford’s Point” and it does indeed feel right out of a movie.
Inside the Information Center there were really nice displays on the history of the local tribes. Specifically lots of information on the Navajo Code Talkers and their contributions to World War II.
There were some examples of typical homes of the original natives just outside the park’s info center. They look about like I guess they would have to look like given the naturally occurring resources of the area.
We had planned on getting a back-country camping permit — hence the need to talk to someone who worked for the park. But there was a paper indicating that they were not giving those out at the moment due to some unspecified maintenance. In the end, the guy at the gate gave us directions to private camping grounds near by.
We found the nearby private camping grounds easily enough. It was car camping rather than our planned back-country camping, but it turned out to be one of our best nights. We had the luxury of flushing toilets along with a view of Monument Valley.
Here is our lovely camping site. Not pictured are several cats that hung around hoping for some noms. And look, our rental car made it into this picture below.
Daniele was a boyscout. He took point over the camp fire and dinner. We also had smores. This was Daniele’s very first smore! He insisted that it is something I made up. So please tell him that smores are a real thing next time you see him.
The full photo album from Monument Valley is online here: