We drove in from Kayenta, a very small town located roughly 30 miles away from Monument Valley. After we checked in, just before noon, we drove straight to Monument Valley.
The scenery on the way to Monument Valley is one of solitary desert beauty, which was even more accentuated by the strong midday sun. But gradually, our surroundings started to transform. As we traveled farther north, we noted more of the "butts" raised out of Earth along each side the road. This is when we knew we were getting close. Then, as we drove past a small hill, we finally saw in the distance those huge pillars of red rock we used to only see on television and postcards! We were barely able to contain our excitement. We wanted to plow our way into the valley, but our empty stomachs opted for us to first take a detour to Goulding's Lodge for lunch.
Goulding's Lodge is a restaurant and hotel complex located next to the entrance to MV. At first, we thought it was just another hotel/restaurant. Turns out, it’s built underneath a huge chunk of "butt" and also contained a gift shop and a museum (with artifacts from past Western movies filmed in the area). Having discovered this unexpected attraction, we took some time exploring all this lodge has to offer. But the most memorable was the incredible view towards the valley from the window seat we had while we enjoyed our meals.
As we finished our lunch stop, we couldn't contain our excitement anymore and drove straight towards the valley. After paying the reasonable entrance fee of $5, the road took us to the visitor center. It contains another restaurant and an even bigger gift shop, although prices are also more inflated here than at Gouldings Lodge.
After a brief visit to the visitor center, we embarked on the approximately 15-mile "loop" inside the valley, a dirt road passable by ordinary vehicles, but not without some challenging spots. The loop itself is very interesting, but there were also plenty of stops along the way to view the incredible rock formations surrounding us. From our visitor’s guide, we learned the name of each rock, which in turn inspired our imagination to think of why they were named as such. We took time to stop at each stop and found out that some of the stops even had vendors selling Indian jewelry on the spot. But, of all the viewing areas, the best stop was definitely the last one, the "artists point," where all the rock formations seemingly are lined up in a perfectly harmonious balance, a picture-perfect spot. This is where we clicked our cameras away.
The loop took us 3 hours to finish, but it seemed much less, as we were so engrossed in the scenery. You will definitely not regret it if you embark on this adventure.