on June 22, 2012
Monument Valley was the second stop on our road trip around the National Parks of Arizona and Utah and was probably the one I was most looking forward to. It is absolutely fabulous and definitely worth making the trip to. You see pictures of it everywhere and you have undoubtedly seen it in many a film (remember Tom Cruise abseiling at the beginning of one of the Mission: Impossible films anyone?), but absolutely none of this can prepare you for just how jaw dropping it is in real life.We considered staying near the valley itself originally but then decided against it. If you are planning a road trip, it will probably be from the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley is sort of in between the two, but a fair bit out of the way. There is a hotel actually in the valley called The View (www.monumentvalleyview.com), which is supposedly pretty good but the views it offers would definitely make up for any shortcomings it may have. The nearest town is Kayenta, where the hotels are much cheaper. This is where we were going to stay, but after getting some advice from someone who had been, we decided that the town was a little too out of the way to bother staying. So we drove in, spent the afternoon in Monument Valley and drove on to our next stop instead. This turned out to be a pretty good option. The drive from Grand Canyon was about three hours and the drive back out to Page (for Lake Powell) was about an hour. This may seem like a lot of driving for one day, but the views on the way in and out are so spectacular, that the drive seemed a whole lot shorter than it actually was.On the drive in, we thought we’d arrived a few times before we actually had because there were so many Monument Valley style rock formations on the way. There are some pretty spectacular formations, but it is still pretty impressive when you first glimpse the valley proper.As you drive in to the park, you stop at the ticket booth and pay an entry fee of $5 per person. The park isn’t a federal park, so any annual passes aren’t valid here. To be honest, at five dollars per person I think it is very much a bargain. The park is open year round although the times vary between the seasons. From May until October it is open from 6am until 8pm and for the rest of the year from 8am until 5pm. The first thing you come to is a huge car park, which is right in front of the welcome buildings. The building incorporates a pretty good gift shop, a cafeteria and the hotel I mentioned earlier. I would recommend walking through the gift shop to get to the patio outside where there is a bit of information about the valley laid out on really clear and informative signs. There is also a handy little model of the valley that shows what each of the main ‘monuments’ are called. The views from here are pretty spectacular. The valley stretches for miles and you could spend literally hours staring at all the monuments. There is also a little area with chairs and tables which was apparently John Wayne’s favourite spot to sit whilst on breaks from filming in the area. Just a few seconds here explain why.You can also drive down into the valley itself. When you enter you are given a map which plots out an easy to drive route. The route is about 17 miles long and they recommend that you allow one and a half to two hours for the trip. We were driving a white hire car, so unfortunately had to opt out of driving the route. It is an unpaved dirt road and when we watched a few people driving down it, there seemed to be quite a few stones flying around. I so wish we could have done it though because it looked a lot of fun and it would have been fantastic to have actually driven through it.One of the things we noticed about Monument Valley was that it was so quiet and peaceful. Even though there were plenty of tourists there, it wasn’t in any way ruined. It somehow instils in you a massive respect for nature that forces you into silence. Even the shops and café are understated. I would recommend a bite to eat in the café, because the food was pretty good and reasonably priced, especially considering the captive audience. I’d recommend the fabulous fresh salad bar, that came as a welcome relief from the burger overload we had in Las Vegas!I would absolutely recommend visiting Monument Valley. We seriously considered not going because it was a little out of the way of our route, but it was so worth making the detour. We loved it and are so glad we made the effort.
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