Welcome to Monument Valley Tribal Park

Although the name indicates exclusive Navajo Tribal ownership we are happy to share one of our most scenic areas with you.

Parts of Monument and Mystery Valleys are sacred to the Navajo people so we hope that you will act in an appropriate manner.

Here you will find many things of interest. Most evident and striking of all, the geology of the area - the buttes, mesas, canyons, and the free-standing rock formations which seem to defy gravity. Second, the still relatively untouched and unspoiled environment and terrain. Last, but most important, the indigenous Navajo culture which has been here for many decades and more conservative traditionally when compared to other areas of the Navajo reservation. We hope that you will perceive all these aspects of the Monument Valley environment and come to understand it as the Navajo people have come to know and become an important part of it.

About Your Visit

Monument Valley is located in northeastern Arizona and Southeastern Utah. Coming from Arizona, take US 163 from Kayenta. From Utah, take 163 south from Mexican Hat for 25 miles (40 km). A 4 mile (6 km) all-weather access road leads from the highway to the Visitor Center.

A map of Monument Valley is available.

To See and Do

A 14 mile (23 km) dirt loop drive winds through the valley of the monuments. The drive is open only during daylight hours. A visitor center with displays, exhibits, and additional information material is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer months and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter. An entrace fee into the park will be charged. NOTE: In summer, the Navajo Nation goes on Daylight Saving Time.


A modern campground is located about 1/2 mile southwest of the visitor center. No reservations are required, a fee is charged for use, no firewood is available. Water is limited, so please use it sparingly. Camping elsewhere is prohibited except at the primitive campground northwest of the visitor center.

Services and Accommodations

No stores are available within the park boundaries but Gouldings, Utah, located about 6 miles (10 km) from the visitor center, has a small store, motel, commercial campground, small hospital, and laundromat. Towns and more services are Kayenta, Arizona (24 miles south or 39 km) and Mexican Hat, Utah.

Guided tours into the valley are available from Gouldings Monument Valley Tours, Box 1, Monument Valley, Utah 84536, Write directly to them for information.

Man in Monument Valley

It would seem that an environment as hot and arid as Monument Valley would severely limit human population. However, archaeological surveys by college and other research teams record over 100 sites dating before A.D. 1300 in the Monument and Mystery Valleys. How could this be? Certainly there are no perennial streams of sufficient volume running through the valley and the climate is virtually the same now as it was then. Perhaps an analogy can be drawn from the Hopi people presently living south of here in a similar environment. Being agriculturalists, their planted crops have to be scattered out so as to catch the scattered summer rainfall and minimize the possibility of failure. Also, crops are planted close to areas where runoff occurs. In addition, sand dunes, although they look dry, are surprisingly good retainers of water below a certain depth and corn planted at that depth have a good chance for survival. Even in the dryest of years, seepage from sandstone aquifers are also a water source. Similarly, the prehistoric residents of Monument Valley were able to eke out a stable but comfortable living from a harsh environment for many centuries. Yet these people abandoned the area in the 1300's never to return. Navajo nomads first entered the area perhaps in the 1600's. Since then they have herded their sheep and other livestock and raised small quantities of crops in a land they now call their own. Even the American armies were unable to move them out in the 1860's. The Diné now have a reservation of 16 million acres and number 150,000.


Generally, Monument Valley is more than 25 million years in the making. That's how long it took for the unrelenting forces of nature to cut down to rocks more than 200 million years old. However, before this wearing down began, the erosion of the early Rocky Mountains deposited many layers of materials over earlier depositions here and the pressure was enough to cement them into sandstones. Early erosion leveled the land but an uplift (Monument Upwarp), generated by ceaseless pressure from below, caused the surface to bulge and crack.

Natural processes continued the shaping of the land-cutting the cracks deeper and widening them into gullies and the gullies into canyons. Even today the valleys are being widened. Members of the Cutler Formation (De Chelly sandstone, Organ Rock tongue, Hoskinninni tongue and others) of the Permian period make up the majority of the orange-red colored cliffs.

Capping these are rocks which were deposited during the Triassic period (Moencopi formation, Shinarump Conglomerate, Chinle formation) and are harder and more resistant to erosion. Volcanic activity also occurred as evidenced by several cones (Agathla Peak, Chiastla Butte) at the south edge of the park.

The Movies

A great attribute of Monument Valley is its wilderness beauty. Beginning in 1938 with "Stagecoach," by John Ford, many movies have been filmed in the area and introduced millions of moviegoers to this beauty. The movie industry has also pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Navajo economy. Some major productions filmed entirely or partially here are: My Darling Clementine - 1946 , She Wore A Yellow Ribbon - 1949, The Searchers - 1956, How the West Was Won - 1962, Cheyenne Autumn - 1964, The Trial of Billy Jack - 1973, The Eiger Sanction - 1974, and White Line Fever - 1975. In addition, many television shows and commercials shot here have gone out on the air to homes all over the country and the world.


As guests, respect the privacy and customs of the Navajo people living in the Valley. Closeup photographs of Navajo residents are by permission only. Enter home areas only on invitation. Camp only in the established campground. Hiking (backpacking) off main roads by permission only. Reserve the available firewood for valley residents. Photographs and motion pictures for private purposes only. All others require a permit from the Navajo Film and Media Commission, Window Rock, Navajo Nation (AZ). The Federal Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Navajo Tribal Antiquities Law are in effect and enforced. Please do not disturb, destroy, or move any objects of natural, scenic, or historical importance.


Monument Valley was withdrawn as a tribal park by Navajo Council resolution on July 11, 1958. Containing 29,8l7 acres, Monument Valley was the first established Navajo Tribal Park. All Navajo Tribal Park areas are administered and protected by the Recreational Resources Department of the Navajo Tribe. A Navajo Tribal Parks Commission, made up of seven members of The Navajo Tribal council, overlooks the activities of the Recreational Resources.
© 1994 Karen M. Strom

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