Driving toward Monument Valley
You've seen it in the movies, this famous valley with rock formations rising from the desert floor. I decided I wanted to visit in person, so off we went to Monument Valley. The area is actually called Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and is run by the Navajo nation. We could see these large formations ahead, and were excited for this next part of our road trip. We planned to drive the 17 mile scenic loop in the park.
Elephant Butte and dirt road inside Monument Valley
When we paid our entrance fee ($5 per person--children under 9 are free), the man told us we would be driving on a rough dirt road. Our minivan is so brave! Here we are, on yet another off-roading adventure in a family passenger vehicle. As we drove, we passed tour group after tour group riding on seats in the back of open trucks. The passengers were all being blown by the wind and were huddled up trying to avoid the dust. We were grateful to be inside an enclosed vehicle sheltered from the dust and wind. If you take a tour at Monument Valley, I recommend an enclosed vehicle!
The road was dry the day we visited (thankfully, or we couldn't have driven on it), so the vehicles kicked up a lot of dust. Sections of this road are pretty decent hard-packed dirt road, and other sections are fine sand and a bit treacherous. I was glad we didn't get stuck anywhere.
The famous Mittens.
The Mittens are visible from the visitor's center parking lot, and are among the first formations along the scenic drive. Seeing this place in person will make me pay more attention to the scenery the next time I see a John Ford film!
The Three Sisters.
The Three Sisters is supposed to be a nun facing two pupils. We thought it looked like a letter W. If you have seen "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," seeing a big "W" in the desert is good for a laugh.
There are signs along the drive to help you identify the geologic formations. We also had a map of the loop to follow. You may drive the scenic loop yourself, take a jeep/truck tour, or even see Monument Valley on horseback.
The artist at Artist's Point
When we got to Artist's Point, I made my husband get out for this photo. He is a good sport. Pretty funny to have a place called Artist's Point when there wasn't anything in view at all! Of course, when we drove further into the parking area, we could see why it was called Artist's Point.
We are standing in front of the view at Artist's Point.
After completing the scenic drive, we visited the museum and gift shop area. The parking area also contains a Navajo hogan you can visit. The Visitor's Center is open everyday except Christmas and New Year's.
Hogans near the visitor's center.
I underestimated the time we would spend at Monument Valley. If you are doing the scenic drive, plan at least two hours. It is pretty slow traveling on the dirt road, and if you wish to stop for photos at all, it will take you some time to navigate this loop. This was a great place to visit.
Another view of the Mitten
We drove back to Blanding via Bluff, Utah, and stopped at the Twin Rocks Cafe for dinner. We were tired and hungry, and the Navajo fry bread and cinnamon ice cream really hit the spot!
Twin Rocks above the Twin Rocks Cafe, Bluff, Utah