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Monument Valley

Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii (Valley of the Rocks)


There’s no other place like Monument Valley on earth. It’s like landing on a red moon!!

I don’t really know what I expected, but my first sighting of it was a feeling I will never forget. As we approached Monument Pass on highway 163 we stopped the car several times to take pictures. We never could truly capture the awe we felt.

There is only one main road through Monument Valley. The stretch approaching the Arizona/Utah border from the north gives the most famous image of the valley, a long straight empty road across flat desert heading toward hugh stark red cliffs on the horizon. The highway cuts through the mesas at Monument Pass.




2001

Karen wanted to see Monument Valley so we decided to include it on our trip.  After all, what could I say - I wanted to include Mount Rushmore which was 1000 miles out of our way. 

We really didn't know what it was all about or how exactly we would connect from it to get to Vegas.  All Karen knew was that the John Wayne dusters were filmed there and all I could think of was advertisements with jeeps on the top of huge cliffs. Other than that we knew absolutely nothing about Monument Valley.

San Juan County Mileage Calculator

I don't really know what I expected when we included Monument Valley on our route, but my first sighting of it was a feeling I will never forget.  As we approached Monument Pass on highway 163 we stopped the car several times to take pictures. We never could truly capture the awe we felt. 
Highway 163 approaching Monument Pass
There is only one main road through Monument Valley. The stretch approaching the Arizona/Utah border from the north gives the most famous image of the valley, a long straight empty road across flat desert heading toward hugh stark red cliffs on the horizon. The highway cuts through the mesas at Monument Pass.
The Mittens

 

Mileage to Monument Valley
Cameron, Arizona 134 Page, Arizona 137
Chinle, Arizona 150 Phoenix, Arizona 326
Farmington, New Mexico 169 Shiprock, New Mexico 142
Flagstaff, Arizona 187 Tuba City, Arizona 112
Gallup, New Mexico 233 Tucson, Arizona 443
Kayenta, Arizona 23 Window Rock, Arizona 196

 

Goulding Lodge

Goulding Lodge is in the heart of Monument Valley.  The backyard to this lodge is a towering red wall that protects the buildings.  It looks like pieces of it could crumble at any moment and crush what lies beneath. A museum is housed in the original Trading Post and home of Harry and 'Mike" Goulding. Mr. and Mrs. Goulding made lifelong friends of the Navajo people.

Harry invited movie director John Ford to Monument Valley to view the landscape and the rest is movie making history. Parts of the original set from "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" are on display and the John Wayne cabin is still intact. There is a museum of movie making memorabilia and indian artifacts that can compete with any national museum. Monument Valley is still used today for movie and commercial filming.

Over the years, Monument Valley has been the setting for more Western movies than any other site in the United States. Many movies have footage in Monument Valley, including, just to name a few Thelma & Louise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider, Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, and Mission Impossible.

We were unable to spend a lot of time in the Valley but resolved to return and explore - as I put it "up close and personal".  It was starting to look like we needed several more years of traveling together just to accomplish the "plans" we made on this first trip.

2002
Our second trip through Monument Valley was just as spectacular as the first. Every angle of the sun displays a different colour.  We stopped at Goulding Lodge hoping to get a room but had to continue to Kayenta as the inn was full. We stayed long enough to have supper and tour the museum and John Wayne cabin.

Director John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, has had an enduring influence in making the Valley famous. After that first experience, Ford returned nine times to shoot Westerns — even when the films were not set in Arizona or Utah.

A popular lookout point is named in his honor as "John Ford Point." It was used by Ford in a scene from The Searchers where an American Indian village is attacked. 


2003
The Mittens
We still have it on our agenda to take the time to tour the valley but not this year. We stopped briefly at Monument Valley to eat and wander around.  Karen was still not feeling 100% but managed to enjoy the meal.  We toured through the museum and gift shop where I bought the video "The Duke and The General", a 1971 documentary tribute to John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.  Then we were off to Highway 261 and Valley of the Gods.

2006

We stopped once again at Goulding Lodge in Monument Valley to have our supper.

We went into the gift shop and toured around John Wayne's cabin before heading out.  We were planning to stop for the night further down the road at Mexican Hat or Bluff.

And, of course, we just had to see Valley of the Gods and Hwy 261.  It was starting to feel like home.


2008
There was a morning haze giving everything a completely different look. With Karen hanging out the sun roof and Willie riding shotgun, we travelled on the "most photographed road" highway 163 heading into Monument Valley Pass.
Highway 163

Although we have been to Monument Valley many times, we have never toured through the Navajo Nation's Monument Valley Park. This year - true to our fill in the gaps theme - we decided to take the time to tour through the park. There is a new hotel in the park, the View Hotel. We will have to keep this hotel in mind for another trip.

As soon as we entered, we knew we were in for a treat. The parking lot was humming with tour guides in vehicles that made us wonder what the heck we were heading into. It appeared that we needed some sort of all terrain vehicle or at least a beat up truck. However, brave as we are, we struck out unguided in the Murano and hit the first wild, bumpy, rutted, steep and (maybe we shouldn't be doing this) road. Of course, we loved every minute of it. It wasn't long before everything smoothed out and we toured on the park's 17 mile road for several hours.

We stopped at Goulding on our way out to eat supper. After visiting John Wayne's cabin we said good-bye to Monument Valley and headed down the road to Mexican Hat.

Having Karen's new camera with us again this year made all the difference in the quality of the pictures we took. It's a great camera and all Karen did was point and click. The pictures turned out so great we can only imagine what she could do with the camera if she had some lessons for it. Or, maybe, no knowledge is better - just let the camera do the work!!

Both our favorite pictures capture the feeling of the area. In my favorite, you feel the coolness under the trees with the monuments baking in the heat beyond. In Karen's, the background almost doesn't look real - more like a painting or mural of the monuments as a backdrop behind the wagon.

Doreen's Favorite Picture - Full Size
Karen's Favorite Picture - Full Size

2015
It doesn't matter how many times I travel through this area, it always takes my breath away. The monoliths start around Kayenta and then everything turns red. I rounded a bend and said out loud "here they come". I arrived late afternoon so the sun in the west behind me made everything a deep almost purple color. Monument Valley

 

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