View from John Ford's Point
The stunning scenery in the valley was made famous by numerous westerns by John Ford starring John Wayne and this viewpoint has been named after the legendary director. The first film made here was ‘Stagecoach’ in 1938 and it has gone on to become a regular backdrop not just for movies but also for TV shows and commercials. Movies and TV have made the scenery here a significant source of income for the Navajo Nation.
Monument Valley from Route 163, Utah
The long straight section of Route 163 as it approaches Monument Valley from the Utah side creates one of the best known pictures of the area. The picture also shows that the area is not a valley in the conventional sense, but a relatively flat area punctuated with large rock outcrops. Taken contra jour, the red colour of the rocks is washed out but instead the picture highlights the jagged shapes of the outcrops.
Few people will fail to recognise the view below that has been seen in many a Western movie, but this magnificent scenery is not in a National Park. This is tribal park land and it is the Navajo Nation rather than the US Nation that looks after it. The valley is part of a 6.2 million hectare (24000 square mile) reservation that straddles northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah. Monument Valley itself straddles the border between Utah and Arizona which creates a problem for this web site, so you will find it appears under both states.
The Three Sisters
Another example of the rock formations in the valley. The name is not based on imagining the three columns as siblings. Apparently the rocks are thought to resemble nuns in their habits, so these are ecclesiastical sisters.
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The Totem Pole, Monument Valley
The slender column on the right has inevitably been named ‘the Totem Pole’ although totems are not part of Navajo culture. The columns to the left are known as Yei Be Chei. This is one of the best views on a 14 mile drive that is the only route in the valley permitted without a guide. The road is unsurfaced (unpaved) and very rough in places, but a two wheel drive car can make it provided that the conditions are good. Apart from many stunning views you will also find several Navajo people by the road ready and willing to sell you native handicrafts. Other parts of the valley are accessible only by organised jeep tours.
The Mittens from Visitor Center
As a Navajo Nation Tribal Park, Monument Valley has a very different feel the National Parks. We were very surprised when we paid our entry fee for the self guided tour at the Visitor Center to find that they knew our car number and were expecting us. Hmm, maybe there was some scouting going on, but was it by eyeball or electronic? This picture shows one of the most famous views in valley, the East and West Mittens are joined on the right by Merrick Butte. These buttes are created when a layer of harder rock on top gives protection while the surrounding area is eroded away.