Guest post from US: A visit to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

This is a guest post by Vidya Maiya, from one of her trips in the United States. Published almost as is, without much edits- Shrinidhi

 One who has watched the Hollywood movies “Stagecoach”(1939) and “The Searchers”(1956) must have been impressed by the location shot in them. The red sands, valley encircled by the sky touching red rocks and the tribal group, differentiated by their language and appearance, would urge the audience to plan for a visit and feel the pre-historic life existed in the canyon. Monument Valley is one of the splendid and most photographed place on the earth and is located on the border of Arizona and Utah in USA. An endless geological wonders are hidden in this valley. This is seated at 5,564 feet above sea level. The height of the monuments range from 100 feet to 1,500 feet tall. The valley is preserved by the Navajo Nation which is considered as a country by itself and is strictly under the control of the local tribal families.
Panoramic view of the valley
As per our itinerary, Monument valley visit was part of Day 3rd activity. We embarked to the valley  from Page, Arizona which was 124 miles apart via US-160E highway. We had rented Ford Edge AWD for our entire Arizona and Utah trip. It took approximately 2-3 hours to reach the destination after stopping at gas station  and Wallmart super market to buy the water bottles.

Ford Edge
The lady at the entrance booth of the Monument Valley tribal park asked us to pay 30$ as entrance fee and we were told that ticket is valid for next 7 days although we didn’t have plans to revisit! She also gave us the pocket map of the tribal park which was having the complete details about the history of the park, geological details, valley drive map, visitor center information, lodging and restaurant available within the park.
Monument Valley visitor centre
We made a quick visit to the Visitor Center. There were several placards exhibiting the formation of the monuments and the famous Hollywood movies that were shot in the valley. Navajo people’s fashioned art works like hand-woven rugs, sand paintings, pottery and authentic jewelry were kept for the sale. It also had a mini café and public restrooms separately for men and women. The gallery rooms in the ground floor described the cultural history of the Navajo Nation, their life styles and Navajo people’s participation in world wars.

The Totem Pole
Hotels Nearby :
If you are looking for a hotel then next to the Visitor Center is a lodge and restaurant “The View” Hotel. This has unique structure completely inline with the surrounding environment. This is the only hotel available within the tribal park. If you want to wake up with a killer sunrise view of monument valley from outside of your window then plan to stay in “The View”.

There is another lodge “Gouldings Lodge” at a distance of 8 miles from tribal park and 2 miles from Monument Valley airport, Oljato UT. Along with the hotel service “Gouldings Lodge” also offers access to ATM, Grocery shop, Campground and gas station.

John Wayne, an American actor appeared in ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘The Searchers’, claims this valley to be "Gods Treasure".

Valley drive is allowed inside the park. But the buses and Recreation Vehicles are not allowed.  The valley drive is a 17 mile (27km) unpaved dirt road. The drive starts from the Visitor Center Parking lot. The road starts as a two-lane dirt road ending at Camel Butte and one-way loop around Rain God Mesa. It takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete bumpy valley drive. There are the chances of flash floods between June and August. So it is always recommended to check for potential weather hazard conditions with parks staffs.

Valley drive guidelines for the tourists:
1)      No DRONES.
2)      Need to obey all the traffic signs. Driving on the restricted roads is completely prohibited.
3)      Should stay only on designated route, can stop aside at few places to click the images of beautiful landscape.
4)      No Alcoholic beverages allowed
5)      No rock climbing
6)      No disturbing rocks, plants or animals
7)      Obtain permission and give gratuity when photographing a local resident.
8)      Respect the privacy of local residents.
9)      Carry  the water bottles as there is no drinking water available in the valley as well as restrooms.

At one view point, tourists could ride this horse for 5 minutes and pose for a picture by paying 3$. Again do not forget to give the gratuity to the horse wrangler as mentioned in guideline number seven!

Since the Navajo tribal people live inside the valley within the rocks access to the routes leading to their villages is restricted beyond certain points.

The sunny and windy weather in Monument valley was very pleasant. Since we travelled in May beginning of the summer, fortunately didn’t have to face  any humidity pains. But certainly temperature can raise upto 35 degree Celsius during the peak of summer ie from June to September.

Airports nearby:
1)      Monument Valley Gouldings, UT(GMV) – 3 minutes drive. But it is a private airport and landing must be informed in prior.
2)      Page Muncipal Airport(PGA) – 2 hours drive
3)      Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) – 3 hours drive
4)      Salt lake city international airport (SLC) – 6 to 7 hours drive
5)      Sky Harbor Airport Terminal, Phoenix (PHX) – 5 to 6 hours drive
6)      McCarran International Airport (LAS) – 6 to 7 hour drive.
Depending on places in your itinerary and how much time you have, can choose the airport.
I always had heard about native American Indians. But visit to the Monument Valley helped in exploring more about the history of native Americans, their lifestyle, how their Navajo language being different from English helped USA in World war 2  to transmit secret battlefield messages  that neither Japan nor Germany could broke. Monument Valley where earth meets the sky would endure as a lonely planet on the earth until the next big bang of our universe!

-Vidya Maiya

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