Monument Valley at the border of Utah and Arizona is one of the most iconic places in the Southwestern USA. While in the past, most visitors could just take a glimpse of its stunning scenery from the main road, it is now also possible to explore this astonishing place a bit deeper. And the best way to do this is by driving the Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
But what to expect when visiting Monument Valley Scenic Drive? What to see and what are the best stops on the scenic loop? Can you do it in a regular car or do you need to book a jeep tour? And how much time should you plan for a visit here?
We recently visited the area and did the Monument Valley Scenic Drive on a road trip between the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. In this guide, we share our experience, photos, map, frequently asked questions, and all the practical information we wish we had known before our trip.
This should give you a good idea of what to expect when visiting the Scenic Drive of Monument Valley. Find out!
Good to know: The Monument Valley Scenic Drive is a 15-mile (27 km) dirt road that brings you to some of the nicest places in the heart of Monument Valley. This is a loop drive and a big part of it is a one-way road.
There are 11 main places to see indicated on the official map of this valley drive. But in reality, there are a few other landmarks that are indicated by signs next to the road, and so our list includes them too (a total of 15). Some of them are very easy to identify, some others leave you guessing what you are looking at…
In this article, we share all the best places to see on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive, together with pictures of each site. At the end of this article, you can also find all kinds of helpful information and tips for your visit.
TIP: Before you even start the drive, be sure to stop at the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center! One of the best views of the breathtaking Monument Valley scenery can be enjoyed from the outdoor terrace right at the entrance of the gift shop. It’s not to be missed! (See also the featured image at the very top of this article).
Also, take some time to look around at the souvenir store, and be sure to use the bathrooms before you start the scenic drive of the valley.
These are the best stops and places to see on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive:
1. East and West Mitten Buttes
This is the first stop on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. The East and West Mitten Buttes are among the most recognizable rock formations of Monument Valley. They are shaped like hands (thus the name) and symbolize spiritual beings watching over the valley.
You can also see Merrick Butte and Mitchell Mesa here. These rock formations are named after ex-cavalry soldiers who were in charge of searching for silver in Monument Valley.
Good to know: There is a car parking here and you’ll see locals selling souvenirs.
2. Elephant Butte
The next stop along the valley drive is Elephant Butte. This is a large rock formation.
If you look well, you may see the shape of an elephant here (I did ;)). But I have to admit that everyone in our family saw something different and there was a heated discussion among our kids as to where its trunk and ears were.
So you definitely need some imagination!
3. Three Sisters
This is an easy one – the Three Sisters are clearly identifiable rock formations along the Monument Scenic Drive.
The official explanation said one of them is a nun facing her two pupils. Again, everyone will probably see something different here.
4. John Ford’s Point
John Ford’s Point is a small detour just off the main drive, but do not miss it! This is one of the must-see spots when driving the Monument Valley Scenic Road.
Here, you can see one of the best scenic views of the valley, incredible rock formations, and a spectacular rock that you may recognize from Hollywood Western films. This spot is actually named after Hollywood film director John Ford who chose Monument Valley as a filming location for several of his movies.
Sometimes, there is an Indian on a horse standing on that rock. It could make for some nice pictures for sure! When we visited here in December, the wind was so cold that there was no man on a horse to be seen; only a few stands for the tips…
Good to know: There are souvenir stands here and also a kiosk selling Navajo fry bread and tacos, coffee, sodas, and small snacks. We read that you really should try the fry bread here, however, when we visited, it was all sold out…
5. Camel Butte
Camel Butte is another interesting rock formation right next to the valley loop drive. Also here, you will need some imagination in order to see a camel in it, but it’s definitely easier to identify it than the elephant!
Good to know: Up to Camel Butte, the road is wider with cars driving in both directions. From this point on, you enter the one-way loop drive and cannot turn back anymore (not that you’d want to).
6. The Hub & Rain God Mesa
This is a really scenic part of the valley drive, but don’t ask me what The Hub itself is. Despite the signs, we had no idea what we were looking at… This is one of the places where a local guide could probably shed a bit more light and make it all so much more enjoyable…
Anyway, it’s well worth a stop for the scenic views of the area!
The Hub symbolizes a hub of a wagon wheel and Navajo Indians see it as a fireplace in the center of their home (Hogan).
At this same spot, you can also see Rain God Mesa, which is the geological center of Monument Valley Park. This is the giant red rock on the left side of the road. It’s actually so big that you will be driving next to it for a couple of miles. Navajo medicine men were said to pray to the Rain God who stores water for people. In a dry climate like here, it’s definitely something of utmost importance.
7. Totem Pole
Just a short drive further, there is another parking area on your right. From here, you can see the rock formations. One of them stands a bit apart from the others and is named Totem Pole. Indeed, you could see the resemblance.
The rocks are quite far in the distance and you are not allowed to leave the designated area, but the landscape is amazing and worth a quick photo stop!
Good to know: Just before the parking area, on your left, you will see horse stables. You can take horseback riding tours here. When we passed, most of the horses were away on a tour (we saw people riding in the distance) and there was nobody to inquire about the next one.
So if you want to do a horseback riding tour at Monument Valley without wasting time, I would recommend booking it in advance! Even in the low season, it was difficult to get a hold of anyone here. Booking in advance, at least you know where to be and at what time, etc.
From what I see, most of the offices are located just outside the scenic drive area, so that could explain why we didn’t find anybody at the stables themselves.
8. Bird Spring & Sands Spring
From these two places, only Bird Spring is indicated as a stop on the official map of the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. However, once you get there, there is no sign for it. Instead, a bit further, you will see the sign for Sands Spring.
According to the explanation we got, Bird Spring overlooks a big sand dune, and Sands Spring can be found at the bottom of it just next to the road.
I assume that there is an actual natural spring here, but we couldn’t see it from the car (and there was no place to stop). But the red sand dunes in this area are really nice to see.
9. The Cube
This is not a landmark you will find on the official map. I added The Cube to this list because it’s actually quite an interesting stop at this section of the valley drive, but it’s not indicated anywhere…
Either way, you will pass here anyway, so be sure to make a quick stop at The Cube.
This is a large stone that looks like it’s balancing on a smaller base. I’m not sure if this is man-made or natural, but it’s a nice photo stop.
10. Spearhead Mesa
Spearhead Mesa is one of the largest rock formations of Monument Valley and probably the largest one you will pass when driving the Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
It’s also not indicated on the official map since there is no designated car parking anywhere here. At one point, there is a sign, but you see this rock on your right side during a big part of the drive (the entire eastern side of the loop).
11. Navajo Code Talker Outpost
Navajo Code Talkers were used to deliver secret military messages during both World Wars. This scenic point on Monument Valley Drive is a sort of tribute to them.
Navajo Code Talker Outpost offers wide open views of Monument Valley to one side and large red rock formations to the other.
This point is located a bit off the main loop drive. It has one of the largest parking areas of the entire drive, but the road here is quite rough, especially at the parking itself.
We saw some people leave their car close to the parking entrance and walk to the actual viewpoint. So if you are driving in a lower vehicle, you may want to do the same. It’s not really a walk even worth worrying about – it’s literally just a minute or so. So don’t wreck your car trying to get there. In an SUV, it’s not an issue.
Good to know: For some reason, on Google Maps, the Navajo Code Talkers Point is indicated as Artist’s Point. Maybe it was its previous name… I can definitely see artists sitting here and painting the scenery. It’s like a postcard.
12. Cly Butte
Cly Butte is a large rock formation on the right side of the road between Navajo Code Talkers Point and The Thumb. You will find it indicated on the map and there are signs for it, but – just like The Cube – it’s not counted as one of the official stops.
Whereas at the Cube you can at least get out of the car, Cly Butte doesn’t have a designated parking area, so you’ll just see it from the car.
13. The Thumb
The Thumb is a large rock formation that – if you look well and use your imagination a bit – indeed looks a bit like a thumb. It’s located at the intersection between the main loop and the short detour toward the North Window (see further).
This is just a short photo stop, most people didn’t even get out of the car.
14. North Window
The North Window is the last official stop of the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. It’s a very short detour from the main loop, so check it out.
This is a nice viewpoint with a somewhat obstructed view on the sides, giving you a bit of an impression as you would get when looking through a (large) window. Again, it’s just the name, so don’t look for an actual hole that resembles a window as such.
15. Wild Cat Trail
Technically, this is not a stop along the Scenic Drive, but a hike that starts at the same place where the valley drive begins. You could leave your car at the main car parking at the Visitor Center and do this hike before or after doing the Scenic Drive.
The Wild Cat Trail is the only hike inside the Monument Valley that you are allowed to do without a local guide. It brings you close to the Mittens and several other rock formations. You will see most of these places while driving the scenic valley drive, but on foot, you get just a bit closer to the rock formations.
It’s an easy to moderate 3.8-mile (6 km) loop trail. The first part is downhill and very easy. Coming back is a bit uphill and can get a bit tiring, especially if it’s hot.
If you decide to do this hike, be sure to take plenty of water, sun protection, and stay on the marked trail. Hiking shoes (or at least closed shoes/sneakers) are recommended for this hike.
Map of the Monument Valley Scenic Drive
Here is a map indicating all the best stops on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. You can click on it if you want to see the interactive version on Google Maps.
But don’t worry about it too much – once you are on the right road, there’s really no way you can get lost or miss any of the stops. And you will also get a small paper map of the valley drive at the entrance.
Practical Information for Visiting the Monument Valley Scenic Drive
Now that you know what to expect and what there is to see on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive, let’s take a look at the practical side of planning a visit here.
The Monument Valley Scenic Drive starts at the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center, at the end of Monument Valley Road, AZ. You can see the exact location on the map above.
Good to know: Do not confuse the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center with another visitor center (Navajo Welcome Center) just nearby, on the intersection of Hwy 163 and Monument Valley Road! The entrance to the scenic drive is located a few miles further from the Navajo Welcome Center.
The best way to get to Monument Valley is by car. It’s about 2 hours drive from Page, AZ, and about 3 hours from either Grand Canyon South Rim or Moab, UT (where Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are located).
Monument Valley is a bit in the middle of nowhere, but because it doesn’t require that much time to visit, it’s a good addition to any southwestern USA itinerary.
Whether you are visiting the Grand Canyon, the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, or Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, you can easily add Monument Valley to your itinerary. Most recently, we visited here when driving from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Page.
How much does it cost?
Monument Valley Scenic Road is located on Navajo land. There is an $8 per person fee. Children under 6 are free. This pass is valid for one day.
In the past, there was a flat $20 entrance fee per vehicle; this is no longer the case. You now pay for each person in the car.
Please note that National Park or other passes are not valid here. Also, they do not accept cash, and you can only pay by credit card.
Good to know: Whether you visit on your own or with a guided tour, you still have to pay this entrance fee separately (unless your tour specifically indicates that it’s included in the price). The toll booth is actually located on the main road before you reach the visitor center, so you pay before you even enter the area.
Can you do the Monument Valley Scenic Drive in any car?
Monument Valley Scenic Drive is a dirt road. Some sections are very easy and rather flat, while others are a bit rougher and more challenging.
While they do recommend that you do this road in a 4×4 or at least a high-clearance SUV, we saw many regular cars driving here. So it’s certainly possible to do this drive in a regular car. Whether it’s a good idea, I’ll let you decide. We didn’t see any of the smaller cars get into any trouble, but there were some sections where most of them drove really slowly.
We did the Monument Valley Scenic Drive in a full-size SUV (Nissan Armada – see the picture below) and it was really simple. But there were some parts along the valley drive where we were really glad that our car was higher from the ground.
You may also note that some car rental contracts indicate that you are not allowed to drive on unpaved roads.
Good to know: Motorcycles, bicycles, RVs, and motorhomes are not allowed on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
TIP: If you are unsure about doing this road in your car or simply want to relax and enjoy the scenery, you can simply opt for a guided tour. You can find more info about tours below.
You can opt to visit the area and do the Monument Valley Scenic Drive with a guided tour. There are 4×4 tours with local Navajo guides available.
The vehicles they use are open on the sides, so you can enjoy the scenery and take pictures while driving as well. Another advantage of going with a guide is that they take you to some parts of Monument Valley that are not off-limits for visitors who opt for a self-drive tour.
TIP: While you might be able to find a tour on the spot, it might mean that you have to wait several hours for the next available slot. So if you are passing by here, want to plan your itinerary, and not waste your time, I recommend booking a tour in advance. This is one of the best-rated guided tours of Monument Valley that I was able to find. Here you can find many more options.
Our experience: We personally didn’t do the tour and opted for the self-drive. The main reason for this was the weather. We visited Monument Valley at the end of December and it was windy and freezing cold. We couldn’t imagine sitting in an open vehicle that day! And indeed, there were hardly any tours running (we saw just one jeep and it was empty).
I know this must sound strange since it’s normally always hot and sunny in the area. So if you are visiting Monument Valley in the warmer months, this really shouldn’t be a concern. In fact, in the summer, you might find it too hot… Be sure to pack sun protection and lots of drinking water!
TIP: In addition to the valley drive tours, you can also opt for a horseback riding tour at Monument Valley. There are several highly-rated tours available and they take about 1 hour. If you want to do this, I recommend booking in advance!
How much time do you need?
Before our visit, I read several websites which all claimed that you need 4 hours in order to do the Monument Scenic Drive. After having done this drive ourselves in about 1.5 hours, I can confirm that you can do it much quicker. And no, we didn’t rush. And yes, we stopped at every single place possible.
Good to know: You need about 1.5 to 2 hours for the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. This is sufficient time to do the entire loop, stop at every signed landmark, walk around a bit and take plenty of pictures.
If you also decide to join a horseback riding tour, hike the Wild Cat Trail, or spend some time at the gift shop, you would need about 3-5 hours here. If you do all of this – the Monument Valley Scenic Drive, horse riding, and the Wild Cat Trail – count at least 5-6 hours for a visit. A lot will also depend on how hot it is and how quickly you hike or how long you’ll have to wait for the next available horseback riding tour (you may want to book it in advance if you want to be sure it’s available!).
Good to know: Most guided jeep tours of the Monument Valley with a Navajo guide take about 1.5-3 hours. So whether you visit on your own or with a guide, 2 hours is really the minimum time you should foresee in your itinerary. If you are really in a hurry, this 1.5-hour tour is the shortest loop drive tour that I was able to find.
Where to stay and where to eat?
Most people visit Monument Valley for just a few hours when road-tripping in the area and don’t stay here. However, you can also opt for a longer visit and stay for a night or even two. This would give you one full day in the area and you could experience a magical sunrise and sunset!
There is The View Hotel right at the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center and the beautiful Goulding’s Lodge (with a pool) just 5 miles from here.
Alternatively, there are two lower-budget inns in Kayenta, AZ, which is the closest town nearby (about 30 minutes drive).
As for food, we recommend that you bring a picnic with you for lunch (it saves you lots of time!). Dining options at Monument Valley are quite limited. There is a restaurant at the visitors center and a few restaurants close to the intersection with Hwy 163.
TIP: If you can find it, be sure to try Navajo fry bread – either at the food stand at John Ford’s Point or at one of the local restaurants here.
There are very limited facilities on the Monument Valley Scenic Drive itself, but you will find everything you need at the visitor center at the start of the drive.
There is a hotel and a restaurant here, public bathrooms, a gift shop, and also a tourist info point.
Is Monument Valley Scenic Drive worth it?
Offering easy access to some of the most beautiful scenery in the heart of the famous Monument Valley, the scenic drive is definitely worth it! It allows you to get really close to some of the most impressive rock formations and enjoy amazing views that you wouldn’t see otherwise.
We visited here on a freezing cold grey day in winter and found it well worth a few hours’ detour from our Grand Canyon – Antelope Canyon drive. At first, my husband was rather skeptical about us taking such a long detour, but in the end, he agreed that it was totally worth it. We had very different memories from our last visit to Monument Valley many years ago. At that time, it was just a stop on the main road. Driving close to these incredible rock formations is an incomparable experience.
Even on a grey day, it was amazing. If you come here on a beautiful sunny day when the skies are blue and the rocks are glowing orange in the sun, it will be even more spectacular!
Monument Valley Scenic Drive FAQ
Monument Valley Scenic Drive is a loop drive that starts and ends at the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center. You can find this visitor center just off the U.S. Hwy 163 at the border of Utah and Arizona, at the end of Monument Valley Road.
You need at least 1.5-2 hours for the Monument Valley Scenic Drive. This is sufficient time to do the entire loop and stop at all the viewpoints.
Monument Valley Scenic Drive is open daily in summer and in winter from 8 AM to 5 PM. We were told that the last entrance is possible no later than 3 PM.
While there are guided tours available, you can also do the Monument Valley Scenic Drive in your own car. Please note that bikes, motorcycles, RVs, or motorhomes are not allowed on valley drive.
While a 4×4 or a high-clearance vehicle is recommended, it is possible to do the Monument Valley Scenic Drive in a regular car as well. In any case, you may want to check if your (car hire) insurance covers driving on unpaved roads.
At the moment of our visit, the entrance to the Monument Valley Scenic Drive cost $8 per person. Kids under 6 can visit free of charge. Please note that this fee applies also if you visit with a guided tour. Also, when we visited, they didn’t accept cash – only credit cards.
You can stop at all the viewpoints along the Monument Scenic Drive and walk around designated areas. You are not allowed to stop just anywhere you like or walk beyond the limits of the viewpoint area (there are signs indicating all this). You can only visit the restricted areas with a local guide.
Drones are not allowed at Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
Yes, Monument Valley Scenic Drive is absolutely worth a visit! The scenery is spectacular and driving this road is the best way to get really close to the beautiful rock formations of Monument Valley. If you are passing by and have at least 2 hours to spare, do not miss it!
So, this is our guide to Monument Valley in Arizona and its main attraction – the Monument Valley Scenic Drive.
I hope that this answers any questions you may have and helps you plan an unforgettable visit to this unique and spectacular place. Enjoy your trip!
More travel inspiration for the Southwestern USA:
- Grand Canyon:
- Moab area:
- Zion National Park:
- Las Vegas:
- More of Arizona:
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Thursday 20th of April 2023
This is the most comprehensive information I've found on Valley Drive. Thanks so much for taking the time to post photos and such detailed info. We'll be visiting next month and I feel so much more comfortable about the experience.
Sunday 23rd of April 2023
Glad to help, Lea Ann. Have a great trip!