Monument Valley was without doubt the highlight of our trip to America. Despite having seen so many photos of it previously and its appearance in multiple films, none of this had prepared us for our visit to this spectacular place.
Firstly, I highly recommended staying at the Navajo owned View Hotel which has been carefully designed so that it blends into its surrounding environment and therefore does not ruin the stunning scenery. While it may be a little pricey, when you stay there, you will soon realise that it is worth every penny. Being the first and only hotel within the whole park, it offers incredible balcony views (as its name suggests) overlooking Monument Valley Tribal Park. Also, staying on site means that you will be able to experience a whole day at Monument Valley, from sunrise to sunset.
Before you enter Monument Valley, there is an open terrace looking out over the park as well as a visitor centre with several exhibits detailing the history of the park and local area as well as a whole section on Navajo Code Talkers and the role they played during the Second World War. Since Windtalkers is one of my favourite films, it was really interesting to learn about the real Code Talkers and how the code based upon the native Navajo language was used to help win the war. Even now, it is the only spoken military code that has never been broken.
The majority of the park is open to the general public and visitors can either follow a number of hiking trails, join a guided jeep tour or, if you have your own vehicle, you can drive around yourself. The drive consists of approximately 14 miles of dirt track that can get very bumpy in places so a 4x4 is recommended. Alternatively, you can book a tour with a certified Navajo guide who will take you down private roads leading deeper into the Tribal Park. Either way, you will be able to be able to stop at various viewpoints along the way and see all the major monuments including the Three Sisters, John Ford's Point and the Mittens.
If you are fortunate enough to stay at the View Hotel, you really have to get up for sunrise. Hotel staff will inform you of the sunrise time when you check in so that you don't miss the most beautiful time of the day. Due to our long day of travelling to Monument Valley, we arrived at night and therefore, we actually didn't see these distinctive rock formations until sunrise the next day. Words cannot describe the amazing view that was before us as we pulled back the curtains and peaked out over the park for the very first time. Looking out across the hotel, you will notice that you will not be the only ones up at this time of day. It it well worth the early start!
Finally, don't forget to stop at Forrest Gump point either on your way to or from Monument Valley. It is a 20 minute drive from the park entrance to this iconic viewpoint showing the road leading up towards Monument Valley and features in the film Forrest Gump.