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Monument Valley Tribal Park

General Information
Navajo Name: Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii
Elevation: 5,564 feet above sea level
Size: 91, 696 acres; extends from Arizona into Utah

Welcome to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Welcome to the Navajo Nation's Monument Valley Tribal Park. You are one step closer to experiencing the pleasure of viewing the ever-so-spectacular monuments of Navajoland.

In this great valley stand masterpieces at heights of 400 to 1000 feet. Scenic clouds and shadows graciously roam across the valley sky and floor. The angle of the sun accents the majestic sandstone formations. The scenery is simply spellbinding.

The landscape overwhelms. It is everything you see: the monuments, the mesas and buttes, the shrubs, the magnificent colors of the valley. It is everything you feel: the atmosphere of an ancient people and its culture, the smell of the air, the listening of sounds. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly intriguing experience. The beauty of the area is a fact well documented by the numerous Western movies and television commercials for which Monument Valley has served as a backdrop. Enjoy this beautiful land.

Park History

In 1884, President Chester Arthur added this region by executive order to the Navajo Reservation, but prospectors continued to search for silver. John Wetherill and Clyde Colville established a trading post at Oljeto in 1906 until Wetherill moved to Kayenta. In 1924, Harry and his wife Mike Goulding established a post, which is still in operation today and bears his name.

Monument Valley became world famous when it was featured in many western film classics, including John Ford's Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Cheyenne Autumn.

On July 11, 1958 the Navajo Tribal Council established the tribal park that includes some of the most dramatic buttes, mesas and monoliths, making the area accessible to thousands of tourists who visit the region each year and providing a major source of income to the Navajo people. Today, over 400.000 tourists from all over the world visit Monument Valley each year.

The First Inhabitants

Archeologists have recorded more than 100 ancient Anasazi sites and ruins dating before A.D. 1300. No perennial streams run through the valley today, and the climate is virtually the same now as it was centuries ago. How then, did people survive here?

Perhaps an analogy can be drawn from modern Pueblo Indians who live in a similar environment today. Crops are planted in scattered plots to catch most of the runoff from limited rainfall, thereby minimizing the possibility of crop failure. At depth, sand dunes retain surprising amounts of water; corn planted there has a better chance for survival.

Even in dry years, seepage from sandstone aquifers provides some water. Using similar techniques, the prehistoric residents of Monument Valley sustained a fragile but stable lifestyle for centuries. Some of the rock art portrays hunting of game for survival - Big horn, Antelope, and Deer. Like other areas in the region, however, the valley was abandoned by the Anasazis in the 1300's. No one knows when the first Navajo settled in Monument Valley. For generations however, Navajo residents have herded sheep and other livestock and raised small quantities of crops. Monument Valley is a small part of the nearly 16 million acre Navajo Reservation (www.Navajo.org numbers), and its residents are but a small percentage of the Navajo population of more than 300,000.

Geology

Before human existence, the park was once a vast lowland basin. For hundreds of millions of years, materials that eroded from the early Rocky Mountains deposited layer upon layer of sediments, which cemented over the years into rock; sandstone and limestone. Then a slow and gentle uplift generated by ceaseless pressure from below the surface elevated these horizontal strata quite uniformly one-to-three miles above sea level. What was once a basin became a plateau.

Natural forces of wind and water that eroded the land spent the last 50 million years cutting into and peeling away at the surface of the plateau.

The simple wearing down of altering layers of soft and hard rock slowly revealed the natural wonders of Monument Valley today. The harder Shinarump formation caps and protects the underlying De Chelly (pronounced de-shay) sandstone, which forms the prominent cliffs on mesas and buttes. The softer Organ Rock Shale, found at the base of these cliffs, erode out in stairlike horizontal terraces, forming the sloping foundations of the monuments. Mother Nature continues to shape the land. The changes are so slow it goes unnoticed by humans.

The orange-red colored sandstone cliffs are of the Culter Formation from the Permian period (approximately 160 million years ago). Past volcanic activity is evident by Agathla Peak and Chiastla Butte, located at the southern edge of the valley.

Plants & Animals

Monument Valley is the home of the famous "purple sage" of western lore, made more dramatic by the red sands of the area. There are very few trees in the area because of the extreme dryness and lack of moisture, but an occasional juniper will appear near the edges of the valley. When moisture is available, Cliffrose, Rabbitbrush and Snakewood can be seen growing.

Due to the sparsity of habitat, there is not as much wildlife in Monument Valley as in other Colorado Plateau parks nearby. The presence of Navajo peoples who live on this reservation, together with their dogs and sheep, also provides less habitat and discourages an abundance of wildlife.

Park Regulations

  • Please obey all signs along the drive.
  • Please stay on the self guided valley road unless on a guided tour.
  • Respect the privacy and customs of the Navajo people. Enter home areas only upon invitation.
  • Photography for personal use is allowed, however, permission is required to photograph the Navajo residents and their property. A gratuity is expected. Commercial photography requires a permit from the Department of Broadcast Services of the Navajo Nation; Window Rock, Arizona. Pets must be on a leash.
  • Drinking water is available only at the visitor center and campground. None is available in the valley, so please take an adequate supply with you.
  • The Navajo Nation observes Mountain Daylight Saving Time from April-October. This means that we are one hour ahead of all Arizona locations off the Navajo Reservation, such as Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Page, and Phoenix.
  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on Navajo land. Navajo Tribal Rangers are responsible for enforcing all applicable Federal and Tribal regulations within the park boundaries.
  • No hiking trails presently exist in the park, it is restricted to the drive only. Off-trail hiking is possible only with a hired guide.
  • No Rock Climbing allowed.
  • Please keep Navajo land clean. Do not litter. Do not burn or bury trash. Please place all refuse in trash containers.
  • Please caution your children not to reach blindly under bushes, rocks or into holes. Rattlesnakes, scorpions and spiders do occur within the park.
  • Do not disturb or remove animals, plants, rocks or artifacts.
  • Vehicles over 21' are not recommended on the Scenic View Drive.

Average Monthly Temperature (Fahrenheit / Celsius)*

January February March April May June
Max. 43 / 6 47 / 8 54 / 12 65 / 18 73 / 23 85 / 29
Min. 25 / -4 26 / -3 33 / 1 40 / 4 47 / 8 58 / 14

July August September October November December
Max. 90 / 32 88 / 31 82 / 28 66 / 19 50 / 10 42 / 6
Min. 63 / 17 62 / 17 57 / 14 41 / 5 30 / -1 24 / -4

Climate

Summertime maximum temperatures at Monument Valley can be very warm, averaging in the 90s, with nights considerably cooler. Because of the mile-high elevation, winters can be cold and snowy.

Distance To Kayenta, AZ*
Albuquerque, NM 329mi / 530km 07h50min
Canyon de Chelly 73mi / 117km 01h43min
Denver, CO 531mi / 855km 10h28min
Flagstaff 152mi / 245km 03h46min
Four Corners 78mi / 126km 01h51min
Grand Canyon 154mi / 248km 03h39min
Las Vegas, NV 379mi / 610km 08h38min
Los Angeles, CA 616mi / 991km 12h03min
Moab, UT 177mi / 285km 04h21min
Monument Valley 22mi / 35km 00h31min
Navajo N.M. 26mi / 42km 00h37min
Phoenix 286mi / 460km 06h11min
Prescott 238mi / 383km 05h37min
Salt Lake City, UT 411mi / 661km 09h52min
Tucson 402mi / 646km 08h18min
Yuma 471mi / 758km 09h57min

Mitten View Campground

Mitten View is located next to the visitor center in Monument Valley. It is open year round on First Come, First Serve basis. Each one of the 99 sites is accommodated with a table, BBQ grill, ramada and trash barrel. A comfort station with restrooms and coin operated showers and a filling/dump station is also open during the summer season. No hookups are available. Maximum of 14 days camping allowed.

Summer Camping fees are $10 (for 1-6 persons), $20 (for 6-13 persons), $2 for each additional person. In winter camping fees are half price. Prices subject to change without prior notice.

Picnicking

Picnicking is available at the Visitor Center, and a number of picnic tables in Mitten Campground.

Auto Touring

The view from the visitor center is quite spectacular, but most of the park can only be seen from a 17-mile dirt road, which starts there and goes southeast among the cliffs and mesas. The road is very rough and difficult for non-4WD vehicles. This may help business for the many Navajo guides and 4WD jeep rentals, which wait near the visitor center. The following features can be seen on this tour:

  • The Mittens and Merrick Butte
  • Elephant Butte
  • Three Sisters
  • John Ford's Point
  • Camel Butte
  • The Hub
  • Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
  • Sand Springs
  • Artist's Point
  • North Window
  • The Thumb

Biking

There is no biking inside the monument.