Monument Valley (MV) is located in northeast Arizona, over 300 miles from the nearest major airport. It is over 200 miles from smaller airports such as Page, Flagstaff, Grand Junction, and Farmington. As a result, you should combine a trip to MV with other destinations, hopefully in a loop route. Monument Valley is halfway between Mexican Hat, Utah (21 miles to the entrance road) and Kayenta, Arizona (22 miles).
RV and tent campers can stay at the Monument Valley View campground which has no hookups or water. The View Campground costs $60 per night. There is a nearby convenience store. RV camping with full hookups is available at both the Monument Valley KOA Journey and at Goulding's RV and Campground. Both are within two miles of the turnoff to Monument Valley.
The Monument Valley View hotel offers good but expensive lodging within the park, and Goulding's Lodge does so just outside the park. You should reserve the View or Gouldings well in advance if you plan to visit Monument Valley from April to October.
Alternatively, you can stay in either Kayenta, AZ or in Mexican Hat, UT. A reasonably priced but dated place to stay in Mexican Hat is the San Juan Inn, which is right on the San Juan River. Mexican Hat is very small and generally needs better services. However, it is close to several areas worth photographing. These include Mexican Hat (afternoon), Goosenecks State Park (afternoon, ultra-wide), Valley of the Gods, the Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Recapture Pockets, and Cedar Mesa. US 163 is more scenic between Mexican Hat and Monument Valley than Kayenta and Monument Valley. The "Forrest Gump" image was shot at milepost 13 on US 163 in Utah between Mexican Hat and Monemnet Valley. Kayenta is also a good place to stay. It has much better services than Mexican Hat and is "close" (50 miles) to Navajo National Monument and Canyon de Chelly. It is also closer to Blue Canyon and White Mesa Arch, covered elsewhere on this site.
Monument Valley is open every day of the year except Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving. As of 2023, Visitor Center hours are from 8 AM - 5 PM from April 22 to September 30 and from 8 AM to 4 PM during the rest of the year. The scenic drive and tour booth are open from 6 AM to 8 PM, with the last entry at 6 PM. Winters are cold in MV, and summers hot.
Monument Valleys' climate is like that of Kayenta, AZ. Kayenta is 20 miles from Monument Valley, and elevations are similar. Climate information for Kayneta can be found at Weatherspark.com.
Most commercial photo tours to Monument Valley run during the spring. Other than the favorable temperatures, I don't know why this is the case. Spring is the windy season in the southwest, and there is a lot of haze in Monument Valley during May and June. A better time to go is late August and September. The park will still be open at sunrise and sunset, in August there is the possibility of dramatic weather. By September temperatures start to moderate, and there will be less haze. It will be hot. A hot air balloon festival used to be held each year in mid-December. The Balloon Festival has not been held in recent years. The Bluff Balloon Festival, held in January each year, flies over the Valley of the Gods, which has scenery similar to Monument Valley's.
Admission is $8 per person as of May 2023. National park passes are not accepted. Admission only grants you access to the loop road shown in lavender below. If you wish to visit the Sand Dunes / Totem Pole, Mystery Valley, Tear Drop Arch, or Hunts Mesa, you must go with an authorized Navajo guide. Half-day and full-day photo tours are available at the visitor center, or you can book them in advance. Here is a list of authorized guides. I have gone with Tom Phillips at http://www.monumentvalley.com/ in the past. Tom passed away; his business is now run by his sons Carlos and Carl. If you hire a guide, I suggest you book a sunrise tour to shoot the Sand Dunes / Totem Pole area in the best light. Afternoon tours generally revolve around Mystery Valley and Tear Drop Arch.
If you wish to go to Hunts Mesa, I recommend you book an overnight tour. Ray Begay at +1 928 429-4319 is an excellent guide who brought us to a terrific sunset location on the mesa's rim. Tom Phillips was Ray's uncle.
Whether you go with a guide or not, Monument Valley is one of the best photo destinations in the United States. You can take great photos from the parking area at sunrise and sunset. You can get superb images of the Three Sisters from the loop road. You should also shoot facing north from John Ford Point, from the North Window, and from Artist's Point. Here is a map with some of the better locations identified:
To view the map in Google Maps please click anywhere on the map above.
The topo maps Monument Valley, Monument Pass, Mystery Valley, and Gouldings cover the area of interest. The Monument Valley map contains the loop road, the sand dune area and the Totem Pole, and Hunt's Mesa. The Mystery Valley map contains locations that would normally be included during the afternoon of a full day photo tour such as Mystery Valley, Many Hands House, Honeymoon Arch, and Half Moon House. Tear drop arch is on the border between the Gouldings map and the Mystery Valley map. These maps can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right-clicking below:
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View from Hunts Mesa
The Mittens at Sunrise
The Three Sisters
Ear of the Wind
Hunts Mesa after Sunset
The West Mitten
Sun's Eye Petroglyph
Sunrise at The West Mitten
Sheep in Monument Valley"
Yei Bi Chei and the Totem-Pole
Spider Web Arch