Previously an empty basin, Monument Valley developed after millions of years of sediment from the Rocky Mountains layering itself over and over again. Pressure and natural elements slowly carved away until it sculpted the geological structures that stand today. Monument valley displays red cliffs upward of 1,000 feet. The area falls under the Colorado Plateau region that branch through New Mexico, southeastern Utah and northern Arizona.
This area may seem familiar to some travelers as it was the iconic backdrop to movies such as “Stagecoach,” “The Searchers,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” However, there is much more to the history of Monument Valley than its big screen appearances.
A Spiritual and Symbolic Place
Monument Valley is deeply rooted to the Native Americans and is considered a deeply spiritual place. Known as Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii by the Navajo tribe, the literal meaning of the name is valley of the rocks.
It was once an area for the Anasazi Pueblo people, and this ancient tribe created the Puebloan ruins that date back as far as the 13th Century. Tours with Navajo guides are available and recommended to those wanting to explore the areas of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. These tours allow visitors to step back into history and see the traditional Navajo dwellings—also known as Hogan
Connect with Nature
Individuals can experience the peaceful and serene valley by hiking Wildcat Trail that stretches 3.2 miles around the West Mitten Butte. This self-guided trail can take between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete. People can also see other monuments in the park by taking a 17-mile scenic drive that displays the Mittens, the Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, the Totem Pole, Yei Bi Chai, and the Ear of the Wind.
Each monument in the park was given a descriptive name, and each had a specific meaning to the Navajo people. One of the most famous attractions at Monument Valley are the Mittens. These two buttes rise up from the ground literally looking like two mittens. Another attraction, the Yei Bi Chei, is named after the Navajo spiritual gods.
The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May through September, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October through April. Admission is $5 per person, and it is free for children 9 years of age or younger.
Another must-see is the small settlement of Goulding. Harry and Leone Goulding built a trading post located six miles from the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park to assist his friends in the Navajo tribes from the 1920s until the 1960s. Goulding’s Museum and Trading Post provides visitor services and is open year-round to visitors.
Monument Valley is guaranteed to give any visitor a taste of its rich Navajo and Anasazi history, and a touch of vibrant and tranquil energy.