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Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Review

For generations, the Navajo have grown crops and herded sheep in Monument Valley, considered to be one of the most scenic and mesmerizing destinations in the Navajo Nation. Within Monument Valley lies the 30,000-acre Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, where eons of wind and rain have carved the mammoth red-sandstone monoliths into memorable formations. The monoliths, which jut hundreds of feet above the desert floor, stand on the horizon like sentinels, frozen in time and unencumbered by electric wires, telephone poles, or fences—a scene virtually unchanged for centuries. These are the very same nostalgic images so familiar to movie buffs who recall the early Western films of John Wayne. A 17-mile self-guided driving tour on an extremely rough dirt road (there's only one road, so you can't get lost) passes the memorable Mittens and Totem Pole formations, among others. Also be sure to walk (15 minutes round-trip) from North Window around the end of Cly Butte for the views.

Monument Valley Visitor Center. The handsome Monument Valley Visitor Center contains an extensive crafts shop and exhibits devoted to ancient and modern Native American history, including a display on the World War II Navajo Code Talkers. Most of the independent guided group tours, which leave from the center, use enclosed vans and charge about $75 per person for 2½ to 3 hours; private tours are also often available, starting around $150 for up to two people. You can generally find Navajo guides—who will escort you to places that you are not allowed to visit on your own—in the center or at the booths in the parking lot. It adjoins the stunning View Hotel, which sits on a gradual rise overlooking the valley and its magnificent red-rock monoliths, with big-sky views in every direction. The park also has a campground typically open from May through September, although it was closed for construction through much of 2013; call ahead to make sure it has reopened. Off U.S. 163, 24 miles north of Kayenta, Monument Valley Tribal Park, 84536. 435/727–5874. www.navajonationparks.org. $5. May–Sept., daily 6 am–8 pm; Oct.–Apr., daily 8–5.

Updated: 03-11-2013

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