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Driving in Monument Valley - is a FWD necessary?

Driving in Monument Valley - is a FWD necessary?

Old Jul 5th, 2009, 12:29 PM
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Driving in Monument Valley - is a FWD necessary?

We'll be visiting the Monument Valley next month before heading to Chinle, and I've read some trip reports that say a FWD vehicle is necessary for the 17-mile road around Monument Valley, while others say as long as your car isn't a low-rider, there shouldn't be any problems. Any pros or cons?
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 01:33 PM
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Last time I was there I drove my rear wheel drive just fine. I don't think you need front wheel drive in MV.
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 01:50 PM
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I think twina49 meant 4WD, not front wheel drive.
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 02:44 PM
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If the loop road has been recently graded by the bulldozer then a normal passenger car will be OK, but if it has been a while between grading, especially if there have been rains causing washouts, then you will likely bottom out in places in such a vehicle, and a higher clearance vehicle would be a good idea. Doesn't have to be 4-WD but does need higher clearance and reasonably stiff suspension (most of the locals living in the valley don't have 4-WD but do have pickup trucks with greater clearance than basic rental cars).

Once I saw a guy in a rental Chevy hit a rock and gash open his oil pan on the first switchbacks below the visitor center. When he called the rental agency they said it would take 3 days to get him a new car (there are no nearby car rentals).

You can always wait until you get there and then if it looks dicey (ask someone coming out in a similar car) you can sign on for a guided tour with the Navajo, which will take you into areas you aren't allowed to visit on your own. Generally the first 1/2 mile is the worst, if you can make this you will likely be OK.
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 03:06 PM
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Go with a guide and don't worry about it. I don't think you would have any problems at all. Consider driving Valley of the Gods, which is just north or Monument Valley. You can also see Goosenecks of the San Juan, Mokey Dugway and Muley Point. All of this within 5 miles of each other.
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 07:12 PM
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Bill H is right about being no rental cars in the area. I also suspect that getting a tow truck or mechanic would be near impossible. Most Indian Reservations are a not like the rest of the USA. Very different, almost like a different country. The guides will point out much that you would miss if you were just driving it yourself. Many ways to do the guided trips.
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 11:30 PM
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When you get there you will see all kinds of cars driving around. The worse part is at the very beginning, the rest is pretty level. We see all kinds of regular cars driving around Monument Valley.

IF you do go with a guide tour, make sure it's not one that takes you in an open vehicle where you have to wear a bandana on your face so you don't eat the dust and make sure they will actually stop at the scenic overlooks and not keep driving as everyone is YELLING stop!

Utahtea
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 10:28 AM
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Thanks for the replies! J62 is correct that I was referring to a four-wheel drive vehicle, rather than a front-wheel drive one, but I should have been more descriptive in my title.

We were leaning against going with a guide, mostly because we have a tour the next day with Antelope House in Canyon de Chelly, so we were looking for just a drive through with Monument Valley. I'll do as Bill_H suggests and check out the cars coming out before we make our decision.
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Old Jul 8th, 2009, 01:03 PM
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We've done the drive in our Honda Civic, with no problems, but have also gone with a guide which I would 'highly' recommend. You're given access to more of the reservation, where Navajos still live in Hogans, that you're not allowed to drive into as a non-Navajo tourist. Not only will you see more, but will also learn more about the history, culture, history and community of Monument Valley. Our guide even had us hike up into a natural amphitheater where we layed on our backs in the sand, looking up at the incredible arch above, while he sang ancient chants. It was wonderful and an experience we wouldn't have had on our own. Wish I could remember the name of our guide as he was great, but only remember that he drove an old station wagon....which are probably common there.
Visiting the home of the Gouldings, who were the first white settlers in Monument, which they left as a museum to benefit educational funding for Navajo children is also a worthwhile stop. Lots of interesting history.
Have fun.
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Old Aug 26th, 2009, 07:16 PM
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RandiRA, any chance you remember the name of that guide yet? I'm looking into guides for Monument Valley, and later Canyon de Chelly on another day. I see someone recommended Simpson Trailhandlers, so I emailed them, but am curious about who you used as well. Thanks if you can remember!
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 11:02 AM
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We went to Monument valley and Canyon de Chelly last year. We were in a rented Ford Taurus and had no problems! If you stay at the Thunderbird in Canyon de Chelly you should have no trouble finding a guide. Interesting place.
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 01:04 PM
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Rand, like myself, went with Simpson's. Make sure you ask for Richard. He is the guide who sings. He will take you everywhere you cannot go with your own car & will make the 2 hour tour last 3 hours. For an extra dollar per person (the tour is private to your family), he will take you to his grandmother's hogan to watch her weave.

In Canyon de Chelly, we went with Bobby Van Winkle. His company is called Tseyi Jeep Tours.
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Thanks. I did hear back from Trailhandlers. I was worried maybe they didn't do tours in winter (we will be there Dec 27) but she told me they do. I asked for Richard and of course she assured me all the guides are great. Hope we get Richard! Thanks for the tip on Canyon de Chelly. I hadn't started looking there yet.
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 03:36 PM
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noone has mentioned that if you do plan to go ahead with the drive yourself and later have issues with it (towing, etc), make sure you get insurance for the car or else it will be a very costly drive down monument valley. i too recommend the tours vs driving. the loop road doesn't let you see the cool arches and canyons that taking the tours allow you. i've done both canyon de chelly and mv and if i had to choose one, i would do mv tour although i don't recall that the tours were expensive in MV. In any case, I really would reconsider. MV is a pretty magical place. You used to be able to horseback ride into the valley and sleep under the stars with a navajo guide but they no longer allow that. too bad.
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 04:09 PM
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I think the OP may have already gone, I wonder how it went!. I'm just hi-jacking the thread for guide recommendations I'm okay with driving, too, I will have a high-clearance vehicle. But, I like doing tours as well when hopefully you can learn something you wouldn't on your own.
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 04:28 PM
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Figured I should check. Yes, OP went, drove themselves, were fine. Trip report is lovely.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 08:21 AM
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Yes, we were in Monument Valley on August 5th and thought it was beautiful and other-worldly (especially for those of us from Western Pennsylvania!). We did the self-guided tour in our Kia Rondo (small SUV), and had no problems, as long as you don't count me cringing everytime we had to creep over a large rock or when my husband drove (what seemed to me from the passenger side) WAY too close to the outcroppings.

I have to admit, though, that we (husband, daughter, son-in-law and myself) all preferred our Canyon de Chelly tour to MV, although that may be because we had a Navajo guide (Adam Teller - terrific guy!) while in the Canyon. He runs Antelope House Tours and his tour pretty much topped our week.

BTW - I find it interesting that Thunderbird Lodge advertises itself as the ONLY official guide of Canyon de Chelly. Oh, really....? I'm surprised the other tour outfits can't get them for false advertising.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 06:32 PM
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I will check out Adam Teller too. It sounds like you had a really good trip (excepting the beginning flight of course )
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