Classic Southwest Desert Drive: 17 Miles Route in Monument Valley

You probably have seen an image of this Monument Valley hanging in restaurants, on a postcard, somewhere on the internet, or someone’s desktop background. But no image can possibly capture the scope of this valley and how magnificent it is. You don’t even really need to get out of your car (although you should) to really see this place. From the visitor center, you can take a beautiful 17 mile scenic drive loop among these giant mesa rock formation.

View of the Monument Valley from the visitor center


Location: The valley is located near the border between Utah and Arizona.

Direction: If you’re driving from Southern California or the Grand Canyon, take the HWY 40 and then 89 North to HWY 160 passing Tuba City and then 163 passing Kayenta, then the Monument Valley will come on your right.

GPS coordinate: 37.004883,-110.173229

Lodging and camping: there are currently no camping in the Monument Valley area, but there’s a commercial campground at the Gouldings Lodge. I camped here, and the campground was cramped and crappy but that’s the best you will get without having to pay ridiculous price to stay in the hotels. The Gouldings is located opposite of the Monument Valley is merely minutes of driving from the visitor center. You can learn more about lodging options here.

Fees: There is a $5 fee to enter the park. The Monument Valley is NOT managed by the National Park Service. It is operated by the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation. Other parks in the system include one of the most photographed spot on earth, Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona.

Visit & Tours: There are many ways to visit and appreciate the Monument Valley. I just stopped at the visitor center, grabbed some information, and did the 17 miles drive, which will take roughly half of your day. I love to stop and take pictures, talk to the local vendors, and really appreciate the place. Some tourists can just breeze through the drive in an hour or two, but what’s the point? You can also hike the Wildcat trail, which is an easy 3.4 miles loop and you take you around the west Mitten. There are also numerous tour operates who will take you around; all tour operators are pretty much the same. There are different tour options from a few hours to a full day. The tours are quite pricy with the cheapest being around $60 or $70. It just wasn’t in my budget to do a tour. If you have money for it, I really recommend going with a tour. The guide can explain the history and stories about this amazing place. Learn more about guided tours here.

Nearby Attractions: Navajo National Monument, Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon & Lake Powell, and Horseshoe Bend

Road on the 17 mile drive; smooth dirt well graded road suitable for all types of car with regular clearance.

I visited Monument Valley during my epic post grad self-discovery road trip to Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. Monument Valley has always been on my list of top places to go. I fell in love with the landscape since seeing it in Forrest Gump.

Immediately when you arrive at the visitor center, the three most iconic mesa demand your attend right fromhte parking lot. Most visitors see the mesa from here. A more adventurous tourist will take a drive and the best kinds will hike down via the Wildcat Trail.

I had a great time driving along the 17 mile road. I stopped at every major point to take a picture and to take it all in. The three main mesa are spectacular but other ones deeper into the valley are equally as stunning. I highly recommend that everyone at least do the drive.

The entire valley can be enjoyed in a day, not less. Although it is conveniently located on your way to Colorado or the Grand Canyon, at least spend a day in this valley. Merely stopping at the visitor center and snapping a few photos won’t allow you to truly digest the view, the color of the beautiful sandstone, and how the lighting of the valley changes throughout the day, and how the shadow casts down the valley, and how orange the rock appears when the sunsets.

View from Artist’s Point along the 17 Mile Drive
A giant mesa


  1. One of my very favorite places! We did it quite some time ago, and at that time you could only enter with a guide. We would like to see it again.

Leave a Reply to Pam Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: