Monument Valley on the southeast border between Utah and Arizona has been on our must visit list for a while. People might not recognize the name but recognize the famous scene in the movie Forrest Gump where he turns around after running across the country. That’s Monument Valley. The road where Gump turns around is easy to find. It’s the only main road (Hwy 163) going into the valley. The famous view area to stop at is mile marker 13. There are many pull-off sites along the way so it cannot be missed. There are even booths selling Navajo souvenirs.
This area has interesting geography. It’s flat with small red dirt hills around the valley except for occasional large towering sandstone bluffs. The view is so simplistic that it’s mesmerizing. The area is owned by the Navajo Nation and one cannot tour the area without paying for a group or private tour, which is the only downfall for this area. One can see great views by driving down the highway but to really see the area, one must pay. The only paying tour we had time for was a seventeen mile self-driving tour around the tribal park. The unpaved, rocky, dirt road passes the second most famous view spot in the area, The Mittens, and the tour features the many spots where John Wayne made his famous western movies.
In spite of being chilly and very windy, Brad and I got up early two out of the three mornings we were there, intending to get a sunrise photo of Monument Valley where Forrest Gump turned around. The wind made it very difficult to use a tripod and the lack of color and clouds didn’t help. We even returned for a sunset photo but the rock formations were just too dark and bland to make a good photo. I tried but failed at getting a good photograph, but that’s the life of a landscape photographer. Mother Nature decides what she wants to do and no matter how many weather and photo planning apps one has, you must just go with the flow. Sometimes that means putting the camera away and simply enjoying the view.
The town is away from major cities and at nighttime, the sky was scattered with millions of stars. The nights were chilly and clear and even with the semibright moon, we were able to faintly see the Milky Way. The small town has a couple hotels and campgrounds, one gas station, and a small grocery store. The next town was in Arizona, a thirty-minute drive away. The campground where we stayed was our ideal of boondocking without actually boondocking, plus it had all the amenities (sewer, water, and electricity), a large flat spot, openness, and awesome views.
We will be in this area again and we plan on going on some tours next time. We were going to stay a week in Monument Valley, but we ended up leaving early. The Wi-Fi was not great, which made it difficult to work from home. We were also cold and ready to be back in warm and sunny Arizona, back at our old campground, and near our friends.
Next blog post will be about our time in Arizona so stay turned!