Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Monument Valley - It's One Of The Best Trips In Arizona

We decided to take the granddaughters to Monument Valley for spring break this year. Excellent decision! John and the girls had never been there, and I hadn't been there since I was a kid, so we were all excited about going.

We drove up to Flagstaff and spent the night – Em was able to stay in Trinity's apartment dorm with her – then we drove from Flagstaff to Monument Valley in the morning. It's about a three-hour drive from Flagstaff, which isn't too bad.

Monument Valley actually extends over the border into Utah, and, in fact, we kept going back and forth over the state line while we were there.

Totally Worth The Drive

If you have never been there, it is totally worth the drive. The iconic monuments are awe inspiring, and so much better in person than in photos. If you want to go totally self-guided, your options are a little limited: There is a loop drive you can do on your own, and there are a couple of hikes as well.

For any further exploration, you need to hire an Indian guide, since it is on the Navajo reservation. We knew this ahead of time, so we planned just the one day and one night, driving back home the next morning. Turns out we should have planned on another day at least, but we got to see the main things, so we'll save the other hikes and drives for another time.

Fabulous View Of Monument Valley

We stayed at Goulding's Lodge, which is just across the highway from the Monument Valley road, and we were delighted with it. I had booked online and gotten a two-bedroom apartment. Check in time is supposed to be 2 p.m., but we got there around 10 a.m., and after a visit to the gift shop and the little museum, John Wayne's cabin, and the stagecoach for some photos, I went ahead and went in to see if I could at least find out where our room was.

They let us check in on the spot – that early! And our two-bedroom apartment turned out to be a stand-alone house with a laundry, a big kitchen and living room, and a fabulous view of Monument Valley. We were really happy.

The Loop Is Amazing

It costs $20 per car to enter the valley, and there is a really big gift shop and visitors' center there. You can pick up permits if you want to hike, and they give you a map when you pay to enter.

The loop is amazing – you get to see incredible formations and there are several little spurs you can take – take all of them. Don't miss anything! We spent well over three hours doing the loop drive and took tons of photos.

Our granddaughters' Instagram feeds were the envy of all their friends that week, I can tell you! If you don't want to take your car on the dirt road, there are plenty of guided trips on that road as well – we saw a lot of them.

Take Plenty Of Water

The loop road is dirt and a bit rough in places. I was glad we had our Rav 4 on that road, although there were a lot of passenger cars on it as well. You just have to be careful. We got to see the Three Sisters (there is a spur well worth taking here for amazing photo ops), East and West Mitten. Elephant Butte, Camel Butte, and many more.

It was warm, even in March, so make sure you take plenty of water in the car, and plan on getting out and walking around. We found that even if there were a lot of people at a certain spot, everyone was good about taking turns so you didn't end up with a bunch of strangers in your photos.

Hiking The Wildcat Trail

We ended up not having quite enough time left after the drive to do an entire hiking trail, but we hiked the Wildcat Trail down to the West Mitten. It would have been dark by the time we went around the Mitten and back, so we reluctantly turned back. The trail was beautiful and there were a lot of people on it, but not so you were hiking in a crowd.

It's downhill going out toward West Mitten, which means, of course, that it's uphill coming back – in fine sand much of the way. Grandma did a little huffing and puffing, but it wasn't bad at all. Make sure you carry plenty of water and get a permit at the Visitor Center before you start the hike. You can also pick up a trail brochure at the Information Desk.

Good Amenities

The Visitor Center is also where you ask about hiking, talks, the Hogan Village, Junior Ranger, and guided tours. You can stay at The View Hotel and you can also camp. They have a restaurant as well.

At Goulding's, where we stayed (officially in Utah, while the other side is in Arizona), there is also camping, a gift shop, a movie theater where you can see films for free every evening, a gas station, a grocery store, laundromat, pool, food court, fitness room, and an RV Park and campground.

We had dinner in their restaurant - fry bread of course - and it was delicious. We are really happy we chose to stay there, and next time we'll plan enough time to do the hikes there as well. The hotel is set up on a slope so we were able to see gorgeous views from our rooms as well as from the restaurant.

One Of The Best Arizona Trips

Goulding's also offers guided tours with Indian guides, and they have a lot of different ones, depending on how long you have and what you want to see. If we had time, we would have driven a little way north to Mexican Hat.

The icing on the cake of this awesome trip is that when we woke up, we looked out our windows and saw fog and snow! Gradually, the monuments began to appear out of the fog with their slopes dusted white. It was incredibly gorgeous. Seriously one of the best trips we've taken in Arizona.

Getting There

To get to Monument Valley, take Highway 89 north from Flagstaff, then get on 160 toward Tuba City. Take 160 to Kayenta, and get on 163 north. Goulding's Lodge is on the west side of the highway, just over the Utah border, and the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is on the east side of the highway.

You cross back into Arizona on the road in. It's about a three hour drive from Flagstaff.


Goulding's Lodge (435) 727-3231 http://www.gouldings.com

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park (435) 727-5870 http://www.navajonationparks.org

For room rates and availability at The View call (435) 727-5555 http://www.monumentvalleyview.com


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