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Travels with Grama

Monument Valley

Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii (Valley of the Rocks)

There is only one main road through Monument Valley. The stretch approaching the Arizona/Utah border from the north gives the most famous image of the valley, a long straight empty road across flat desert heading toward huge stark red cliffs on the horizon. The highway cuts through the mesas at Monument Pass.
Monument Valley Photo Album

Monument Valley Slideshow
Monument Valley 2008 Slideshow


My goal on this trip was to see Monument Valley. (once I found out where it was) After all, what could Doreen say - she wanted to include Mount Rushmore which was 1000 miles out of our way. It was just a matter of logistics to connect from South Dakota thru the Valley to Vegas.

My knowledge of Monument Valley was that John Wayne dusters had been filmed there and all Doreen could think of was advertisements with jeeps on the top of huge cliffs. Other than that we knew absolutely nothing about the area.

I don't know what the "draw" was for me to get to this territory, but my first sighting of it was a feeling I will never forget. We stopped several time on the approach to Monument Pass to take pictures but there is not a camera in the world that can capture the emotion and awe I felt. It was like coming home.

There is only one main road through Monument Valley. The stretch approaching the Arizona/Utah border from the north gives the most famous image of the valley, a long straight empty road across flat desert heading toward huge stark red cliffs on the horizon. The highway cuts through the mesas at Monument Pass.

Goulding Lodge

Goulding Lodge is in the heart of Monument Valley. The backyard to this lodge is a towering red wall that protects the buildings. It looks like pieces of it could crumble at any moment and crush what lies beneath. A museum is housed in the original Trading Post and home of Harry and 'Mike" Goulding. Mr. and Mrs. Goulding made lifelong friends of the Navajo people.

Harry invited movie director John Ford to Monument Valley to view the landscape and the rest is movie making history. Parts of the original set from "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" are on display and the John Wayne cabin is still intact. There is a museum of movie making memorabilia and indian artifacts that can compete with any national museum. Monument Valley is still used today for movie and commercial filming.

Over the years, Monument Valley has been the setting for more Western movies than any other site in the United States. Many movies have footage in Monument Valley, including, just to name a few Thelma & Louise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider, Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, and Mission Impossible.

We were unable to spend a lot of time in the Valley but resolved to return and explore - as Doreen put it "up close and personal" It was starting to look like we needed several more years of traveling together just to accomplish the "plans" we made on this first trip.


Our second trip through Monument Valley was just as spectacular as the first. Every time of day, every angle of the sun displays a different colour. We stopped at Goulding Lodge, hoping to get a room but had to continue to Kayenta as the inn was full. We stayed long enough to have supper and tour the museum and John Wayne cabin.

Director John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, has had an enduring influence in making the Valley famous. After that first experience, Ford returned nine times to shoot Westerns — even when the films were not set in Arizona or Utah.

A popular lookout point is named in his honor as "John Ford Point." It was used by Ford in a scene from The Searchers where an American Indian village is attacked.


We still have it on our agenda to take the time to tour the Monument Valley, but not this year. We stopped briefly at Goulding Lodge to eat and wander around. I was still not feeling 100% but the meal was good. We toured through the museum and gift shop where Doreen bought the video "The Duke and The General", a 1971 documentary tribute to John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Then we were off to Valley of the Gods and Hwy 261.

Mileage to Monument Valley
Cameron, Arizona 134 Page, Arizona 137
Chinle, Arizona 150 Phoenix, Arizona 326
Farmington, New Mexico 169 Shiprock, New Mexico 142
Flagstaff, Arizona 187 Tuba City, Arizona 112
Gallup, New Mexico 233 Tucson, Arizona 443
Kayenta, Arizona 23 Window Rock, Arizona 196



Navajo Name: Toh' Di'neesh zhee (water going in different directions)

The community of Kayenta is scenically located just north of junctions Hwy 160 and Hwy 163. Kayenta, founded in 1909 as a trading post, is now the gateway to the Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley.

I had wanted to visit the hospital I was in and see if our friendly orderly was still there but we'd wasted too much time at Shonto. Maybe another time.

Monument Valley

We stopped once again at Goulding Lodge in Monument Valley to have our supper.

We went into the gift shop and toured around John Wayne's cabin before heading out. We were planning to stop for the night further down the road at Mexican Hat or Bluff.

And, of course, we just had to see Valley of the Gods and Hwy 261. It was starting to feel like home.

2008 Monument Valley Slideshow

There was a morning haze giving everything a shimmering gleam to it. As I was hanging out the sun roof snapping pictures at 60 miles an hour, Doreen at the wheel and Willie riding shotgun on the dash, we crossed the"most photographed road" in America

You don't realize how busy that highway is until you try snapping pictures of a barren road without oncoming cars.  We were almost ready to put up a roadblock until finally there was a gap in the traffic.

Although we have been to Monument Valley many times, we have never toured through the Navajo Nation's Monument Valley Park. This year - true to our fill in the gaps theme - we decided to take the time to tour through the park. There is a new hotel in the park, the View Hotel. We will have to keep this hotel in mind for another trip.

As soon as we entered, we knew we were in for a treat. The parking lot was humming with tour guides in vehicles that made us wonder what the heck we were heading into. It appeared that we needed some sort of all terrain vehicle or at least a beat up truck. However, brave as we are, we struck out unguided in the Murano and hit the first wild, bumpy, rutted, steep and (maybe we shouldn't be doing this) road. Of course, we loved every minute of it. It wasn't long before everything smoothed out and we toured on the park's 17 mile road for several hours.

We stopped at Goulding on our way out to eat supper. After visiting John Wayne's cabin we said good-bye to Monument Valley and headed down the road to Mexican Hat.

Doreen's Favorite Picture - Full Size
Karen's Favorite Picture - Full Size

My new camera made all the difference in the quality of the pictures we took. It's a great camera and all we did was point and click. The pictures turned out so great we can only imagine what I could do with the camera if I had some lessons for it. Or, maybe, a less knowledge is better - just let the camera do the work!!

Both our favorite pictures capture the feeling of the area. In Doreen's favorite, you feel the coolness under the trees with the monuments baking in the heat beyond. In mine, the background almost doesn't look real - more like a painting or mural of the monuments as a backdrop behind the wagon as the heat rises off the valley floor.

June 26, 2013

Highway 163 - Monument Valley

We didn't stop in Monument Valley - just long enough on leaving to get the picture of hwy 163 looking back west. The highway forms part of the Trail of the Ancients, a National Scenic Byway. The highway cuts through the heart of Monument Valley and has been featured in numerous movies and commercials.

May 19, 2016

Monument Valley

We've read that this portion of hwy 163 is one of the most photographed sections of hwy in North America. As we stopped and looked back and saw all the people wandering across the highway we understood why. What a view. In previous years Doreen and I have stopped several times to take pictures and at one point I even stood up through the sunroof to get a better shot.