Just over the northern border of Arizona in Utah is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a vast expanse of desert dotted with bizarre red sandstone formations. Monument Valley has been the backdrop of dozens of Western films shot in the United States, and it’s easy to see why: There are no large, established towns for miles around, dust kicks up with a slight breeze or the passing of a car, scrub bushes in bloom offer a picturesque landscape and the whole scene exudes the romantic feel of the Wild West.
There is a 17-mile drive that passes through Monument Valley, stopping at a variety of pull-off points along the way. It is unpaved and requires a high-clearance vehicle and patience to traverse safely. There are also a number of tours that run throughout the park if you don’t want to drive on your own. There is one hotel, The View Hotel, that offers lodging in the park, and it is booked several months in advance, but rumor has it that those who are lucky enough to snag a room are treated to awesome sunset views.
During a recent road trip to Monument Valley, I picked up a few tips that might come in handy for interested travelers:
> Most of the tour vehicles don’t have windows, so dust is rampant. Be prepared to protect your body with sunglasses, a hat and even a scarf or bandana to put over your face.
> Wear sunscreen. The sun exposure can be brutal.
> Drink lots of water. You’re in desert country.
> There are not a lot of amenities outside the park, so pack any snacks or water before you enter, because anything you need is expensive nearby.
> Gas up before you arrive. Again, amenities are minimal.
> This is not a national park. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee of $5.00 per person.