6 Reasons Why Monument Valley is Utah’s Most Underrated Sight

by | 13 Oct 2023

If you’re seeking striking landscapes, Utah should be high on your list. Home to five National Parks, it also boasts one of the most iconic vistas of the USA – the red sandstone buttresses of Monument Valley Tribal Navajo Park. However, despite its fame, this stunning location often doesn’t receive the recognition it truly deserves.

Established in 1958, the Monument Valley Tribal Navajo Park covers almost 92,000 acres in northern Arizona and southern Utah. It was the first Tribal Park of its kind and has since paved the way for other tribes to create protected zones. A must-visit destination for anyone seeking awe-inspiring beauty, it also offers a deeper connection to the natural world. Authentic and unspoiled, this is real wilderness, free from the crowds.

From connecting with Navajo culture to admiring the clearest night skies, here’s just six reasons why Monument Valley should be on every traveler’s bucket-list.

1. Iconic Landscape Straight Out of the Movies

post image

Instantly recognizable, even if you’ve never set foot in Utah, Monument Valley’s towering sandstone masterpieces are an iconic symbol of the expanse of the USA. Glowing red in the sunlight, its vast desert expanse has graced the silver screen in countless films. Who can forget Forrest Gump and his band of followers jogging along U.S. Route 163? John Ford, the legendary filmmaker, famously used Monument Valley as a backdrop for many of his movies, including ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘The Searchers.’ Standing amidst these cinematic landscapes and you can’t help but feel like a part of movie history.

For travel inspiration: USA destination guide

You may also enjoy: The best images from Insight Vacations’ Photography Competition

2. Unique Geology and Formation

post image

Formed during the Permian period, this expanse of terrain was once submerged beneath the sea. During this time, sediments and sandstone gradually accumulated over millions of years, forming distinct layers. Subsequently, tectonic forces elevated this landmass above the water’s surface, giving rise to a plateau. Over time, the wind and rain has eroded the softer rock, resulting in the towering structures you see today.

Some of the most famous landmarks include the panoramic viewpoint, John Ford’s Point, named after the above-mentioned film maker, and the Three Sisters. Over a 1000 ft. high, these narrow fingers are said to resemble a Mother Superior, Sister and novice.

Discover this on: Wonders of the American West, America’s Magnificent National Parks, Enchanting Canyonlands.

Loving the USA? You may also enjoy: A state for every palate, passion or purpose: Why the USA delivers it all

3. Rich Navajo Culture and Heritage

post image

The Monument Valley area’s Navajo name, Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, roughly translates into ‘the valley of the rocks.’ A visit to these iconic sandstone monuments is also a privileged opportunity to step into Navajo culture and heritage.

Travel with Insight on Enchanting Canyonlands, and join a fascinating MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience in Monument Valley Tribal Park. On this special Monument Valley tour, Navajo Local Experts will guide you through the history, culture and heritage of the Navajo Nation. Learn about the relationship of respect with the land in the valley and the importance of preserving its natural treasures.

And on Wonders of the American West and America’s Magnificent National Parks, join a tasty MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience. You’re invited to a Navajo Cookout with traditional tacos and fry-bread. Join members of the Navajo Nation and enjoy the traditional dance and songs of this great ancient culture.

Read more: MAKE TRAVEL MATTER®: Why developing meaningful travel experiences has never been more important

4. An outdoor paradise, whatever your preferred pace

post image

Whether you’re an avid hiker, scenic driver or a casual sightseer, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park just begs you to get up close and personal with the land. Take a 4×4 Monument Valley tour out into the desert, join Navajo guides to learn about the land, explore on horseback or hike on designated trails.

If you prefer a more relaxed experience, take the scenic drive along the Valley Drive, a 17-mile unpaved road that offers breathtaking views of the iconic formations. The Valley Drive is accessible to most vehicles, making it suitable for families and travelers of all ages.

You may also be interested to read: These are the best national parks to visit in Eastern USA

5. Best for stargazing and photography

post image

Due to its remote location and minimal light pollution, Monument Valley offers some of the most exceptional stargazing opportunities in the United States. When the sun sets behind the mesas and buttes, the night sky comes alive with a dazzling display of stars, planets, and celestial wonders. Camp out under the stars or take a guided stargazing tour to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the night sky. An excellent location for astrophotography, away from the city lights you can try to capture the Milky Way.

The interplay of light and shadow in Monument Valley is also a daytime photographer’s dream. A Monument Valley sunrise is a sight to behold, as is sunset. At these times, the low angle of the sun casts long shadows. This bathes the landscape in warm, soft hues, enhancing the depth and texture of the rock formations.

You may enjoy: Why fall is the best time to travel for nature photographers

6. A Serene and Tranquil Escape

post image

While many of the USA and Utah’s national parks can become crowded during peak tourist seasons, Monument Valley retains a serene and tranquil atmosphere. The vastness of the landscape allows you to find pockets of solitude and connect with nature on a deeper level.

The park’s distance from major urban centers means that it requires a deliberate effort to reach, deterring casual or spontaneous visitors. Plus, it doesn’t have the hotel, shop and restaurant complexes usually associated with National Parks, which can helps preserve the natural and cultural integrity of the area.

Watching the sunrise or sunset over the buttes, with only the sound of the wind and the distant calls of wildlife, is an experience that will stay with you long after you leave.

To enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park for yourself, take a look at our premium guided tours: Wonders of the American West, America’s Magnificent National Parks and Enchanting Canyonlands.

I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.