That Butte-iful Monument Valley View
We woke up in Sedona to a beautiful view of the surrounding rocks with the morning light making the red rocks even prettier against the surrounding dusting of snow. The Monument Valley view we would see later in the day would be even better though.
We had over 200 miles and about 4 hours of driving ahead of us so we left early in the morning to give ourselves some time in Monument Valley to explore before the sun set.
Driving through Arizona is relatively uneventful but the landscape offered more than the dead flat, featureless desert that we were expecting. There are still hills and rises, huge Cacti (Cactuses?), and the snow, ice and a few erratic drivers kept us interested all the way through to Monument Valley.
Rather than check in at our hotel, we wanted to make the most of the remaining daylight and drove straight over to our first attraction to see in this crazy landscape.
It took us a bit of finding given our GPS directed us to the town, Mexican Hat and had no idea of an attraction we’d like to see but we made it there in the end. It doesn’t take a very active imagination to see why this rock formation was dubbed after the famous Sombrero.
Of course, we couldn’t help trying to pose for some cheesy pics “wearing” the hat too.
Dayna was reading the Martian and felt it was quite appropriate timing given the surrounding landscape seemed straight out of Mars at times. We were constantly asking each other how the heck this is all formed.
How is Monument Valley Formed?
From our (limited, uneducated and probably incorrect) understanding, the land used to be flat and happily sat above all of these rock formations. Over time the softer sandstone was eroded away and only bits that maintained a stronger capstone bit of rock on top withstood the test of time.
Please let me know if I am completely wrong and you can explain it better than that though because I’d really like to know!
That Famous Monument Valley View
On the way back from Mexican Hat we had to stop off at that famous vista in front of which Tom Hanks stopped his run in the Forrest Gump movie.
Our timing was off that day as the sun sets behind the mesas and the colour and detail was blown out by the bright sun we were staring straight into.
We returned the next day and played a bit of chicken with traffic and our tripod to try and get a few photos. Traffic isn’t extremely heavy on this lonely stretch of road (America is, after all, a pretty empty place outside of a few packed cities) so we didn’t have to wait too long.
Unlike Forrest, we did not feel like runnin’ and didn’t pose for one of those photos (unlike me 8 years ago on a trip across the country).
The View Hotel in Monument Valley
As the sun was starting to get low and we only had one sunset in town, we dashed back from enjoying the views to quickly check in to our hotel.
Accommodation options are pretty limited in Monument Valley and we opted to pay a little extra and stay within the actual Navajo Tribal Park. The only place you can do this is at The View Hotel.
The main thing we wanted was a good view of the Buttes and Mesas of Monument Valley and the View Hotel definitely delivers that. We were pretty impressed by our first view from our room.
The sun sets behind the hotel, on the opposite side of the hotel to the main features in the landscape so until it sneaks behind it there is warm light thrown on to the red rocks of the buttes and mesas; it was so pretty we braved the cold outside to stand and watch it.
We paid a little extra to get a good view of the night sky as well so Dayna could try taking some photos of the stars. I would say it wasn’t just for the photos and it was actually so we could have a romantic night star gazing but it was far too cold for that outside!
We were out by the border of Arizona and Utah and there is not a lot of civilization built up nearby so the stars shone nice and bright.
It is very rare that a view is so good that we make it awake for dawn (especially when it is negative 10 degrees celsius outside) but this was one of those times.
More information on Monument Valley
How long is the drive from Sedona to Monument Valley?
207 miles or about 4 hours drive (straight and easy although can have a bit of snow and ice in winter).
Where to stay in Monument Valley?
The View Hotel isn’t listed on there though so you need to go directly to their site. Overall, the View Hotel is a bit pricey (most rooms are over $200 a night) given the rooms are just OK and the food average but the views are awesome.
Where do you take that classic Forrest Gump photo?
It is a point about 13 miles north of the Arizona/Utah state line. It is helpfully marked on Google maps but you can’t really miss it if you are driving back south to Monument Valley from Mexican Hat – the famous vista is a hard one to miss.
*Some of the links used above are affiliate links – there is no difference in cost to you but we do get a small commission if you book or buy through the link. As always, we only ever recommend and link to accommodation that we have stayed at and thought was good or things that we use ourselves.