(Editor’s Note – This original post from February 2010 has been updated to reflect current Grand Canyon vacation details.)
This restricted Utah backcountry is highly protected in order to preserve its many natural buttes, arches, and mesas. In fact, the area is only accessible to authorized Navajo guides; private vehicles are prohibited. All visitors must enter via a Navajo tour guide.
Despite its restricted access, for those vacationing in Utah and visiting the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley National Park is another “can’t miss” attraction and included in Caravan’s Grand Canyon tour.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park History
The official name of Monument Valley is Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Park.
As one of the most photographed points on the planet, this desert area has been featured in numerous early western films. Many come to Monument Valley, Utah to experience the “Good Old West” by jeep.
Some say that Monument Valley offers some of “the most enduring and definitive images of the American West,” with it reds mesas and buttes (isolated flat top hills with steep sides). What may come as a surprise to many vacationers is the vast, wide-open sandy desert that feels like it’s straight from a movie or commercial. With a somewhat familiar touch the area feels like you know it well, even on your first trip. That’s not to say the valley is not spectacular.
This open desert region of Utah is highlighted by many sandstone formations, plus the unique Navajo Indian population and the famous Four Corners Monument.
As mentioned, the area is only accessible via certified Navajo tour guides. There are many jeep tours guided by registered Navajo tour operators that will take visitors down into the valley and up close to the many of the popular mythical formations. These areas are simply not accessible for visitors wanting to explore on foot.
Monument Valley Attractions and Landmarks
Monument Valley was once a vast lowland basin. Over many millennia, the landscape was eroded exposing layer after layer of sediment. With pressure from below the surface these formations gently uplifted to create the now famous Monument Valley attractions, the red buttes and mesas.
Monument Valley Buttes
The extremely steep sides and flat tops of the buttes are quite a sight to behold as they jut out from the flat surrounding desert landscape. Monument Valley features some of the world’s largest and most famous buttes including:
East and West Mitten Buttes – These buttes look like a set of hands. For Navajo peoples it symbolizes spiritual beings keeping watch over the valley.
Elephant Butte – A butte in the southwest point of the desert named for its elephant like appearance.
Camel Butte – A west facing butte named for the famous spitting, middle-eastern animal.
Monument Valley Mesas
In addition to the buttes, Monument Valley is also filled with mesas, which are similar to a butte but much wider. The famous mesas in Monument Valley include:
Merrick and Mitchell Mesas – Mesas named after two explorers who thought they struck it rich when they stumbled upon silver in Monument Valley. However, according to history, Merrick and Mitchell were eventually killed by the Ute tribe who wanted to conceal the silver.
Rain God Mesa – This mesa marks what is traditionally believed to be the geographical center of the world. Navajo medicine men pray to the Rain Gods at this mesa, whose south side seeps out water from the base of the sandstone.
Spearhead Mesa – A mesa that bares resemblance to the spear of an arrow; attached to Spire Monument.
All Inclusive Grand Canyon Vacations Include Monument Valley
Monument Valley, and many of these other famous Utah landmarks, are included as part of Caravan’s all inclusive Grand Canyon Vacation Packages.
These 8-day, fully escort Grand Canyon vacations depart from Phoenix, AZ and end in Las Vegas, NV, between April and November of each year. Famous locations along the tour route include Sedona, Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.
Visit Caravan’s Grand Canyon Vacation Reviews page to read what other Caravan vacationers have to say about these all inclusive Grand Canyon tours.
Call Caravan Tours toll free at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) today to reserve your spot!