2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2014 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL14 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLETscenic drives archive
Scenic Drives Photo
The hand-shaped West Mitten glows warmly in evening light.

© Suzanne Mathia


>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Editor's Note click to expand
The Back Roads BookFor more scenic drives, pick up a copy of our book, The Back Roads. Now in its fifth edition, the book ($19.95) features 40 of the state's most
scenic drives.

To order a copy, call 800-543-5432 or click here.

Monument Valley Drive
Monument Valley has been the subject of millions of photographs and paintings, as well as several Hollywood Westerns. A cruise along this scenic route makes it easy to see why.

By Kathy Ritchie

There's a reason John Wayne once described Monument Valley as "the place where God put the West." The landscape unfolds and extends until it touches the horizon, then massive monoliths erupt from the red clay. There's nothing like it — sky and Earth come together to create this sacred place — and there's no better way to see it than along Valley Drive.

The route doesn't really begin until after you enter Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, off U.S. Route 163. Once you're in the park, continue until you reach the parking lot of The View Hotel and veer left. Valley Drive kicks off where the pavement turns to dirt.
If you're not already in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you'll wish you were as you descend a very steep and bumpy hill. That said, postpone the drive if inclement weather is a possibility. The road bottoms out before you climb another hill, where you'll enjoy a nice payoff. Right before mile 1, pull over and take in the panoramic view of East and West Mitten buttes and Merrick Butte.

As you roll along, you'll notice (perhaps suddenly) that you're right at the base of Merrick Butte. It's both stunning and humbling to be so close to the massive land formation. After passing Elephant Butte (look hard and you might see its trunk), the road ascends, curving around more of Mother Nature's handiwork. On your right will be the famous Three Sisters — three pillars that resemble a nun facing her students. At mile 3.4, the road comes to a signed intersection. Turn right and continue on to John Ford Point — a worthwhile and historic stop. Should you decide to continue on Valley Drive, the road turns to washboard and gets bumpy.

There are several restricted areas around Monument Valley that are only accessible to authorized guides and residents. The area is home to several Navajo families, and trespassers are not always well received, so respect posted signs. As the road curves, you'll be sandwiched between Rain God and Thunderbird mesas. One can only imagine the sheer awe the Navajo people felt when they first came to this place.

At this point, the road goes from mostly navigable to rough again, and an impressive view of Totem Pole awaits on your right. A signed detour offers even more dramatic views of this lone sentinel. After passing through a craggy forest of piñon pines around mile 6.9, you'll come to another junction. Turn right to explore Artist's Point, a less-traveled overlook that offers even more painterly views. Stay the course and you'll end up at The Thumb, one of the last stops along Valley Drive. There, you can get out of your car and marvel before returning to the John Ford Point intersection, where you'll turn right to return to the hotel.

Tour Guideclick to expand

Map of AreaNote: Mileages are approximate.

Length: 11.6 miles round-trip (from the hotel)

Directions: From Flagstaff, drive north on U.S. Route 89 for approximately 62 miles to U.S. Route 160. Turn right onto U.S. 160 and continue for approximately 82 miles to U.S. Route 163. Turn left onto U.S. 163 and drive approximately 20 miles. Turn right onto Indian Route 42 and continue for approximately 4.5 miles to The View Hotel, from which the drive begins.

Travel Advisory: A $5 fee is required to enter Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

Warning: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don't travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return

Vehicle Requirements: A high-clearance vehicle is recommended, but a sedan, in good weather, can be used.

Information: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, 435-727-5870 or www.navajonationparks.org

Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.

>> Back to Scenic Drives Archive


Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

 

Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

Travel GuidesThere's so much to see and do in Arizona. Let our online travel guide be your one-stop resource for planning your next Arizona adventure... [more]

site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.