Monument Valley


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Monument Valley is located on the southern border of Utah with northern Arizona (around 36°59′N, 110°6′W). The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation, and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163. The Navajo name for the valley is Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii (Valley of the Rocks). It is remarkable for its twin buttes, called "the Mittens".



The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The floor is largely Cutler Red siltstone or its sand deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley's vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide.

The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is Organ Rock shale, the middle de Chelly sandstone and the top layer is Moenkopi shale capped by Shinarump siltstone. The valley includes large stone structures including the famed Eye of the Sun.

Between 1948 and 1967, the southern extent of the Monument Upwarp was mined for uranium, which occurs in scattered areas of the Shinarump siltstone; vanadium and copper are associated with uranium in some of these deposits.

Iconic imagery

Monument Valley Panorama

The Valley in media

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This section is about Mittens.

The twin buttes of the Valley ("the Mittens"), the "Totem Pole" (although the Navajo did not actually build totem poles), and the Ear of the Wind arch, among other features, have developed iconic status. They have appeared in many television programs, commercials, and Hollywood movies, especially Westerns.


Director John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, has had an enduring influence in making the Valley famous. After that first experience, Ford returned nine times to shoot Westerns — even when the films were not set in Arizona or Utah (see The Searchers, set in Texas, but filmed here). A popular lookout point is named in his honor as "John Ford Point." It was used by Ford in a scene from The Searchers where an American Indian village is attacked.

John Ford's Point in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.






While state highways traverse the valley, the most scenic locations are within Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a national park. Monument Valley is part of the Grand Circle, which includes the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef, Natural Bridges, Hovenweep, Arches National Park, and many other attractions.

There are various hotels and motels within about 5-30 miles of Monument Valley, but rooms are often hard to find during the peak tourist season (between May and October). Also available are various Bed and Breakfast establishments, some of which allow guests to sleep in traditionally built Navajo hogans. There are also camping facilities available.

Guided tours of the park and Mystery Valley (a part of Monument Valley where visitors cannot go without a guide) are available. The fee for tours varies between about $40 and $100 per person depending on the services provided and route. Horseback rides are also available from various establishments both inside the park and in the general area, and rates vary widely depending on the length of the ride. Rides may be only an hour, or overnight camping trips. .

Visitors can also pay an access fee and drive through the park on a 17-mile dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip). A visitor center, and small convenience/souvenir shop stands on the rim of the valley, and includes a restaurant. Since Monument Valley is on tribal land, it is not part of the U.S. National park system, so it is not marked on many road maps as prominently as are National Parks, and on some maps it is not marked at all.

External links

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