When Is the Best Time
Monument Valley is not a National Park. It’s a Navajo Tribal Park with a stunning desert-like landscape in Arizona and an excellent year-round destination.
The best time to visit Monument Valley is in early spring (late March/April) and late autumn (end of September/October). Both times have pleasant weather and fewer crowds. There is also less traffic on the scenic drive.
Cooler but very quiet months are the winter months from November until March. Read on for more season details (spring -summer – fall – winter), the best ‘WHEN TO GO’ tips, and our detailed hotel and camping guide.
Weather and Visitation
Despite the possibility for extreme weather conditions with some very hot days in the summer and a few colder times in the winter, most days of the year are quite suitable for an enjoyable visit. Due to the higher elevation of 5200 feet it’s a little cooler in general. The Wind is a major force in the valley. Even in the warmer months of spring and fall, bring an extra layer of cloth as it can get chilly in the mornings or late evenings. Light rain gear is also a good idea.
April – May (Spring)
The average maximum daytime temperature in April is a pleasant 19°C (66°F). In May it gets warmer with an average maximum of 25°C (77°F). That means both months are perfect for a visit. Most April visitors report, that it’s still quiet most of the time. In May it gets busier but still not heavily crowded. Keep in mind that particularly from April into June it’s often more windy than usual and it can become horrible dusty due to heavy winds.
June – July – August (Summer)
Clear, warm, sunny days and cool nights make this a delightful season to visit. July and August bring the warmest conditions, with temperatures in the 90s (over 33 °C) but rarely exceed 100 °F. The Visitor Center, as well as the scenic drive, become very busy during these summer months. Always check the weather forecast for occasional summer thunderstorms, especially from July to mid-September.
September – October (Autumn)
Still warm in September and pleasant temperatures in October. Autumn provides some of the most stable weather of the year. Keep in mind that in September even after labor day the scenic drive and the Visitor Center are often still busy. In October the crowds get smaller and there is less traffic on the road.
November – March (Winter / Early Spring)
Mild cold weather conditions start around mid-November. Snow conditions start later around mid-December and can last until February/early-March. Even in the winter, temperatures below 0 °F (−18 °C) are rare. But still, a warm coat is highly recommended. The valley only receives an occasional light snowfall and sometimes snowstorms in the winter. However, the snow melts usually within a day or two. Most visitors report that it’s no problem to drive with almost any kind of car in the colder months. Winter is the perfect time for solitude without the crowds and low prices. Lucky visitors can see the valley and rock formations dusted in snow. Later in early spring, March is a great month without the holiday crowds and temperatures get more pleasant as they can rise up to 60°F (15°C), nights and mornings are still cool and chilly though.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds (Visitor Center / View Hotel / Scenic Drive)
Crowds in Monument Valley mean a busy road while driving the scenic loop, many tourists at the Visitor Center, and a fully booked View Hotel. The busiest months are from May to September with a peak in the summer months: late June, July, and August. (The ‘official peak-season’ with different opening times is from April through September). If you plan to stay at ‘The View Hotel’ in high season, book well in advance. Also, keep in mind that the hotel rates are at their highest.
Sometimes there are even busy days/weekends on the road in April or October. However, most visitors experience a rather quiet drive in early spring or late autumn and real solitude in the winter. During busier months the traffic starts to pick up around 10 AM. That means you can’t just pull over and take pictures at will because of the traffic and dust. In peak season the major viewpoints are crowded resulting in big traffic jams.
Avoid those busy times by starting early in the morning with less traffic and less dust. Even in early spring and late fall, you’ll benefit by heading out at breakfast time. Avoid weekends and try to go on a weekday. Another option is to visit in the cooler months or even in the winter: It’s colder, but especially in December, January and February you’ll experience peace and solace. November (up to 12°C / 54°F), as well as March (up to 14°C / 57°F), bring more pleasant temperatures but it’s still much quieter than during busier months.
Another possible alternative to get away from the crowds during high season: Either take the self-guided hike on the Wildcat-Trail (see below) in the morning or purchase one of the Navajo tours for smaller groups. Some visitors book a tour for their family group only. Further reading on seasons and crowds: Some interesting and useful ‘when to go’ statements on TripAdvisor Peak vs Off-Season
Best Time of Day (Sunrise/Sunset)
Sunrise is not only the best time of day to dodge the crowds and avoid a busy road at Monument Valley, it’s also a magical moment. To experience a stunning sunrise in the winter or late fall, stay at The View Hotel as you can’t get into the park before 8 AM in off-season from the outside. In peak season they open at 6 AM. However, most visitors say, that watching the sunrise from the View Hotel is priceless regardless of the season. If you can, stay until sunset as well. It’s spectacular and unforgettable! Quote from our user Ray Downs: “Sunrise is great everywhere and sunset is best from the parking lot of the view hotel parking lot…that is where the banner photo was taken.” Check sunrise and sunset in advance here: Sunrise – Sunset Times Monument Valley
The Best Hotels
You have to stay at least one night for an unforgettable experience. Why? Read our tips about sunset und sunris as well as the tips on how to avoid the crowds above! We listed the best places to stay in the main text below (scroll down). However, when we went there we always stayed at Goulding’s Lodge and had a great time. Always! It’s rated as the best value in Monument Valley. Also read the reviews on TripAdvisor (don’t just look at the star rating!): Goulding’s Lodge & Campground – TripAdvisor. Book well in advance if you’d like to save money. It’s in high demand in peak season. Don’t make the mistake and wait too long: Goulding’s Lodge – Reviews and Reservation. For more hotel deals near Monument Valley, check the list below. Tip: Press ‘See all deals’ and bookmark the results in case you’re not booking right now.
‘Breathtaking! And when you see it in life it’s just epic in its proportions!’
Monument Valley is one of the truly iconic places in North America. The unique sandstone formations are recognizable the world over. The valley has been the backdrop for popular western movies with John Wayne as well as the location for films like Back to the Future 3 or Forrest Gump.
Is it a National Park? No, Monument Valley is located in a Navajo Tribal Park and you can’t use your National Park Pass as they are not valid here. A tribal park is a Navajo Nation equivalent to a national park.
Where is it? It’s a park with over 90000 acres and located on the border of Arizona and Utah, near the Four Corners area. Another fascinating nearby destination is Antelope Canyon. Which is only a 2-hour drive from there. Check our ‘WHEN to be WHERE’ place details: Antelope Canyon and the Google Maps Driving Directions
For the most stunning photographs of Monument Valley, take a look at Navajo Nation Natural Wonder. First we thought it’s a book with just great photos of Monument Valley. Then we opened it ….
If you plan a lot of driving around the area, then take a look at this extremely useful guide. It’s not a bestseller but we highly recommend this little gem:
First, you’ll arrive at the Visitor Center, which already offers stunning views of the valley. From the parking lot you’ll see the West and East mittens. Quite a few visitors report, that the sight of these awe-inspiring monoliths brought tears to their eyes right after they arrived. The center contains a crafts shop and exhibits devoted to ancient and modern Native American history. Many guided tours as well as the self-guided scenic drive or hike starts here. Right next to the center is the View Hotel.
Hike, Drive and Tours
Although only two self-guided activities are allowed (Wildcat Trail + Scenic Drive), both offer a stunning experience. That’s why quite a few visitors skip the guided Navajo tours. However, others say that the most beautiful parts can only be accessed via a Navajo tour. Quote from photographer Ray Downs: “If you really want good photos arrange a photo tour, the Navajo tour guide will take you on private property to photograph and will show you things others will miss.”
Wildcat Trail (self-guided): If you don’t like to spend money on a guided tour, this hike is highly recommended. It’s the only self guided hike. You’ll discover the most scenic areas of Monument Valley! No permit or guide is required. It’s a 3.2 mile loop hike with moderate difficulty around the West Mitten Butte at approximately 5200 feet, starting at the Visitor Center / The View Hotel. The Visit Utah website has a great detailed description: Wildcat Trail of Monument Valley
Scenic Drive (self-guided): This is the popular 17 mile loop that showcases a majority of the park. The view from the visitor center is fantastic enough, but following the dirt road, with 11 signed stops, will allow you to see all that the park has to offer. Typical drive time for the loop is roughly 2-4 hours, as the speed limit for the entire loop is a mere 15 MPH. Most of the road is too rocky or bumpy to go faster. Early morning hours are the best times to visit, as in summer months the road can be one big traffic jam. (thanks to Girl on a Hike for the review). There is a very detailed description of all main viewpoints along the Valley Drive on the American Southwest Monument Valley Drive website. They also have an excellent Map of the Scenic Drive
Tours (guided): The only way to see the beauty of the valley and its hundreds of sandstone formations apart from the 17-mile drive and the Wildcat Trail. You can book guided tours directly with a company or by calling the Valley Visitor Center. You may book on the same day. However, it’s better to make a reservation well in advance, especially in peak season. Tours start either at the Visitor Center or at Goulding’s Lodge. A helpful list of the best-rated Tours: Monument Valley Guided Tours. The different types of tours are jeep, hiking, horseback ride, and photography. An excellent tour with a great Navajo guide if you’d like to see Antelope Canyon together with Monument Valley: Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend & Monument Valley Tour
The Best Hotels
There are two close alternatives for accommodation. One directly in the park or very close to it: The View Hotel and Goulding’s Lodge. Other options are slightly further away.
The View Hotel (inside the park): This is the only hotel located within the park. It’s right beside the Visitor Center. Every room offers the same amazing view. The top floor rooms are more expensive but there is no advantage in terms of a ‘better view’. Hotel website: The View Hotel. Depending on the season rooms average from $100 to $ 300. Book well in advance if you plan a visit in peak season. (Youtube Video: The View Hotel) They also offer 29 cabins for those who want a little more in terms of privacy combined with luxury. Check the Monument Valley Cabin Website with direct booking options. Rates for a cabin start at $ 220 in low season.
Goulding’s Lodge (very close): This is not inside the park but the closest hotel available, as it’s only 5 ½ miles from the visitor center. Goulding’s features a lodge, campground, stores, restaurant, and a museum. It has nice views, although not the same killer view you get when staying at the View Hotel. In this lodge you’ll be surrounded by legends of a historic trading post. Book well in advance and view more photos here: Goulding’s Lodge. For driving directions: Map from Goulding’s Lodge > Monument Valley
Hotel Alternatives (17 – 35 miles): Other accommodation alternatives include the Hat Rock Inn (17 miles) or severals hotels in Kayenta (20 miles). Check this list: Hotels near Monument Valley. However, a truly unique and highly recommended alternative is the Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast . You drive 35 miles (40-45 minutes) on Highway 163, but it’s totally worth it. Read the reviews.
The main camping sites are The View Campground inside the park and Goulding’s Campground, which is close to their lodge. There is a close third alternative which is located between those two: Mustang Valley Campground. Some like it, some say it’s too primitive and just a big dust bowl. However, the view is amazing and the people who run it are very friendly. Read on for more details about the ‘bigger sites’:
The View Campground (inside the park): This campsite has 30 RV sites without hookups ($ 42) and 30 tent sites ($ 20). Free Wifi, very clean and tidy showers and bathroom facilities. Check these great photos from a German RV forum: MV Campground Low Season. However, expensive, tight spaces, no electricity and no water directly at the RV sites. It’s more like a tight parking space than a RV site. But still, everyone says the killer view is worth it. Even more at sunrise and sunset. A once in a lifetime experience. Tip: The tent sites and the RV sites 17 – 22 offer a stunning view. The closer you get to the office (RV sites 1 – 16) the better the Wifi but the view gets worse. Official website for reservation and booking: The View Campground
Goulding’s Campground (very close): Also great views but not as stunning as from the View Campground. The tent sites offer the best view and only some of the RV sites offer the same panorama. Compared to the View Campground the RV sites provide full hook-ups (electricity and water). The campground offers also more protection during sandstorms. Pros: clean campground, pool, friendly employees. Cons: Also very tight and expensive. Campground Details: Scanned Map. More photos from a German RV forum: Goulding’s Lodge Camping Forum. It’s a 11 minutes drive to the Monument Valley Visitor Center: Goulding’s Campground > Monument Valley. Official website for reservation and booking: Monument Valley Goulding’s Campground
How to Get There
Monument Valley is in a remote part of the country and there are no major nearby airports. Some regional airports exist, but they are usually more expensive, with longer flights or more stops than major airports. The nearest bigger airports are the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Phoenix) about 300 miles and the Albuquerque International Sunport (Albuquerque, New Mexico) about 330 miles. The best way to get there is probably flying in via Las Vegas: The McCarran International Airport is located approximately 375 miles west in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you have 10-11 days you could do the Grand Circle Tour, starting from Las Vegas, with many amazing National Parks including Monument Valley Tribal Park.
Monument Valley Maps
Excellent Scenic Drive Map
Road Map & Wildcat Trail
- Bring a sturdy tripod as it can get windy and dusty
- Polarizer: To control reflections, glare and colour saturation
- Wide Angle Lens
Useful Tips and Facts
- Self-guided cross country hiking, rock climbing or backcountry camping is not allowed
- Bring plenty of water in the summer
- Bring a hat, sunscreen in the summer and layers of cloths in the winter
- Navajo Nation observes Mountain Daylight Savings Time Apr-Oct = 1 hour ahead of other Arizona locations
- No alcohol allowed within Navajo reservation
- Permission is required to photograph Navajo residents
- Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Visitor Center Hours
Peak Season (April 1 – Sept 30): 6:00am – 8:00pm, 7 Days a week
Off Season (Oct 1 – Mar 30): 8:00am – 5:00pm, 7 Days a week
Thanksgiving Day: 8:00am – noon
New Years Day: closed
Christmas Day: closed
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Scenic Drive Hours
(park will close due to inclement weather)
Peak Season (Apr 1-Sept 30): 6:00am – 7:00pm
Off Season (Oct – Mar 30) 8:00am – 4:30pm
**Scenic Valley Drive CLOSED at 7:00pm**
General Admission: $10.00 per person
Ages 6 or younger: Free
Per vehicle fee: $20.00, up to four people
Official Website Navajo Parks & Recreation
Ray Downs Monument Valley Photos
Video (below the photos) by Christopher Swainhart
Place created by Ray Downs. Article extended and written by WHEN to TRAVEL