One of the biggest detours we took on our road trip across the American West was to Monument Valley. I had made a list of everywhere I could think of going. This one was the most remote and inconvenient. But I figured that when else could I take the opportunity to go see it for myself? I certainly wasn’t going to fly into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and drive all day.
But if I was already driving 2,300 miles from Seattle to Austin, then adding a 200-mile detour through the Navajo Nation didn’t seem so bad. To give you some sense of how far in the middle of nowhere this place is, we stopped at Arches National Park along the way. Moab was probably the biggest development between Monument Valley and Salt Lake City.
The one problem is that Monument Valley is about seven hours from anywhere else. You will not be able to make it a day trip and should plan ahead for overnight accommodation. There are a couple of options we explored. First, the town of Mexican Hat, UT, has a couple of motels that don’t look half bad. But you will not be in the valley to watch sunrise or sunset. Second, Goulding’s Lodge is the “famous” place to stay. It is within sight of Monument Valley but not necessarily close.
We chose to stay at The View Hotel, which is located inside the tribal park itself and located on the edge of a cliff facing the valley. You are as close as you could possibly be. The hotel shares its facilities with a visitors center, gift shop, and restaurant. In my opinion, there’s no better place to stay.
You’ll need to pay a park admission fee to enter the tribal park whether you are a visitor or staying as a guest. However, we arrived after 5 PM when the admission booth was closed and managed to avoid it.
There are a variety of room types at The View. Most have either two beds or there are a very small number of suites with a king bed and a sofa, so book well in advance if you are picky. You have the choice of booking on the first, second, or third floor or in one of the cabins separate from the main hotel property. I don’t think it matters much which floor you’re on; we were on the first and thought it was fine. But I recommend against the cabins. The view from the hotel is better, and the amenities are better. We paid about $200 plus tax for our one-night stay.
The room itself is comfortable, with a good bed and some newer furniture. There is decorative art on the walls (you can buy something similar in the gift shop), and the WiFi was surprisingly good. Just head to the lobby if you need a stronger signal.
I’m not sure why they offer a television since the main appeal is to visit the valley or at least admire it from your balcony. I did the latter with a nice bottle of chardonnay and some Juanita’s tortilla chips. (I have since eaten my last bag that I brought from Seattle and am very sad.)
Back inside, the bathroom was consistent with the hotel room: nothing luxurious but certainly more than adequate. I had no idea what to expect from my first visit to an Indian reservation, yet this was better than your average Holiday Inn. Still, it was notable that the hotel made several obvious efforts toward water conservation and environmentally friendly toiletries and paper products.
The restaurant was also a pleasant surprise given I didn’t know what to expect and there are very few options offsite. I did know from reading in advance that there would be no alcohol for sale; fortunately I’d already had my own tipple. I recommend you order the green chili stew and red chili posole, which are their specialties, but I think anything off the menu would be good. Breakfast in the morning was your typical hotel buffet with eggs, toast, cereal, and yogurt among other things.
I also recommend visiting the gift shop, and I almost never say that. The only reason we didn’t buy any pottery is we were concerned about breaking it during the second half of our trip.
The real beauty of Monument Valley is in the early morning when the sun rises behind the buttes. Sunset can also be pretty if you are on the other side, approaching the valley from the north. To really experience all that Monument Valley has to offer I think you would have to spend a couple of days and include time to venture into the park. There are a variety of tours that can be arranged through the hotel.
Unfortunately this trip only allowed us time for one night. We managed to arrive before sunset and watch the view from our balcony. We were so tired after a long day traveling across Utah that I was not inclined to rise early. Still, I set our alarm for a few minutes before sunrise. It was definitely worth it, and it was a smart choice to stay at The View Hotel where all we had to do was walk out to our private balcony. There’s even a Keurig machine to make your own coffee!