As we meander our way up north, we had an amazing short stop at Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation, Utah. I was awed well beyond my expectations. While the drive on US 160 from Flagstaff, Arizona, was winding and a little bumpy, it was so worth it. For years I have seen spectacular, otherworldly photos and postcards of Monument Valley and longed to go in person. For those of you who have been there, you know.
We stayed for three nights at Goulding’s RV park and although it was a bit tight between sites, the scenery more than made up for it. The park was immaculate, had full hook-ups, and was well thought out with laundry, showers, and a magnificent trail. This is the view from our campsite!
The hiking trail wove through the ridges and led to the main lodge and a grocery store. The lodge area had a gift store, restaurant, museum, a very small theatre, and the cabin that was in John Wayne’s movie “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” Only the outside of the cabin was filmed in the movie. The inside was still filled with potatoes and onions!
The museum had Navajo artifacts and photos of the movies filmed in Monument Valley. The admission fee was donation only and it went to the local high school. The theatre showed two very beautiful slide shows and John Wayne movies at night. I never knew so many movies were filmed in Monument Valley.
It was all a bit kitschy and old touristy, but entertaining.
As breathtaking as the scenery was, the highlight of it all was a tour by a Navajo guide to a traditional hogan and two-and-a-half-hour tour among the monuments. The tour, at $79 each, was a splurge, but it was so worth it. I knew that this stop was a once-in-a-lifetime one. Found out later that the three-and-a-half-hour tour would have taken us further into the backcountry to petroglyphs and ruins. No matter, it was still perfect.
We saw many hogans as we traveled through, some traditional with mud coverings and some modern. Traditional hogans are constructed with cedar logs, ranging in size from large at the bottom to smaller at the top. The hogans are nine-sided to represent the nine months needed to have a baby, representing life. Our guide explained the young girls’ coming-of-age ceremony and pointed out the use of the items on the rug. He explained that an authentic Navajo rug has a white line woven in at the top to let the spirits go out of the rug.
The drive through the monuments was spectacular. The road is open to all vehicles, but I was very glad we were in the tour truck. The road was filled with potholes, ridges and spine-rattling dips. Only a few cars actually attempted the road.
Gas stations and towns are few and far apart, so it is good to fill up when you can. The grocery store in Goulding had everything we needed and was reasonably priced, too.
If you go, allow enough time to savor the history and heritage of the Navaho peoples and the magnificent landscape.
All photos copyright Nanci Dixon 2023 unless otherwise stated.