On my last wayfaring post centred on Los Angeles (refresh your memory here), I spoke about bucketlists and being able to finally mark off one or two. Well Monument Valley was another I managed to scrawl off gleefully during this sojourn.
There truly was not a single destination I had yearned for more than this one. Monument Valley has been a site I’ve continuously dreamt about for many years. One that was spawned through Pinterest itself, a love affair that managed to blossom obsessively, seeing me fervently pinning and oversharing ever since. It all began with a single image, one I shared when I first announced my departure on this blog. It was this picture that started said love affair. It was the airy, dream like quality, the cloud porn and magnificent sandstone structures. Mother Nature in all her glory.
This was something I needed to see with my own two eyes.
Monument Valley itself is characterised by infamous sandstone buttes. While some may not be familiar with this name, the landscape itself is undeniably nostalgic and whimsical. It’s synonymous with Western films and been a firm favourite of travellers. And it’s easy to see why with such a vast and grand view to behold.
The gloriously mysterious yet astounding works of nature, there to simply regard.
The drive to Monument Valley from Flagstaff, Arizona is just under three hour’s and boy is it a magnificent one. There’s never a dull moment out on the road. The plains are ever changing from dense grassland to barren lands, rocky formations enveloping roads to canyons in the distance. That famed Western Americana all too visible throughout. Be it in the form of ranch style homes with oversized trucks parked out front to wire fencing and makeshift artworks of American flags and notes about love and peace dotted throughout. At one stage a lone tumbleweed passed by as I stood to the side of the road to capture a small slice of iconic Americana.
The park itself has a number of activities on offer, from hikes to horseback riding. This time, we chose to peruse the trial via vehicle. We found the map given to us to use for direction was rather difficult to follow. We also found it troublesome trying to locate the entry to the trail itself. With little to no help available from staff or tourists, and with no obvious signage either we spent a good few moments circling the parking lot in frustration. Completely oblivious that entry point to our left all along. I suppose during the summer months one wouldn’t have as much difficulty as we did, considering there would be copious vehicles around, driving in and out, that you could simply follow along with.
But once we entered onto the trail all grievances and woes immediately subsided as the majesty of these buttes and their sheer grandness became apparent. Their mass alone is enough to take your breath away.
It truly is incredible and a most indescribable experience.
The provided map has points of interest noted so you easily know what you’re approaching or looking out for. There’s also signage on site to help abate any trail confusion too. I thoroughly enjoyed this trail, and while I was smitten with the buttes, one or two did make my heart flutter slightly more. The Elephant Butte, pictured above for starters, because who does not adore elephants? Also the Three Sisters (pictured below at the very end) also were rather captivating.
I’d highly recommend visiting during the winter months as we had. A soft dusting of snow makes the experience twice as nice and overall the feel even more majestic. And photography wise, it truly is such a joy. This area is truly photogenic and the addition of dappled snow throughout the grounds makes each image even more captivating and compelling. Plus the absence of intense desert heat and swarms of tourists mean you can actually peruse at your own leisure and not worry about photobombers either. You’re not fighting for parking space, nor weary of other vehicles on a somewhat unstable trail. You’re very much at ease and I think a place like this deserves such respect and attention.
Such a site truly demands your consideration.
We essentially had the trial all to our selves, only noting two vehicles along the way. I would suggest an SUV for this trial, if you do plan to visit during the winter months. The terrain is essentially “off-road” and naturally lumpy and arduous at times. Also with the presence of snow, there were numerous patches of mud that could be problematic. Being my first attempt at this kind of ground I have no idea how I actually managed to navigate through it successfully, albeit at a snails pace but successfully nonetheless. And for this I will eternally be grateful to that trusty little rental Jeep of ours. And while I may be a tad melodramatic about the trail because of my inexperience, the second vehicle we caught site of was actually small Honda. They seemed to effortlessly traipse through the trail. How they managed without getting stuck or overturned I have no idea, so perhaps it is possible with a humble sedan after all.
Sadly while this journey was incredibly fulfilling it was also filled with much sadness and heart wrenching moments. I found the numerous stray dogs roaming the highways in packs searching for tourists and hopeful someone will stop and give them food incredibly distressing. We first noted this at a McDonalds toilet break when a beautiful, golden Shiba Husky covered in mange approached us with trusting and kind eyes. At first we thought he was a young mans friend, as he stood faithfully by his side watching him devour a burger. But as we finished up inside it became evident that this wasn’t the case as we watched him wander the parking lot in search for more humans. We ended up purchasing a burger or two to feed him. The two of us distraught and battling tears as we forced ourselves to say goodby to this dashing being. I spent quite literally the next thirty minutes sobbing over this, finding it burdensome to comprehend. Especially after coming from California were animals were more than revered, they were treated with affection and respect.
Even as we made our way into the park, there was another lone pooch no doubt roving the empty parking lot. Though he’d made friend with a female human, who’d opened her entire picnic basket to him and welcoming him to consume and eat his fill. And it’s for this reason alone that I’m not so sure I could venture back here. Though I’d truly love to experience Monument Valley during the summer months on horse back, I just don’t think my heart could cope with seeing hoards of desperately hungry canines scavenging for food. Which no doubt would be the case, as the warmer months approach so would the tourists.
That said, I would love to return someday soon. I’d love to spend more many more hours here, perhaps even a sleepover of sorts. We arrived far too late in the day and with another three hours worth of travel to endue with the threat of possible snow still looming this was another experience rushed through carelessly. A return must be in order, so that I may properly immerse myself with nature and listen to that inner wisdom and guidance that only happens to perk up abroad during experiences such as these.