Tour Monument Valley: Photo Essay of Sandstone Buttes and Mesas

The North Window in Monument Valley

Nothing like popping into the Wild West with Indians chasing you while you are driving a Delorian. Oh, wait, I’m not in the Back to the Future 3 movie, I’m in Monument Valley. You can tour Monument Valley through my photo essay or in-person (the park is currently closed) and see beautiful red sandstone buttes, mesas, and interesting rock formations on the border of Arizona and Utah.East Mitten, West Mitten, Merrick Butte - Tour Monument Valley

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park InformationMonument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Sign

Monument Valley is not a National Park because the valley is entirely within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation. There is an access fee to drive through the park, which is $20 per vehicle up to 4 people ($6 each additional passenger). Parts of Monument Valley, such as Mystery Valley and Hunts Mesa, are accessible only by a guided tour. If you plan on hiking, you must also purchase a Backcountry Permit in addition to the access fee. The Park open hours are daily from April to September 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from October to March 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Make sure to plan for at least 2-3 hours for your 17-mile exploration of Monument Valley. Make sure to check the website before you go for the latest information.Sandstone rock formations in Monument Valley

Tour Monument ValleyView of Monument Valley from Goulding's LodgeHeather and Kayla in Monument Valley

Kayla and I were on a tour of the Southwest with Disney Adventures when one of our stops was touring Monument Valley for the afternoon. We had so much fun on that hot, sunny day. I took so many photos that I had to use multiple memory cards. Kayla looking out into Monument ValleyBeautiful dead tree in Monument ValleyGoulding's Lodge Bus - Tour Monument ValleyThe Goulding's Tour bus heading into Monument Valley

Goulding’s Lodge & Trading PostGoulding's Lodge at Monument Valley

Goulding’s is the operator we went with for our tour of Monument Valley. We were able to spend a little time on their property, enjoying the scenery of Monument Valley in the distance. And we were able to enjoy a quick look thru the Goulding’s Trading Post Museum. This museum showcases artifacts from the old wild west. You can even see movie memorabilia from ones that have been filmed in Monument Valley. Admission for the museum is $5. To schedule your tour of Monument Valley and for prices, check for the latest information on their website.Goulding's Museum EntranceKayla walking through western swinging doors in Goulding's MuseumBack to the Future film photos and posters in Goulding's MuseumKayla and Liesl at Goulding's LodgeGoulding's Trading PostWagon Wheel at Goulding's Trading Post

Buttes and MesasLong Rock Mesa in Monument ValleyLong rock Mesa in Monument Valley

Monument Valley has over 29 rock formations for you to photograph, and you would be one of the many that have as it is one of the most photographed places on earth. When I went on my tour, it was in the middle of the day. I do want to go back and see the valley at sunrise and sunset to see the colorful formations at their finest. Monument Valley’s vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, bluish-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide.Layers of sandstone in Monument Valley

A mesa is an isolated, flat-topped hill or mountain with steep sides that is smaller in area than a plateau. A butte is also a flat-topped hill with steep sides, though smaller in size than a mesa. How were the buttes formed? Well…Tectonic forces raised the slab above the water line and created a plateau. Water and wind chipped away at the sedimentary rock and removed the softer materials. This led to the towering rock formations you see today. The buttes can be as high as 1,000-ft above the valley floor.Sandstone Butte in Monument Valley

Mitchell ButteMitchell Butte

Merrick ButteMerrick Butte

The MittensThe Mittens in Monument Valley

West MittenEast Mitten

Camel ButteThumb on Camel Butte

Gray WhiskersGray Whiskers

The King on His ThroneThe King on His Throne

Three SistersThree Sisters in Monument Valley

Elephant ButteElephant Butte in Monument Valley

Stagecoach, Bear, and RabbitStagecoach, Bear and Rabbit, Castle Butte

FossilsFossils on a Butte wall in Monument ValleyFossil on the side of a Butte in Monument ValleyClose-up of a fossil in Monument Valley

John Ford’s PointMan riding a horse in Monument Valley

John Ford’s Point is a slab at the edge of a plateau that John Ford used in several western films from 1939 to 1960. You can see several prominent sandstone buttes from this spot in Monument Valley. On our tour, a Navajo Indian rode a horse out to the point for us to sit on it for a photo opportunity. Kayla on a horse in Monument ValleyMonument Valley Landscape

North WindowNorth Window View of Monument Valley

The North Window is a spot in Monument Valley that will give you the best views of the Mittens and several other buttes in the valley. This is a must-stop for photographers. And it is the perfect place to watch the sunrise over the horizon.

Other Rock Formations in Monument ValleyButte in Monument ValleyPartial landscape view of Monument ValleyLarge butte rock formations in Monument ValleyLayers of Sandstone forming Buttes in Monument Valley

SummaryMonument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Monument Valley is impressive to photograph with all of its colors changing layer by layer. If you get a chance to tour Monument Valley, you definitely should. Until then, I hope you enjoyed these photos.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Arizona for a visit, check out these posts for other travel inspiration:

16 Comments

  • The Big USA Bucket List: 75 Things to Do in the USA! - Eternal Arrival 21October2020 at 8:51 AM Reply

    […] in smooth waters and you can marvel at the buttes and the stunning red rock canyons that rival Monument Valley as you float by […]

  • Aradhana 9September2020 at 1:03 PM Reply

    The rock mountains in Mountain Valley look stunning! Interesting to know how their varied Colors came about; reds and greys. Would be lovely to visit during sunrise/sunset..

  • Jim Whittemore 8September2020 at 9:46 AM Reply

    Great read! I never in a million years expected to love Arizona and Utah the way I did. Just seeing this kind of landscape in person was incredible.

    • Heather 8September2020 at 11:53 AM Reply

      Totally agree with you, Jim! The landscape there definitely surprised me.

  • Kelly Francois 7September2020 at 10:48 AM Reply

    I loved your Monument Valley photo essay. It is one of the parks on my list. Hopefully next year the US /Canadian border will open and all the parks so I can start checking off items from my bucketlist.

    • Heather 7September2020 at 11:45 AM Reply

      I hope so, too. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kelly!

  • Freya 6September2020 at 9:25 PM Reply

    Your post brings back fond memories of a US road trip I took 10 years ago. Getting up early to see the sunrise over Monument Valley was incredible. Beautiful place!

    • Heather 6September2020 at 9:43 PM Reply

      I’m so glad that it did. I still have to see it at sunrise, maybe next year.

  • Catherine 6September2020 at 8:18 PM Reply

    Your photos are stunning! Monument Valley has long been on my bucket list and I’ve been dying to take my girls there. Hoping to plan a trip for next year.

    • Heather 6September2020 at 8:46 PM Reply

      Hi Catherine! I hope you and your girls do make it there next year. Try to make it for either sunrise or sunset for the best times to get photos.

  • Arnav Mathur 6September2020 at 4:06 PM Reply

    This is a rather unique getaway. Never before have i seen such structures of rocks, like in Monument Valley that you’ve shown here. Looks like you guys had quite an amazing time. But it looks like it was quite sunny! Was exploring such a place that too when the Sun was on the head, comfortable?

    • Heather 6September2020 at 6:46 PM Reply

      It was on the 4th of July week. Very, very hot! I would like to go back either in the Spring or Fall next time.

  • Sandy N Vyjay 6September2020 at 12:51 AM Reply

    The Monument Valley looks so out of the world. The Buttes and Mesas look intriguing as if they are the remains of a lost world. Somehow the place reminds me of epics of the wild west. The experience too sounds really epics and your pictures bring alive the wild beauty of the place.

    • Heather 6September2020 at 12:08 PM Reply

      Sandy, I’m not surprised it reminds you of the wild west as many westerns were filmed there.

  • Krista 4September2020 at 4:40 PM Reply

    Wow this looks like such an incredible place to visit! I’ve never hiked in a landscape like this before but it’s definitely on my list. I love the photos you’ve taken, it really captures the area well.

    • Heather 4September2020 at 5:02 PM Reply

      Thank you, Krista! It is definitely worth a visit.

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