Oljato Monument Valley
Written by Nadia
Oljato-Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It’s located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation and is accessible from US Highway 163.
The sandstone formations of Monument Valley are the result of millions of years of erosion. The process began around 50 million years ago when the region was a flat plain. Over time, layers of sandstone were deposited by wind and water. Around 25 million years ago, the area began to uplift due to tectonic forces. The resulting Colorado Plateau lifted the flat layers of sandstone, which then began to erode from wind and rain.
The erosion process selectively wore down the softer layers of rock, leaving the harder layers standing as isolated buttes, mesas, and spires. This process is still ongoing, meaning the landscape of Monument Valley continues to evolve even today.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Monument Valley is during the spring (March-May) and fall (September-November). These seasons offer moderate temperatures and the least amount of rainfall, which can make dirt roads in the area impassable. Summer can also be a good time to visit, but be prepared for hot temperatures, especially in July and August. Winters can be cold with occasional snowfall, but the snow-capped buttes can make for a stunning landscape.
- Navajo Tribal Park: Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation tribal park system, which means that it is not a U.S. National Park. Access to many parts of the park requires a Navajo guide or a permit.
- Film History: Monument Valley’s iconic landscape has made it a popular location for filming. The park has been featured in over 50 Hollywood movies, including “The Searchers,” “Stagecoach,” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
- Wildlife: The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and a variety of birds. The valley’s flora is characterized by desert plants like yucca, juniper trees, and desert marigolds.
- The Mittens and Merrick Butte: These are some of the most famous and photographed features in the park. The East and West Mittens are so named because they resemble two gigantic mittens with their thumbs facing inwards. Merrick Butte is another prominent formation in the park.
- Navajo Culture: The valley holds significant cultural and historical importance to the Navajo people. Traditional dwellings, known as hogans, can still be seen in the park, and local Navajo guides can provide a wealth of information about Navajo history, culture, and folklore.
- Admission fee is $20 per vehicle
- The park is open from 6 AM to 8 PM daily.
- There are no lodging or dining facilities in the area, but there are several hotels and restaurants located in the nearby towns of Kayenta and Monument Valley.
- The park is just perfect for hiking, camping, and photography.