Summer Travel 2015: Monument Valley

This is my "tent site" at Monument Valley. Imagine seeing that view constantly? Heaven on earth!

This is my “tent site” at Monument Valley. Imagine seeing that view constantly? Heaven on earth!

I finally did it, I have begun my summer travels for 2015. I had been wanting to begin earlier but I was traveling with my good friend Steve and he ran into some health problems and needed me to stay and help him through them. Friends come before travel plans so I stayed and did what I could for him. Of course he was grateful and thanked me repeatedly but every time I just reminded him that I knew if the roles were reversed he would do the same for me. Having friendship like that are worth whatever cost that comes with them. Oddly, I never had any friendships like that before I became a nomad. Once I became a hermit I started to make deep friendships. I firmly believe the same can be true for you.

Spring is the perfect time of the year to be here! Yucca in bloom.

Spring is the perfect time of the year to be here! Yucca in bloom.

More spring Blooms looking toward the south end of the Valley.

More spring Blooms looking toward the south end of the Valley.

Once Steve’s problem got resolved, I was free to head out. My Summer Travel officially began on April 27th 2015.

All my travels are open to anyone who cares to join me, but only rarely do people take me up on the offer, and then for just a brief time. Of course my girl friend Judy would normally be traveling with me, but this summer she is back East getting ready to welcome a new grand-baby into the world. In just the same way that friends come before travel plans, so does family, so this summer she is back with them.

My "tent" site looking to the north.

My “tent” site looking to the north. It’s Cody-approved, except he didn’t like having to be on leash for two days.  People ask me why there are so few photos of Cody, it’s because he’s always out running around free and wild!

These are the actual tent sites on the hill below us. We stayed in our vehicles of course.

These are the actual tent sites on the hill below us. We stayed in our vehicles of course. That’s still a pretty fantastic view to wake up to every day!

This year I’ve had the very good fortune of having a good friend of mine Suanne join me for a part of my trip. She is a part-time traveler and takes long trips in her Prius. I did a page about her on the website here:  http://www.cheaprvliving.com/other-conversions/living-prius. Normally she takes long, multi-month trips and travels constantly, fulfilling her itchy feet, but this year she is doing something different, she is being a snowbird and staying longer periods of time in just a few places. She joined us in our Prescott camp and endured a very heavy dose of that nasty Testosterone when there were four men in camp and just her as the lone female influence.  She has the patience of a saint to put up with that crew!

She is traveling with me through most of May when she has to get back “home”. To see her blog post about our stay in Monument Valley, go here: http://suanneonline.blogspot.com/2015/05/amazing-monument-valley.html

Suanne's Prius in her tent site.

Suanne’s Prius in her tent site. Not too shabby, eh!

One of the things you have to give serious consideration to when you make your travel plans is the weather. Some of my destinations are too cold to visit in May and some are potentially too hot so you can’t just run around willy-nilly going anywhere you want, you have to make your best guess as to the weather and go where it’s mildest. The first stop on my itinerary was Monument Valley which is located right on the Utah-Arizona border and because it is high desert I was concerned it would get too hot while we were there. The weather held out for us and it was in the low 80s the whole time and very pleasant. My van and her Prius got a bit warm but nothing we couldn’t easily handle.

The road leading into the rest of the Valley.

The road leading into the rest of the Valley.

I am always amazed at how many people don’t know about Monument Valley. When discussing my travel plans, numerous people asked “What’s that?” when I said I was going there. My guess is that’s because it’s not a National Park; if it were, everybody would know about it and be lining up to get in, it’s that impressive! The only reason it isn’t a National Park is it is on Navajo Nation land. It’s so unique, it’s very hard to describe. Overly simplified its beautiful red rock country filled with these giant monolithic structures that are just amazing and the sand all around them is a beautiful pink/salmon color. But it’s much more than the sum of its parts. The sky is a deep blue and very often there are these pure white puffy clouds. In the spring the desert vegetation is all a beautiful green and the fantastic combination of the red, pinks, greens, blue and whites all around these monoliths is just stunning.

These Paintbrush were blooming about 15 miles from Monument Valley.

These Paintbrush were blooming about 15 miles from Monument Valley.

So many people just pull in, snap a picture and then drive away and I feel sorry for them. This is a place that can deeply affect your soul but very few people slow down enough to really see it. You need to spend at least a full day there watching the sun rise and set to see how the light inter-plays with all the colors to turn it into something magical. At no time in the day does it ever look the same.  I had hoped to be there for a storm that passed through but we just missed it—sometimes the light during a storm can be magical in a place like Monument Valley.

This is the road heading into Monument Valley from the north.

This is the road heading into Monument Valley from the north. Even the “emptiness” of the desert can be magical.

Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Nations so they are in control of it; it isn’t owned or operated by the U.S. government in any way. When you enter it you pay an entrance fee to the Navajo Nation and need to obey their rules. The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle with up to four people in it and it’s good for 4 days. We wanted to spend at last one night there so we could photograph it but because it is all Navajo land there’s no free camping nearby, The nearest camping is up at Goosenecks State Park in Utah about 20 miles away and it is no longer free, it has a $10 a night fee to camp there now. Driving to and from the Valley every day would be both tedious and expensive so we decided to stay at a campground in the Monument.

A shot of the west side of the Valley.

A shot of the west side of the Valley.

We found out there were primitive tent sites available in a truly fantastic location right at the head of Monument Valley overlooking the most beautiful monuments (the Mittens) and it cost $20 a night. Fortunately, they agreed to only charge us for one site as a couple even though we had two cars so we split the cost and only paid $10 a night each That was cheap enough that we stayed two nights. The campground is very nice! It has a very clean and large bath house with showers. I By splitting the fee with Suanne, I only spent $10 a night and that’s what a shower would have cost me at a truck stop. I didn’t see hook-ups for the RVs but there were dumpsters and a spigot to get water.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much we both loved it! Every time you looked up here were these incredible giant red structures that were majestic beyond words. And the background of the blue skies, pink sand and puffy clouds were just knock-your-socks-off gorgeous! We commented many times to each other just how much we were enjoying being there and how it was some of the best money we had ever spent.

See the horse in the lower left? We were near the stable and they just roamed freely everywhere.

See the horse in the lower right? We were near the stable and they just roamed freely everywhere. I think they liked the view too!

There is one road that goes back as a 20 mile loop deeper into the Valley and you can drive it in your own car. Some years the road is pretty rough but this year it had been graded and even Suanne’s Prius made it through without any problem. If her Prius can make it, any car can make it! The drive is included with the $20 entrance fee. However, you are not allowed to leave the road and some of the most beautiful parts of the Valley are off-limits to you. There are organized Navajo guided “Jeep” tours running through it constantly and they can take you to more popular places not on the main road. Most of them you sit on a special structure on the back of a truck that’s open for a great view but has a cloth roof so you are in the shade. You can also take horseback rides into the Valley or hire an individual Navajo guide in his 4×4 vehicle who can literally take you anywhere in the Park you want to go.

I took this shot just after you leave the Monument and are headed north.

I took this shot just after you leave the Monument and are headed north.

For all your summer travels I highly recommend an atlas for each state you will travel in. The two best are Delorme and Benchmark. I have one of each for states I spend a lot of time in, but if I can only have one, it would be the Benchmark. Get them from Amazon here, and I’ll make a little money and it won’t cost you anything (even if you don’t buy an Atlas, but you buy something else, I’ll still make a little money if you use this link:
Benchmark Utah Road & Recreation Atlas
Delorme Utah Atlas & Gazetteer
A book I own and highly recommend when exploring the entire Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau is:
Color Country: Touring the Colorado Plateau

I could go on and on about how spectacular, stunning, magnificent and hypnotizing it is, but mere words simply can’t express it—they just aren’t adequate. Hopefully I’ve captured a tenth of it in these photos and you are inspired to make Monument Valley a destination of your own. You’ll be very glad you did!

When you drive down the road into the Valley, it ends at the View Hotel and then curls around to your left to go to the Road into the Valley. Instead of turning down the road, go straight into the campground.

When you drive down the road into the Valley, it ends at the View Hotel and then curls around to your left to go to the Road into the Valley. Instead of turning down the road, go straight into the campground.

The horse stable was nearby and their horses just wandered around freely anywhere they wanted to go!

The horse stable was nearby and their horses just wandered around freely anywhere they wanted to go!

Bob
About

I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

Posted in Adventure, Photography, Travel
63 comments on “Summer Travel 2015: Monument Valley
  1. Calvin R says:

    Monument Valley is obviously beautiful and has a practical advantage for people wintering at the LTVAs. It would be very easy to fit into any itinerary headed north or northeast. For example, Yuma to Prescott/Sedona/Cottonwood, then the Grand Canyon and on to Monument Valley, take a nice break in the Four Corners and on to Colorado. I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of beautiful American places.

  2. Openspaceman says:

    Bob_

    Very nice. I’m bookmarking this post for future reference. You sure are making it easy for me to plan my travels when I hit the road next year.

    *It looks like you photoshopped your van into an old western movie.

    Thanks again for your efforts.

  3. Douglas says:

    I do find the desert mesmerizing. People think that the desert is all dirt and dry, but when it does get water, it blossoms.

    I love it’s rough beauty, but respect the same roughness, for if you don’t give the desert its due, it has a tendency to kill people.

  4. John Dough says:

    Stunning photos.
    Monument Valley has long been on my short list of places to see.
    Must be breathtaking in person.

    • Bob Bob says:

      John, photos really do fail to capture the total beauty of the place. One of these days you’ll make it there!
      Bob

      • John Dough says:

        Thanks for the positive thoughts.
        I most definitely will be there.
        If not sooner, then later.

        • Bob Bob says:

          Looking forward to it John. I’m only here because of the weather. As soon as I think the mountains are safe from cold and snow, I’ll move on.
          Bob

  5. Joe S says:

    I love the entire 4 Corners Region, it’s beautiful. There is free camping about 35 miles away at the Valley of the Gods (it’s like a miniature version of Monument Valley) if you don’t mind making the drive.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Joe, when I do the math I would burn more in gas than I would save in camping fees. And you really do need to be there through the day to watch the light change.
      Bob

      • Joe S says:

        Oh I agree Bob, I was just posting that for others who might be interested in a free site around there.

        • Calvin R says:

          For the rest of us, that would be a good place to have a motorcycle with us.

          • Bob Bob says:

            Calvin, I never saw any motorcycles go down the road, but I assume they can. We had a couple on BMW adventure bikes camp near us but I didn’t watch to see if they went down the road or not.
            Bob

        • Bob Bob says:

          Thanks Joe, I really love Valley of Fire and Moki Dugway. That whole plateau above them is littered with very cool old Anasazi Ruins. I especially love House on Fire in Muley Canyon.
          Bob

  6. Ambrose says:

    Judy is your “girl fiend”? 😉

  7. Sherry in MT says:

    Definitely on my radar to visit at some point and your photos just make that desire greater. They are lovely and so glad you spent the time helping your friend (totally agree – people come first – wish more would realize that) and are now on the road again.
    Sherry in MT recently posted…In the GardenMy Profile

  8. Wow, great photos! Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted…God WillingMy Profile

  9. Ronnie Ryan says:

    I’m insulating my van and you said it got hot in you van and its 80 deg. in the desert. I was going with 3 inches of foam in roof, I better go more since you have that n your van or maybe it was your trailer had that much. Let me know your advice on this if you can. thanks, Ronnie

    • Bob Bob says:

      Ronnie, insulation is very often misunderstood so I suggest you read this post:
      http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/understanding-insulation-van/

      I have no insulation in the an, but have 2 1/2 inches in the trailer. Insulation is very important in the cold, but it can work against you in the heat. Unless you have AC in your van, eventually the heat will get in, the best you can hope for with insulation is to slow down how long it takes the heat to get into the van and to keep the inside the same temperature as the outside with passive measures like insulation and shade.

      But, once the heat is in, the insulation won’t let the heat out it holds it in so the van stays hot longer into the night. If it’s too hot you’ll have a hard time sleeping.

      I insulated my trailer because I sleep in it in the winter when its cold. i didn’t insulate the van because I sleep in it when its hot.

      If you only have one vehicle you are going to have to weigh summer against winter to see which is more important to you.
      Bob

  10. chris says:

    In my next life I want to be a member of that horse stable….or a Navajo! Very nice photography, Bob. So incredible a place it would be hard to leave. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Omar Storm says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for all the great information and inspiring pictures. Do you have any idea where you’ll be around the third week of June? I’ll have my truck up and running by then, so I should be somewhere between Washington State and Yellowstone NP.

    Omar

  12. tommy helms says:

    Monument Valley was where Forrest Gump ended his three year jog across the US.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Tommy, lots of movies made in the Valley, mostly westerns but many others too. I’m in Moab right now and lots of movies made here too. Probably the most famous is Thelma and Louis point.
      Bob

  13. JimS says:

    You’re probably already aware of this, but you’ve entered an area called the Grand Circle http://grandcircle.org/ .
    A region surrounding the four corners which includes a large concentration of parks and scenic drives.

    One such drive just north of Goosenecks State Park (in Utah) is called the Moki Dugway. Safe for vans, cars, and small class C’s. Provides a great view of SE Utah.

    Don’t know where your travel plans take you, but it’s been a cold, wet spring here in Colorado.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi Jim, I am very aware of the Grand circle, taken some or all of it multiple times–one of my favorite places anywhere!

      I’ve done the Moki both directions and love it as well. Right now my tentative plans are for Colorado net, but it remains to be seen how the weather holds up.
      Bob

  14. tommy helms says:

    So how come Cody was on a leash? Navajo rules?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Tommy, it’s a campground, they almost always require a dog to be on leash. That’s one reason I never go to them. Remember, we should have been down in a tent site, but we were in the parking lot instead. There was a lot of traffic and activity and he would have been a problem.
      Bob

  15. I’ve been looking for info on Monument Vally camping and I found two places. I don’t know which was the one you stayed at, Bob. Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation lists Goulding’s Lodge & Campground. And there’s the Mitten View Campground that’s part of the View Hotel complex. Was it one of those, or something else?
    Al Christensen recently posted…Dry is goodMy Profile

    • dasa says:

      I’d like to know as well. I visited Monument Valley two years ago and stayed at the View Hotel as well as a Hogan Bed and Breakfast. The Navajo don’t allow you to wander around the rock formations (there is only one hiking trail, a loop around the hotel) I believe it’s because they consider the entire area to be sacred. I didn’t know tent camping was allowed, it’s not promoted by the Navajo that I spoke with. They will tell you all about the $200 Jeep tours though! Beautiful area, an added benefit is watching the huge groups of Japanese tourists with their face masks (fear of dust?). Fun times.

      • Bob Bob says:

        Hi Dasa, I answered Al and added a map to the post so you can see where the campground is. It’s fairly new so my guess is it simply wasn’t there when you were there. It’s really obvious, you can’t miss it now.
        Bob

    • Bob Bob says:

      Al, it is part of the View hotel. Here is the website for it:
      http://monumentvalleyview.com/campground/

      When you drive down the road into the Valley, it ends at the View Hotel and then curls around to your left to go to the Road into the Valley. Instead of turning down the road go straight into the campground.

      I’ll add a satellite photo so you can see it better. It’s at the bottom of the post. I also added that they’re is a very nice bathhouse with free, clean showers.
      Bob

  16. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    Thanks, I’ll definitely look you in the Yellowstone area this June.

    Omar

  17. Magicwolf says:

    That looks so pretty…and tranquil; like a place you could go to really be able to relax and absorb the peace, if that makes sense.
    Magicwolf recently posted…Misty Mountain HopMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      It does Magicwolf! Every evening the place would fill up with travelers, but first thing in the morning they all left and it was empty and all to ourselves. At sunset it gets quiet and everyone is out in their chairs just mesmerized by the show the Glorious Sacred Mother Earth is putting on for us. It really was like a hush fell over the place.
      Bob

  18. Desert Rat says:

    Hi Bob. Still in western Colorado. Hoping to get to Moab for a few days soon. Are you still there? If so, same spot as last year? May try to look you up. Are you coming over this way? If so, let me know and I may have some good boondocks spots for you, depending on where you’ll be.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Desert rat, yes, I’m still here in Moab in the same spot on the Willow Springs road camp. I’m wanting to go over to Western CO but the weather has been so stormy I don’t want to go over and get caught in a snow storm or in cold. It was cool here last night so it must have been cold where you are.

      Plus, the trees aren’t budding yet are they? I assume it’s still brown and gray? If you get over here, be sure to stop by!
      Bob

      • Desert Rat says:

        Hi Bob,
        The trees are all green, lots of flowering trees, too. I’m in Glenwood Springs at nearly 7000 ft. And the nights are still chilly but not freezing. You’ll be fine. Some nice boondocking in Rabbit Valley west of Grand Junction.

  19. molonewolf says:

    WOW Bob that is beautiful. Stay safe out there my friend and enjoy the journey.

  20. Rob says:

    Just a quick note about that 7 gal water jug with the spout you recommend.
    I needed another water container, saw that one at Walmart & bought it.
    That was an outstanding purchase!

    It does the job, does it well.
    I’m pleased and wanted to acknoldge your recommendation!
    Thanks Bob.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Rob, I’m glad it worked for you! Reliant makes good products at very good prices. If you don’t abuse it, it should last you for years.
      Bob

  21. margo says:

    i am amazed about how much mohab has grown! went through the end of march. the one thing that never changes are the smiles…litterly everyone is smiling! even tho it was cool at that time, the sun was shining and people were every where doing things. while i don’t enjoy being in crowds, i enjoy seeing people happy! i am in wa now, hope to catch up with you guys when you come through. margo

    • Bob Bob says:

      Margo, I love Moab but it is a very busy, crowded place! The big thing is to avoid it on the weekends, it gets much worse then.
      Bob

  22. Kate says:

    I have never commented but felt compelled to this time. You have inspired me to get back to Monument Valley. Beautiful pictures. Also, your whole attitude and encouragement to get out of the rat race has also been an inspiration. My goal is one of these days for my husband and I to meet you. Your attitude is just like his. Thanks for all your wonderful posts!

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