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Moab to Monument Valley: A Day Trip that is 1000% Worth it!

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Monument Valley is somewhere that I think everyone should visit at some point in their life, but ESPECIALLY if you are a movie buff!

Girl sitting on road at Forrest Gump Point Monument VAlley

Moab is an incredible town, about a 2.5 hour drive from Monument Valley and a great place to visit if you love outdoor adventure, photography or amazing landscapes. From Moab, there are so many beautiful spots to visit, including none other than the world famous Monument Valley.

If you are staying in Moab, you can easily do a day trip to Monument Valley and just book accommodation in Moab, or you could book some accommodation for a night or 2 a little closer to Monument Valley to break up the driving a little.

couple riding horses in Monument Valley

Dave and I visited Monument Valley a few years ago on our road trip in Utah and we have no regrets! It was so incredible seeing the infamous view of the road that we had both seen loads of times in movies but never in real life.

This guide will help you plan a day trip from Moab to Monument Valley and includes:

  • Places worth stopping at along the way
  • The best way to spend your time at Monument Valley
  • Where to stay nearby if you plan to stay overnight
  • The best tours to do in Monument Valley
  • FAQs

Everything You Need to Know About Monument Valley

📍 Where is Monument Valley

Monument Valley is located on the border between Arizona and Utah, USA within the territory of the Navajo Reservation.

Map of google maps from Moab to monument valley

How to get to Monument Valley

From Moab, it is a 2.5 hour drive to Monument Valley. The best way to get around Utah is definitely by renting a car.

🚗 Tip: I use Rentalcars.com for all of our trips to find and book the best price for a rental car.

🎬 What Movies are filmed in Monument Valley

There have been loads of movies filmed in Monument Valley but some of the most famous ones include:

  • Forrest Gump
  • Mission: Impossible 2
  • Back to the Future Part III
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation
  • 2013 The Lone Ranger
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey

Don’t have time to drive to Monument Valley? Book an Airplane Tour from Moab which takes you over both Canyonlands and Monument Valley so that you can see the incredible landscapes from the sky!

🌵 Famous Points of Interest on the Way

Infographic for famous points of interest from Moab to Monument Valley

📆 Best Time to Visit Monument Valley

During the Summertime, Monument Valley gets very hot. I mean you are in the middle of the desert, so with that, comes desert temperatures. The temperatures average around 105F (40C) which personally I find makes it hard to enjoy being outside! Even with the heat, Summer gets extremely busy with the school holidays being a popular time to travel.

During the Winter, it doesn’t get too cold and it is a perfect time for avoiding the crowds. Occasionally, it even snows a little in Monument Valley which can give the entire area a dusting of magic.

Spring and Fall are great times to visit Monument Valley because the temperatures are a little lower and much more bearable than the Summer. It also doesn’t tend to be as busy in these months as in Summer.

Spending time in Moab: Click here for a 2 Day Moab Itinerary!

🎫 National Parks Pass

You are probably thinking, here we go, another expensive National Parks Pass to purchase. Yes, you do have to pay an entry fee of about USD 8 per person, however, Monument Valley is not actually a National Park and therefore the national parks pass does not apply.

You can purchase an entry fee pass to Monument Valley here which gives you 8 hours to explore.

🎒 Packing List for a Day Trip to Monument Valley

How to Plan a Day Trip to Monument Valley from Moab

This itinerary will help you plan the perfect day trip from Moab to Monument Valley and includes the best places to stop along the way and what to do and see in Monument Valley when you get there.

The Drive – Moab to Monument Valley

The drive from Moab to Monument Valley is around 2.5 hours and 150 miles (241km) if you do it straight without any side stops. There is plenty of incredible scenery and spots to make along the way to help break up the drive.

Click here to open the map in Google Maps!

The stops in this itinerary will make the drive longer and your altogether driving time from Moab to Monument Valley one way will be about 4 hours plus extra time to take in each place. If you do want to stop at every single on of these stops, I highly recommend spending a night in Monument Valley to give you a bit of extra time.

Arches National Park Road

You are going to want to wake up nice and early, especially if you are only spending the day in Monument Valley and driving back to Moab the same day.

This guide is assuming that you are already spending some time in Moab and so have time to see places like Canyonlands and Arches National Parks while you are there.

Stop 1 – Hole ‘N’ The Rock (20 minutes / 15.5 miles from Moab)

Stop 1 is pretty mind blowing! The Hole ‘N’ the Rock is a 5,000 square foot home which has been carved inside of a rock! This incredible residence started being built almost 100 years ago by the Christensen family.

The family initially had created a small alcove for the boys to sleep in at night but ended up growing and growing and now has a 65 foot chimney and a fireplace, 14 rooms and a deep bathtub. Absolutely incredible and a must see if you have time for it!

Guided tours take about 12 minutes and there is also a trading post, general store and exotic zoo.

Stop 2 – Bluff Fort (1.5 hours / 85 miles from Hole ‘N’ The Rock)

The Bluff Fort Historic Site is a great place to visit if you love learning about the history of the areas that you are visiting. The original Bluff Fort has been rebuilt and restored and is open for you to go and see free of charge.

There is even still one of the original cabins located in the fort and one of the original wagons used in the Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition.

Stop 3 – Sand Island Petroglyphs (8 minutes / 4.3 miles from Bluff Fort)

The Sand Island Petroglyphs is another really interesting historical site, located just outside of Bluff and is open to see all-year-round.

The Sand Island panel is a rock wall that is about 300 ft / 91m long and it is covered with ancient Anasazi scrawlings.

These scrawlings could be anywhere from 800 to 2,500 years old!

Top Tip: There is a vault toilet on the other side of the road near the campground.

Stop 4 – Valley of the Gods (36 minutes / 19 miles from Sand Island Petroglyphs)

Valley of the Gods is actually kind of similar to Monument Valley.

It is home to incredible buttes and wide open spaces that stretch on forever. 4×4 or other high clearance vehicles are recommend for the Valley of the God’s 17 miles loop road.

The loop road will take you approximately 1-2 hours. Compared to the stunning Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods does not have as big of a WOW factor but it is still beautiful and there are much less crowds.

You do not need a permit to visit Valley of the Gods and there are no hiking trails or campgrounds.

Stop 5 – Goosenecks State Park (30 minutes / 13.5 miles from Valley of the Gods)

To visit Goosenecks State Park, you will need to pay an entrance fee of $5 per vehicle.

Goosenecks is definitely well worth it to make the stop because the views of the canyon and the San Juan River are awesome! If you have ever heard of or seen Horseshoe Bend, this viewpoint is pretty similar but with less crowds.

Stop 6 – Mexican Hat Rock (9 minutes / 5.9 miles from Goosenecks)

Mexican Hat Rock was one of our favourite stops! It’s this funky looking rock sitting on top of another rock that literally looks like a Sombrero hat! We had fun throwing our own hats in the air for a photo.

Couple throwing their hats in the air for a photo at Mexican Hat Rock Utah

You can drive almost all of the way up to Mexican Hat so it is an easy stop. You will need to turn off the highway onto an unpaved road to get there.

🐱‍🐉 Fun Fact: There are fossils of dinosaur ancestors located in the Mexican Hat rock! The rock is over 250 million years old! 😲

Stop 7 – Mexican Hat (for gas and a snack)

Mexican Hat is a good place to stop for gas, a toilet break and a snack because by this point you are almost at Monument Valley!

Mexican Hat is an amazing place because the dirt and rocks are so red here that it looks totally fake!

Stop 8 – Alhambra Rock (17 minutes / 5.9 miles from Mexican Hat)

If you are running short on time and you aren’t completely obsessed with rock formations, then you can probably skip this one.

However, if you are spending a night or 2 in Monument Valley, then you could make the short detour to Alhambra Rock.

Stop 9 – Forrest Gump Point (18 minutes / 6.7 miles from Alhambra Rock)

You can quickly and easily tag the Famous Forrest Gump Road this onto your Monument Valley trip without losing much time. In my opinion, the Forrest Gump Road stop is a must do in Monument Valley.

Use the pinned location on the map in this guide to find the exact spot to get your photo from.

Couple taking a selfie at the Forrest Gump Point in Monument Valley

Beware though, this spot does get busy and it is located on the major highway so there is plenty of traffic coming from both directions.

Be extra careful when taking photos and respectful of others also trying to get a photo.

Stop 10 – The Utah Sign! (17 minutes / 15.9 miles from Forrest Gump Point)

When we were there, I was not as obsessed with State signs as I am now so we don’t have a photo, but stopping at the Utah sign for a photo is a fun thing to do! It is also your last stop before reaching Monument Valley!

Things to do in Monument Valley

Once you make it to Monument Valley, if you do only have the day there, you will need to be pretty picky about what you choose to see and do because you won’t be able to do everything on the list. Here are some options to help you choose.

Horseback Riding in Monument Valley

Just imagine, the wind is blowing through your hair and you are cantering through the desert, the impressive Monument Valley Buttes ahead of you with the golden sun setting on them.

couple horseback riding in Monument Valley

Dave and I decided to do a horseback ride in Monument Valley because we thought it would be a fun experience and oh my gosh!

We were so right!

It was amazing! We learned about the land from the locals and stopped to watch the sunset at an incredible viewpoint. This is an experience that I highly recommend!

Explore Monument Valley by Foot

If horse riding is not really your thing and you would prefer to see Monument Valley by foot, you could choose one of the beautiful hikes to do.

Monument VAlley
Self Guided Hikes

There are only 3 trails in Monument Valley that you are able to do without a tour guide.

Wildcat Trail

Distance: 3.9 miles / 6.3km | Elevation Gain: 380 ft / 115m | Time: 1.5 hours

The Wildcat Trail takes you to some incredible vistas that you might recognise from famous movies such as Once Upon a Time in the West and Space Odyssey. You will also see Mitten and Merck buttes from this trail.

Lee Cly and Mesa Rim Trails

Distance: 2.8 miles / 4.5km | Elevation Gain: 486 ft / 148m | Time: 1.5 hours

These are two different trails which you can easily combine to make a larger trail. You can start by doing the Lee Cly Trail as a loop and then add on the Mesa Rim Trail which splits off from the Lee Cly Trail and is done as an out and back so that you end up back on the loop where you started.

The trail ends with an incredible view looking down on Monument Valley and along the way you will see Mitchell Butte, Mitchell Mesa and the Grey Whiskers Butte. 

Guided Hikes
Hunts Mesa Driving and Hiking Tour

The Hunts Mesa Driving and Hiking Tour is a long one at 7 hours and may be a little too much to fit into a day, however if you are staying overnight in Monument Valley or nearby, I recommend doing this one. It is 7 hours of adventure!

Off the Beaten Track Hiking Tour

This hiking tour takes you to natural arches, bridges and buttes of Monument Valley and takes around 3.5 hours in total.

Explore Monument Valley by Car – The Scenic Drive

The Monument Valley Scenic Drive is 17 miles and 11 viewpoints long which are set out in a loop. After being in the car for a couple of hours already, you might not feel like driving for even longer but if you do, this is a great way to see as much of Monument Valley as you can.

Things to know about the Scenic Drive
  • The Scenic Drive road is an unpaved road so I recommend hiring an SUV or 4×4 vehicle if you are renting a car.
  • There are no toilets or food, water or gas stops so be prepared before you go.
  • The Scenic Drive will take you any where from 2-4 hours.
  • The best stops along the drive are The Mittens, the Three Sisters and Elephant Butte.

Pro Tip: You could join this Monument Valley Scenic Tour which will take you to some of the famous and photographic areas along the drive whilst you learn about the history, culture and geology of Monument Valley from your local Navajo guide.

ℹ FAQs Commonly Asked about Monument Valley

Why do people visit Monument Valley?

Monument Valley is one of the most photographed places in the world. Not only is it extremely popular amongst landscape photographers, but because so many movies have been shot there, many people visit just so that they can see the iconic road from Forrest Gump.

Where is the closest town that you can stay in to Monument Valley?

The closest towns to Monument Valley are Mexican Hat (30 minutes) and Kayenta (25 minutes).

There are some amazing places to stay in Mexican Hat such as Hat Rock Inn and Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast.

If you would prefer to stay in Kayenta, you should check out Hampton Inn Kayenta.

Can I stay in Monument Valley – Is there camping or other accomodation?

There are a few unique places that you can stay within Monument Valley itself.

The View Hotel – This is the only hotel located inside Monument Valley Tribal Park. Each room as a balcony with incredible views of the formations of Monument Valley and there is also a restaurant with panoramic views which is perfect for watching the sunrise and sunset from.

The View Campground This campground with cute rustic cabins is connected to the View Hotel and also has incredible views of Monument Valley.

Monument Valley Tipi VillageTechnically located outside of the park’s grounds, however only a 7 minute drive away, the tipi village is a unique campground offering campsites to use with your own tent or RV (with hook ups available) or unique accommodation in the Tipis.

How big is Monument Valley?

Monument Valley is about 92,000 acres which is 372km squared / 143 miles squared.

Is there a tour that I can do to visit Monument Valley?

There’s no tour that currently starts from Moab, however, you can join a tour to visit Monument Valley from Flagstaff or as part of a day tour from Las Vegas.

Is Monument Valley is Arizona or Utah?

Great question! This is one that I was also kind of confused about before doing the research for this blog post. The answer is both! Monument Valley is split across both Utah and Arizona.

Are dogs allowed in Monument Valley?

Yes! Dogs are allowed in Monument Valley with certain restrictions. For example, there is only 1 dog friendly hike in Monument Valley.

💭 Our Thoughts

We loved Monument Valley! It’s one of those places that you really need to see for yourself to appreciate how stunning it is!

The landscape is nuts and the road that you drive down to get to Monument Valley where all of the photos are taken from is so perfect!

Monument Valley is a must do if you are visiting Moab or are anywhere else nearby. It doesn’t even have to take you too long.

You could just stop off at the road and get a photo or you could spend an entire day exploring the area by foot or even horseback which is what we did!

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