Like so much scenery around this part of the USA, Monument Valley is one of those places that you will have seen in the movies and in magazines even if you’ve never set foot in the area. The famous red landscape has appeared in countless films, including lots of Westerns such as Stagecoach and The Searchers, as well as Forrest Gump, Back to the Future III and Thelma and Louise.
LincsGeek riding through Monument Valley on his Tiger Explorer.
The area is simply nothing like anything else you will see. Bright red, tall standing rocks in various strange formations, beautiful skies, and lots of little outposts and traditional residential properties. Naturally it is very busy, being somewhat of a tourist destination, but it is possible to get away from the crowds and grab some photos without anyone else appearing in them.
Having done one of the tours of the Valley before, we decided we wouldn’t go back into the Navajo Tribal Park this time, and in any case you can’t ride motorbikes on the rough desert roads through the Park – they don’t allow it.
My bike in the red desert of Monument Valley.
I would definitely recommend one of their tours, though – a couple of years ago while on our Eagle Rider Tour we paid a few dollars (about $40 I think) to sit on the back of a modified pick-up truck, which provided us with sheltered but very bumpy and dusty transport deep into the red desert. Our guide was a Navajo native who told the history, explained the geography, and sang for a couple of hours as he drove us along the Tribal Park Road. We were taken through the valley and got to see the various rock formations and sites of particular cultural interest close enough to touch. There were clusters of huts and even some wild horses to add to the scene. By the end of the tour my white t-shirt and face were red and when I washed my hair the water came out brown (yuk!), but it was well worth all the dust and dirt to get right inside the Navajo tribal area and see this area off the bikes.
Elephant Bute, Monument Valley. Taken two years ago when we were last here.
This time we chose to explore the roads outside the official Tribal Park area ourselves. We stopped in several of the large, paved, road side turnouts to take in the Martian-like landscape and take photos and video. I was able to capture some snaps of LincsGeek riding – I’ve heard motorbikes likened to horses before so it seems to work!
LincsGeek riding through Monument Valley.
We stayed in Goulding’s Lodge this time, formerly known as Goulding’s Trading Post, right in the heart of the Valley. It’s outside the Navajo Tribal Park and so you do not need to go through the toll booths to get to the lodge; there is also a lodge inside Park if you want to stay there. It’s not a cheap place to stay by any means (definitely one of the more expensive places we stayed on our road trip), and you are limited on options here, but if you want to be right in the middle of the iconic scenery you won’t be disappointed. The room was plenty big enough and had everything we needed, although as we found in quite a lot of places, the wifi connection was rather flaky.
You can’t argue with the view… sunset and sunrise from our balcony was rather special at Goulding’s Lodge.
If you ever find yourself in Navajo country, you really should try one of their traditional foods – the Navajo fry. Also called frybread taco or Indian taco, it’s a flat dough that is fried in oil and served with meat stew or chilli or the like. It’s crispy on the outside and a teeny bit greasy, having been deep fried, and was a great accompaniment to the meat and potato stew I had at the Goulding’s Lodge restaurant. Strangely mine was also served with a tube of honey and a pot of powered (icing) sugar – yes, with my meat stew, I waited until after I’d finished the savoury before trying the bread with the sweet accompaniments – both worked very well, but not together!