Monument Valley is an iconic valley that has been called home to generations of native Navajo families and has been chosen as the location for hundreds of Western films. It’s a five-square-mile region located along the Arizona-Utah state line, inside the daunting 130,000 square mile Colorado Plateau that covers lands across western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, southern and eastern Utah, and northern Arizona.
Since the 1930s, Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, including Stagecoach in 1939 and The Grapes of Wrath in 1940.
“Its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West,” said movie critic Keith Phipps.
The U.S. Route 163 highway, which cuts right through the heart of Monument Valley, supports Phipps’ statement, as this road has been featured numerous times in several American West-themed movies and commercials using the western backdrop, particularly for new luxury sports cars.
Monument Valley is characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 feet (300 m) above the valley floor.
The two most distinctive buttes in Monument Valley are known as The Mitten Buttes, located in northeast Navajo County, Arizona. The summit of West Mitten Butte is 6,176 feet (1,882 m) in elevation and East Mitten Butte is 6,226 feet (1,898 m). The two form a triangle with Merrick’s Butte about 2/3 of a mile to the south.
Merrick’s Butte is the butte located in close proximity to West and East Mitten Buttes in the northern direction. This butte helps form the notable triangular layout of all three buttes that visitors of the Monument Valley Najavo Tribal Park clamour to see. Its summit reaches 1,006 feet (307 m) high.
The valley’s incredibly vivid red colour comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in Monument Valley get their colour from the oxidation of manganese.
The formation of Monument Valley was gradually carved out by slow-moving rivers. These rivers deposited their siltstone on the valley floor, with the majority of siltstone originating from the Cutler Formation of the Colorado Plateau.
The incredible inception of this entire formation dates back nearly 300 million years ago to the Permian geologic period when rapid continental drifting on Earth was occurring. This eventually created the seven continents we have today with North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia across five oceans with the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and the Southern Ocean.
Visitors of Monument Valley never forget the majestic views and striking colours created by buttes and mesa formations thrusting upward from the sweeping valley floor.
The natural western feel of this valley attracts a large crowd of horseback riders; where modern day cowboys venture through the barren lands in a throwback to the adventures of their predecessors.
When you visit Monument Valley, don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the beauty of geologic wonders, including, the Mittens Buttes, Merrick’s Butte, Sentinel Mesa, Pine Tree Arch, Stout Arch, Honeymoon Arch, and Mitchell and Wetherill Mesas.
The landscape of Monument Valley takes on an imposing appearance on nights when the lunar surface of the moon shines brightly on the desolate desert lands.
The geological red tones are beautifully accentuated in Monument Valley at the brink of nightfall.
As the sky takes on a fiery of warm colours during sunset, the landscape and sky reflect in appearance; exuding similar imagery found on the lonely planet of Mars, 54.6 million kilometres away from Earth.
Monument Valley is the picture perfect location for panoramic photography with its vast lands.
Monument Valley is always an impressive panoramic sight in all seasons observed.
Record low temperatures in Monument Valley have plummeted to –9ºF (–23ºC) in the month of December, but highs for that month have also reached 62ºF (17ºC). Nonetheless, you will be surprised by the fact that it can snow on these deserted lands between the months of September and May.
This scenic valley is part of the Grand Circle, which is a vast region containing America’s largest concentration of national parks and monuments. In addition to Monument Valley, Grand Circle also includes: the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, and the Four Corners region.
Snowscapes in this region are like an Instagram filter, which adds to the ferocity of Monument Valley’s natural beauty.
This region of the United States is a unique location, in which Native American cowboys have lived in unison with the terrain and its conditions for centuries, instead of living against it. They embrace the wild west nature that the rest of the world has perceived, and for visitors who have an opportunity to tour these badlands, they get to experience this lifestyle firsthand.