I’m a bucket list person. And I’m the one with the plan. Never believe me when I say that we did something without intention. Somewhere deep inside me, I had the goal to do it, maybe without step by step instruction. But I had the draft of the plan definitely.
The bucket list items of mine always have draft plans attached to them. With the date of due. Arizona was a long time due. But other places on the list have higher priorities.
The reason why I always had Arizona on the list was not that of Grand Canyon. Nope. I wanted the Monument Valley experience. I wanted to stand on this long round that goes into the horizon. I wanted to feel the vibes of the Old West. Someone needed Paris in his life I wanted Monument Valley precisely the same way.
Forrest Gump Point
It was midday, Dec 27th when we drove West from Mexican Hat to the border between Utah and Arizona. After the researchers, I made it was so evident that one should start Monument Valley exploration specifically from this side.
The road 163 passes red high desert and leads you to the view that is so familiar to those who watched Forrest Gump. Even if you never saw the movie, you will want to step. The point has the unique overview of the valley.
I didn’t remember any road signs, but the cars parked in turnouts and tourists making selfies will be the best indicator.
We were here before the lunch, and the place was crowdy. At first, we stop at the vista point just to realize it will be impossible to take any photo without people or cars. So we moved a bit further to the last pullout. After patiently wait I got my few minutes of the empty road.
The great way to stretch your legs and see another side of the valley.
The View Hotel and Visitor Center. Sunset
Before the trip, I booked the room with the view at the View hotel.
Even now I think it’s one of the best decision I made planning the vacations. The hotel in the middle of the park is a great place to stay comfortably and at the same time have the all-time access to the best overlook over the valley.
The hotel is adjacent to the visitor center. And visitor center has two overlooks. I found for myself that the view from the overlook near the restaurant is better.
The classic view of the Valley Drive, both Mitten, and Merric Buttes is stunning on the sunset. But you still need to beat the crowds and find your spots before all good will be taken. From the Photographers Point, the view changes a bit, the way Mitchell Mesa become the part of the panorama.
The best part of visiting places in December is a sunrise that is easy to wake up. Another side of that fact is that not only you appreciate it but also a dozen of other visitors.
After the trip, I can say that I like better the sunrise view of the valley. The road is closed, and no cars get in the shot. The rising sun from the Mitchell Mesa throws the bright light of the buttes, and make the look more cosmic and sometimes even unrealistic.
The weather that day was cold. Though I was told it could be even more freezing but it didn’t help me that day. The benny on the head, mittens, winter jacket – nothing stopped me from that cold air. Though what I saw at that moment grab all my attention!
Another way to explore open to the public part of the Monument Valley is a Valley Drive.
17 miles of the dirt road loop around the central part of the park. You will not see a lot of the new formation. It will be most of the time the different angles of the buttes and mesas that are visible from the visitor center.
One of the most famous points in the park is John’s Ford Point. It was featured in many westerns. And that makes the overlook one of the most crowded on the drive.
The further we drive the fewer cars we saw.
The most significant impression we got that day, however, was in not the most visited place. There is a side track to Tse Biyi Yazzie and Hunts Mesa overlook. We met there the two cars that did few photos and quickly moved away.
But in a minute we saw three wild (I cannot entirely guarantee that they were wild) horses. They slowly approached us. The animals didn’t seem completely afraid us. But kept distance. They didn’t even notice two other cars arrived at the point.
The last part of the road leads to another great overlook of the valley – Artist’s Point. The short spur forks north to the edge of a plateau, where the ground falls steeply and stretch flat. The view consists of the already well-known Mittens and Merrick Buttes with the addition of the distant Monument Pass. If you turn around, you get the view of the Elephant and Cly Buttes.