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Monument Valley in Arizona ranked among the highlights of our Adventures by Disney Southwest Splendors vacation. At least, that’s what we hoped for before going on the trip.
Most people know Monument Valley and have seen it. They just don’t realize it’s Monument Valley.
The Western film Director John Ford, loved using Monument Valley as a set for many of his films, starring John Wayne. Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, The Searchers to name just a few of the films set in this area. This is the Hollywood American West!
What we did not realize was that these movies were filmed in a very small area. Monument Valley is not huge. We toured it in about an hour to an hour and a half. So, these expansive Western classics where John Wayne rides his horse for days? Yep. That all occurs in about a couple square miles of Arizona and Utah desert.
Monument Valley in Arizona Tours
Monument Valley in Arizona is not a National Park or National Monument. It is part of the Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley Park. You can do a self-driving tour of Monument Valley or pay for one of the many tours available in the area. You can arrange guided tours at the visitor center. Our tour was given by a Navajo Guide. It was a scenic drive with some interesting facts.
Since we were with Adventures by Disney, we went on a previously arranged tour with Goulding’s Lodge and Tours. Goulding’s has an interesting story behind it.
Harry Goulding moved to this area of Arizona with his wife Leone (nicknamed Mike) and opened a trading post. When times grew tough during the Great Depression, Goulding went to Hollywood to solicit John Ford. He was convinced that Monument Valley would make the perfect set location for Ford’s movies. Through extreme perseverance (Harry threatened to sleep in Ford’s office until he was seen), Goulding convinced Ford to begin filming in the area. The movies provided an economic boom to the area and it’s why you go to see it, today.
During our tour, we got a view of the Monument Valley Buttes. There is an East and a West Butte. In the distance, they look like mittens. It is quite the view! There are some amazing rock formations throughout the American Southwest.
Monument Valley in Arizona Tour Review
The tour was OK. I hate to say it, but as tours go, I would have preferred to have been on my own. You get some interesting information, but I would have stopped at more locations, taken more pictures, and enjoyed the area for a longer period of time, given the option.
The tours occur in an open pickup truck with a roof over the bench seating in the truck bed area. The trails are dirt roads. This results in a pretty dusty experience for guests. Be sure to bring along a bandana or Buff.
You’ll find local artists selling their wares at each photo stop opportunity and of course, a willing cowboy sitting on a horse for that classic cowboy on a ridge shot. For a small fee, obviously.
As a Floridian, you could feel the “tacky-tourist” quality in Monument Valley. Whether you do it on your own or with a tour group, you won’t be backpacking into this area for a nice hike and camp experience. You look. Take pictures. Move on to your next destination.