Feeling a bit self-important lately? Friends telling you that your ego has reached epic proportions, but you don't believe them? Well, it might be time for a dose of Monument Valley. As you pull to the side of the road and get out of the car, these stone guardians proclaim loudly that you are small. Did you hear that? You're small -- you're not in control here and you couldn't be even if you wanted to be. You've already surrendered time and distance. Monument Valley is now ready to teach you about true power and your ego is nowhere to be found.
From the visitor center, you see the world-famous panorama of the Mitten buttes and Merrick Butte. You can also purchase guided tours from Navajo tour operators, who will take you down into the valley in jeeps for a narrated cruise through these massive formations. While every scrap of information that you read will tell you that this 17 mile loop road is too treacherous to be driven, is just aint so. However, to leave the loop road, you must hire a Navajo guide. (I found this out the hard way.) You may notice a weather-beaten trailer, perhaps neighbored by a rounded earthen mound. These are private homes and traditional hogans, without electricity or running water, that house a handful of Navajo families that date back here for generations. Many of them make their living from tourists, but most don't want a paved road inside the park. Why? Aside from the fact that they would lose an important source of income, the flood of cars driving through the valley would be unbearable.
I stayed two nights in the View Hotel, an earth-toned, low-slung, structure facing the monuments. It was built in 2008 by the Navajo tribe, and every room has a balcony that looks out on a classic panorama. I was able to get some stunning images from my balcony at sunrise while still in my pajamas.