Monument Valley is the heart of the Navajo Nation. In the dozens of times I have visited over the years, every single time has been an amazing experience. Of all of the destinations we visit in the desert southwest of the United States, Monument Valley is probably the one that will hold a special corner of your heart for the rest of your life. Today was a wonderful day because not only did we get to see the timeless beauty of this amazing place, but we also got a peek into an ancient culture on our guided tour of the valley with our Navajo guide, Cecil.
Cecil met us at the Visitors Center at Mitten View, one of the classic and iconic views of Monument Valley. He greeted us by saying “Yá’át’ééh”, the traditional Navajo greeting which means literally “it is good”. He expressed several other things to us in the Navajo language which is quiet, fascinating and unlike any other language I know.
After this traditional greeting, we were whisked away into the Valley in our ride for the day, a truck fitted out like a safari vehicle. We made several stops for photos, including Camel and Elephant Buttes, The Three Sisters, and the infamous John Ford’s Point. John Ford was the director of such classic western films as Stagecoach and The Searchers. It is often said that the Navajo brought John Ford to Monument Valley, but John Ford brought Monument Valley to the world.
From there, we travelled into the backcountry, an area off limits to all but guided tours. We stopped at several stunning arches including Eye of the Sun, Ear of the Wind and the Big Hogan. We also saw some ancient Ancestral Puebloan ruins, and several panels of petroglyphs or ancient rock carvings. Cecil told us many stories about his people and how they survived in this desert environment for so long. He also played his drum for us and sang traditional Navajo songs. He was quite a character, and my group really seemed to enjoy him and his stories.
We pulled in in the shadow of one of the mesas and enjoyed a wonderful home-cooked meal of Navajo tacos, a bit of Navajo-Mexican fusion served on traditional fry-bread. It was really delicious, and tasted even better in the cooling temperatures and beautiful surroundings.
We finished our tour back at Mitten View, right as the sun was starting to make a break for the horizon. It was a beautiful sight to see, as the colors changed and the light danced among the buttes and mesas. We sat on the rim with Cecil, our Navajo guide and enjoyed the picture perfect ending to a perfect day in Monument Valley.
Like so much of the desert Southwest, Monument Valley is a place that everyone should visit at least once. To be able to see this incredible place with a Navajo guide is a truly unique and special experience and plenty of our tours pay a visit to Monument Valley.
Author: Michael - Hi there! My name is Mike Harding and I am originally from Washington DC. I attribute much of my love for travel to entirely too many trips to the Smithsonian as a child. For a kid who grew up in the big city though, I spent a lot of weekends out in the woods camping and hiking. It was out in the wild that I realized that I wanted to spend my life outside. I went to University and studied Wildlife Management and American History, and I guess when you put those two passions together you end up with a Tour Leader. I have spent 9 wonderful seasons working for Grand American Adventures all over the USA and Canada. I consider it a real privilege to show people around my home continent.