Heart of the Navajo Nation
I (Cori) visited Monument Valley on a solo trip to the four corners in 1996. The president of the company came in to my office one evening and handed me an article on Monument Valley. He said he noticed that I was printing a lot of pages from the web about the south west (in anticipation for my trip) and thought I would be interested in this place, too. Not a bad guy!
I stopped off at Monument Valley on my way from Arches National Park to Zion. There is a turnoff from the main road into the Valley near the center of town. When you get to the parking lot, there is a gift center and rest rooms. There is also a campground for those who are interested.
If you are interested in a tour of the deep part of the Valley where regular cars are restricted, there are several Navajos with jeeps or trucks that do group tours. I recommend the tour. I joined a group tour with a man named Ray. We had a group size of five. I realized later that all of the tours go to the same places, so do not worry that you will miss something!
The tour brought us out to monuments that were seen in John Wayne movies as well as totem pole rock from the Eiger Sanction. Many of the monuments are seen in magazines and commercials, too.
We also stopped to visit a woman named Susie. She has lived in the desert all of her life and continues to make Navajo rugs and live off of the land. She showed us how she made the wool into yarn. She only left the reservation once. She rode out and back on a horse to be on a TV special. She did not speak English, so Ray translated from Navajo to English and back for us. I found Navajo to be a very difficult language to speak!
One part of the desert had a rock wall with petroglyphs on it. It was a picture of horned animals. Ray did not know the exact interpretation, but perhaps it meant that that animal had recently been hunted and someone wanted to tell about that.
These were the first petroglyphs that I had ever seen. They were carved hundreds of years ago, but are still pretty clear to this day. I am glad that the Navajos keep this part of the land private except for chaperoned tours so that no one will damage the art with graffiti.
The tour lasted only about an hour or two, but it was well worth the money. Ray gave me a few suggestions on where to buy the best Navajo Tacos in the area. I followed his advice and found the tacos to be wonderful! The bread was like fried dough and everything you would want on a taco was piled on top. Save room if you want to eat the whole thing!
I wished that I had decided to camp at the reservation, because the ride to Zion from Monument Valley was too far. I ended up getting a hotel along the way because I was falling asleep at the wheel. There are hotels in the Monument Valley area for those who want to extend their stay in the area. It is important that you get gas before you leave the Valley area, because some destinations are farther than you think and the only thing between you and the next gas station is miles and miles of open range.