Mittens and Merrick's Butte

As for Yellowstone, describing Monument Valley is a very difficult undertaking. As the name implies, Monument Valley is truly "monumental". It is one of the undisputed symbols of the western United States. The vast desert plain is actually of river origin (Colorado Plateau) and is located on the border between Utah and Arizona in a fairly isolated area, how extensive, which is more than 70 km from the nearest town: Kayenta. The territory is mainly flat except for the fact that the plain is sprinkled with small isolated hills with flat tops and sloping sides called butte or mesas according to their conformation. The most famous (that you can see in the photo above) is the Mittens and Merrick's Butte: natural buildings formed by rock and sand with the shape of reddish towers (caused by iron oxide) with the flat top more or less horizontal. The area is part of the Navajo Nation Reservation, where a tribe still live, and is entirely and solely managed by native Indians including the View Hotel, inaugurated in 2009 and built-in place of the essential campsite that had existed for 40 years. It is necessary to make a premise: the Monument Valley is practically and completely unpaved, with considerable holes along the way. Impossible to go with your Harley. With the motorbike, you can safely enter the park but you will inevitably have to stop at the Hotel square and continue the visit with organized tours. If you are with a rental car, you can try to take the Scenic Valley Drive which is the only road you can access independently, without a native guide. For the above reasons and, to allow you to fully enjoy this wonder, I recommend you to book tours with local guides. Several Navajo providers offer horseback or jeep rides both on the internet and on-site. We have decided to try them both.


I think the horseback riding tour is truly unmissable. I am not a great horse lover, much less a great horsewoman. To be on the safe side, having never been mounted on horseback before, I decided to train by taking a few walks here in Italy to get a little familiar. I think I have done a wise thing. Let me say that the natives are a little "easygoing" in the sense that they are a little disorganized and tend to take many things for granted, including your ability to ride. Don't be alarmed, there is nothing to fear, just pay attention and be aware if there is something wrong with you.

We booked from Italy a guided tour with Roy Black's Guided Tour lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes. As I said many providers that offer more or less the same excursions. The guide will pick you up with a jeep on the main square and will lead you, in a rather reckless way (get ready!) to the ranch where you will ride the horses. Since the organization is not their strong point, be prepared to wait patiently in the sun. Bring a hat or a bandana, glasses, and sunscreen and, above all, water, since there is no infrastructure. The Navajos have no facilities for guests, not even water.

It's time to leave. The tour is truly exciting. In the immense silence of the desert, in the most enveloping heat, the clogs that sink into the bright red sand, you will see and enjoy a unique landscape of its kind. The guide will show you the most picturesque corners and point out the particular shapes that the rocks assume, naming them one by one. You will go up and down through sandy slopes, you will skirt cliffs and continue to turn your head left and right trying to capture every single frame to be imprinted in your memory. There are no words that can describe this experience that will be truly memorable.

Horseback riding tour


In addition to the horseback riding tour, why not also take a jeep tour. It will allow you to see other areas of the park that you have not visited during the horseback ride. Choose as provider Spirit Tour. Book a sunset tour to enjoy the most beautiful sight that the Monument can offer. The guide will pick you up on the usual square and take you with a 4x4 jeep on really dirt tracks to visit the classic tourist points, but will also show you hidden glimpses where only Navajo guides can access (also giving you valuable tips for taking truly unique pictures). It starts from John Ford's point: an observation point that takes its name from the famous Hollywood director who, with his films, has contributed to making Monument Valley one of the most iconic places in the far Far West. Here is a must to take a photo on horseback just like John Wayne in the movie Wild Trails. The horse, placed on purpose in this panoramic point, is crazy as it is motionless like a statue. This ability is the result of big training. If you don't want to take the picture on horseback, you can sit down and take a snapshot with the cliff and Mittens and Merrick's Butte behind. Continue to the Sun's Eye Arch: from below we admire this arch in the rock that resembles an eye from which the sunlight enters. Between holes and jumps, we arrive at the Big Hogan Arch, a large natural arched cave inside which there is a particular acoustic. The guide will intone, inside, a native song accompanied by a musical instrument typical of his tribe: truly suggestive. We then move on to the Ear of the Wind: a natural arch where the bright red color of the sand is in stark contrast to the dry and bare tree that seems to frame it. The tour continues to the Flying Eagle: a very high spur of rock whose top depicts an eagle in flight with its wings spread. The last stop is the Three Sisters: three sharp and thin pinnacles, very different from the other formations of the Monument. At the end of the tour, you will be taken back to the starting point where you will arrive with little broken bones but with your eyes full of spectacular and unusual landscapes.