Monument Valley: Towers of Navajo Culture and Icons of Hollywood

Monument valley bluff utah

Photo (c) Franck Mahon

Monument Valley: famous for its towering desert red buttes that have been celebrated on the screen since 1939. It is a desert valley unlike any other, with some of its towers rising as high as 1000 feet from the valley floor. Because of its expansive views and Hollywood fame, this Southwest Park has become an American Icon, a must-see on any family road trip. In Navajo language, Monument Valley is called Tse′ Bii’ Ndzisgaii, which means the valley of the rocks. For hundreds of years, the Navajo have raised livestock and farmed small quantities of crops in the valley.  The Navajo regarded this area as an enormous hogan with the Gray Whiskers and Sentinel stone pinnacles standing as its doorposts.  Two soaring buttes, known as the Mittens, were thought to be the hands of a deity. Not just a place of habitation and livelihood, Monument Valley has significant meaning to the many Navajo who took refuge in the valley when forced out of Canyon De Chelly by the U.S. Army during the “Long Walk.”  An 1868 treaty allowed their return to their ancestral homeland and established the Navajo Reservation. Other parts of Monument Valley have been added to the Navajo Reservation over time. Today, an estimated 100 Navajo people live in the valley. Monument Valley is now a Navajo Tribal Park and is accessible to tourists and travelers. Visitors are a crucial component to the economy of Monument Valley, as they are a major source of income to the Navajo People. forrest-gump-monument-valley-feat

Hollywood comes to town

Monument Valley first caught the attention of Hollywood when Trading Post Owner Harry Goulding traveled to a studio in L.A. in 1938 to share photos of the area. After director John Ford saw Goulding’s photo album, he soon after began filming the 1939 movie Stagecoach with John Wayne in Monument Valley. Since then, a long list of Hollywood movies have been filmed in Monument Valley, including: John Wayne in the movie "The Searchers"
  • Forest Gump
  • Easy Rider
  • Thelma and Louise
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Back to the Future III
  • Mission Impossible II
  • And most recently, The Lone Ranger.
Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border is on the Grand Circle tour of the Southwest’s greatest parks. It is a perfect stop in between the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park, Mesa Verde or Capital Reef. If it’s not already on your bucket list, make sure to add it and stop by to see these amazing buttes of shale and sandstone. More information on touring the park on our Monument Valley page

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