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Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods

I was hoping to do both Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods when I visit the area in September. Monument Valley is now open but requiring a tour and there doesn't seem to be one official one, their website lists about 20 and it's not a great system (takes you to yahoo.com and then you need to search again -stupid system). I found several and they all have at least a few decent reviews (from this July) but the cheapest is $65 per person (plus "admission") and while they say they are taking "safety precautions" they are group tours. So I'm not sure it's worth it. I know you can see the "classic" shot on RT 163.

Has anyone done one of these tours recently and can recommend one and comment on it (especially how enclosed the jeep/vans are)?

Has anyone done both Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods and can comment on if Valley of the Gods is "almost" as good? I know it is supposedly a smaller version of Monument Valley. Sometimes things are famous just because they are well know and sometimes because they really are that great. Wondering which is the case for Monument Valley vs Valley of the Gods.

Thanks

Posted by
2287 posts

I haven't done any tour there, let alone "recently", but there is no comparison between Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods. Monument Valley is incomparably more impressive to me. Valley of the Gods is only worth it if you have the time, and the right car (unless they improved the track; my visit was 10+ years ago...).

Posted by
12494 posts

Isabel, we haven't done Valley of the Gods but stayed a couple of nights in Monument Valley, back when you could self-tour the (very bumpy) scenic road without a guide, and did a couple-hour guided tour on horseback. As you've said, they are not allowing self-driving of the road currently "due to very rough terrain" and there's no way I'd do it in anything but an enclosed vehicle: the dust was THICK. I see that Navajo Spirit Tours does offer the option of a closed vehicle:

https://www.navajospirittours.com

I also see that Valley of Gods involves a gravel road. Will you be driving a rental car? It's a question I've been meaning to ask on the forum and will do so today: are the rental companies REALLY tracking where customers are taking their vehicles? There have been umpty cautions about that on the TA forums but I've yet to hear that anyone has actually been fined per their GPS record for taking a car off pavement.

Posted by
1291 posts

I wish I could help but I recently dumped my information regarding the private tour we took at Monument Valley a few years ago. A Native American man took us in an open air jeep and It was an awesome tour that took us way off the beaten path. We were in the Valley of the Gods area but did not venture off the main roads. We loved the views of Mexican Hat.

Posted by
4697 posts

We took a Monument Valley tour like Diane's several years ago, just an individual guide with an open-sided jeeplike vehicle. He probably wasn't the best guide but he did enough for us, including taking us to some out-of-the-way places. I think we hired him on the spot at the park entrance. That was our second visit to MV. I've never known it to be open to self-touring with one's own car, and I'd be reluctant to do that anyway because of the road conditions.

I don't think $65/person is unreasonable for a several-hour Monument Valley tour. As for Valley of the Gods, it's on a smaller scale and would be a second choice if time allows. If your routing allows you to drive up or down the amazing Moki Dugway, between the valleys and the higher country where Natural Bridges and other Utah monuments are located, that's a great experience (take it slow) and the view south from the top is spectacular.

Posted by
12494 posts

The 17-mile Valley scenic loop was definitely open to self drive until the tribal park closed to covid. We've done it, and there are all sorts of reviews out there from travelers who did it in 2019. LOL, there are lots of complaints about that road (!!!!) but its rock-n-roll state probably helps deter some of the indy visitors and keep the tours busy. People are/were not allowed to go wandering about by themselves beyond the indicated stops; some of the tours go further into the backcountry.

I don't think access to the only self-guided hiking trail in the Valley (Wildcat Trail) is allowed right now.

Interesting note: The View Hotel states on its website that guests of their hotel and cabins are allowed to drive into the valley during their stay. That seems to imply that they have access to the entire scenic road but I'd clarify that before booking if you, Isabel, or anyone else referencing this thread is interested in doing so.

Posted by
2122 posts

I was in Monument Valley four years ago. It is spectacular. We took a Navaho Spirit tour and thought it was well worth the money. You see a lot more than you can see from the hotel - some really gorgeous scenery and rock formations. I seem to recall it was an open air jeep, but I can’t swear to it. I do recall there were tons of tour companies in the parking lot and you did not have to book in advance. I am picturing buses, so perhaps I am wrong about the jeep. It should be easy to verify online.

I have not been to Valley of the Gods, so I can’t offer a comparison.

Posted by
12494 posts

Carroll, it couldn't have been a coach-type bus. There's no way a bus could have managed the unpaved scenic road! Just for kicks, here's a film someone made of their drive. Note the 15 mph speed limit signs, some open-sided safari-type vehicles here and there headed the opposite way, and that the film has been sped up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlYabRL110c

Posted by
760 posts

Thanks for the replies.

I think most of the tours use open jeeps. The one's they used at Antelope Canyon a few years ago were like that, they held about 15 people and the ones in the photos for Monument Valley look the same. I know it was dusty (we got 'chosen' to ride in the cab with the guide so not really sure how bad it was in the back) but that ride is only about 5-10 minutes where as at Monument Valley it's about 2 hours. So between the dust and the fact that you will be sitting right next to multiple other people (even if the sides are 'open') I don't think we want to risk it. Too many anti-vaxers out there. There may be 'private' tours but all the ones listed seem to be multi person. So hopefully Valley of the Gods will be good too. And according to multiple you tube videos I've watched at least you can see a little bit of Monument Valley from the highway.

Kathy - this trip we will be in our own car (Subaru Forester, AWD) but on two trips in the last 10 years I rented cars and drove on dirt roads (mostly in National and State Parks) and no one said anything when we turned in our dusty looking rental. I did stay off the roads that were noted to be in really rough shape cause I was afraid if something did happen to the car the insurance wouldn't cover it. But I was on quite a few where I didn't want to go over 15 mph and they were OK. I'm sure the rental companies didn't track us on GPS or anything to know where we took it.

Posted by
1226 posts

With your Subaru you would be fine in either Monument Valley (if they let you in) or the Valley of the Gods. I have done both several times in a Subaru Forrester.

Posted by
12494 posts

Isabel, thanks for sharing your rental car experience! Like you, we've taken RV rentals off pavement a LOT as it isn't possible otherwise to access a lot of the trailheads. Even some of the hotels and restaurants have had gravel lots. We do clean them to within an inch of their all-wheel lives before turning in, and they've usually looked better than when we got them!

Thought I'd ask as I'm seeing so many cautions on TA. LOL, the companies definitely don't want to know where we've taken some of their vehicles! 😱

Posted by
3184 posts

I also see that Valley of Gods involves a gravel road. Will you be driving a rental car? It's a question I've been meaning to ask on the forum and will do so today: are the rental companies REALLY tracking where customers are taking their vehicles? There have been cautions about that on the TA forums but I've yet to hear that anyone has actually been fined per their GPS record for taking a car off pavement.

There may be a clause about not driving unmaintained roads, but a gravel road is certainly a maintained road. However, looking at the video of the internal tribal road in Monument Valley, most of it is earth and regularly bladed-- that is a maintained road also. But some of the earth road did not appear to have been bladed so was not a maintained road.

Posted by
12494 posts

Tom, just as an example, this rental agreement from AVIS:

https://www.avis.com/en/legal-documents/rental-terms

Scroll down to #14, "Prohibited Use of the Car":
Under "A; You use or permit the car to be used:...."
....4) to be operated in a test, race or contest or on unpaved roads;

They don't say "unmaintained" but "unpaved". They are different things.
But thankfully, Isabel is driving her own car so no problem! :O)

Posted by
760 posts

Yes, this trip I will be in my own car. But on two previous trips to the area I did rent cars and I do remember the use of the words "unpaved" in the rental agreements. In both cases I did drive on some unpaved roads anyway - although I was very careful (more than I would have been in my own car), I checked with park visitor center staff as to the condition of the roads and didn't drive on any that required 4WD or that were in bad shape and I went even slower than the posted speed limits. When I turned the cars in they were dusty (but unharmed) and nothing was said.

It's impossible to get to some trailheads without going on unpaved roads. I did skip some places I wanted to go but that required longer distances of unpaved roads, or roads that were in bad shape though.

Posted by
5634 posts

One thing to remember when you visit is that you are on tribal land.

On one visit in the 80’s I remember a very angry older man screaming at a park ranger spouting the “ I’m entitled to do this, I pay my taxes etc., I pay your salary, “ rant.

I burst out laughing and the man turned his wrath towards me. After his mortified wife finally got his attention and quieted him I calmly said, “ Sir, this is tribal land, not a state or national park funded by your taxes or mine. Welcome to the Navajo Nation.”

The look on his face made my day.

Also you need to research about how Covid has affected the area. Travel might be restricted.

https://navajonationparks.org/

Posted by
3184 posts

The prohibition on gravel roads is preposterous. Many township roads, county roads, parking lots, driveways are gravel and cannot be avoided in normal use of a rental car.

So I read the definition of a paved road in several places and the case can be made that any hard surface can be considered a "paved road" even gravel. Gravel roads can be packed hard and safely driven at 55 mph. Unfortunately earth roads do appear to be excluded.

Posted by
12494 posts

No argument from me there, Tom! It's simply not possible to access so many great hiking trails and scenic spots without driving some dirt or gravel roads! And some of them are long! I think the longest we've done was 30 miles of graded-but-washboard dirt/sand road to the Horseshoe Canyon trailhead (Canyonlands N.P.); took awhile. 😬

Browsing around the net, there seems to be a LOT of confusion around the definition of "unpaved" as applied to rentals. In my largely rural region of the country, paved meant asphalt or concrete only and not gravel or dirt, even if the latter were maintained. Anyway, I'm skeptical of some of the "Will void the rental agreement!" and "They'll track where you've been!" claims on TA forums for just driving or having some sort of issue on maintained gravel or dirt roads that could happen anywhere at all. Thought I'd ask the trusty RS gang for their take on it as Monument Valley's 17-mile scenic drive (when open again to private vehicles) definitely qualifies as a "maintained" dirt road.

Just some of the cautions I've seen for 2 other roads (Notom-Bullfrog and Burr) we've driven in a rental SUV:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60758-i3025-k9984740-Burr_Trail-Torrey_Utah.html
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28965-i411-k13569335-Lodging_for_Grand_Staircase_Escalante-Utah.html
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143015-i1469-k13566971-Driving_time_in_Bryce_and_north_to_Torrey-Bryce_Canyon_National_Park_Utah.html