50 Shades of Orange in Monument Valley

Monument Valley had been sitting at the top of my bucket list for a while, so I was really thrilled once I had an opportunity to see it. It...

Monument Valley had been sitting at the top of my bucket list for a while, so I was really thrilled once I had an opportunity to see it. It's a sacred place for Navajo people, and I tend to agree, too, as Monument Valley with its 50 shades of orange seems out of this world.

Monument Valley is not a national park despite many people think it is. This land belongs to the Navajo tribe, thus the park is tribal and is managed locally. And you kind of feel it right at the entrance. There is a new spacious visitor centre which has almost zero useful information for visitors. I was struggling to find anyone who I could ask about the park and its hiking trails (it turned out there is only one). Yet it has a big souvenir shop with stuff mostly made in China.
You get rewarded with the most beautiful view in the park right at the visitor centre's parking lot. However, I can guarantee you won't regret if you take a 17 mile / 27 km loop auto road.
The loop road and one hiking trail - that's pretty much what you can do in the park on your own. Other places can only be accessible on guided tours which are quite expensive.
American Southwest has a number of Indian reservations (I hate this awful term to describe first nations' settlements and territories). Navajo is the biggest one and spans across three different states - Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Reservation is a semi-autonomous territory that has an elected government which includes an executive office, a legislative house, and a judicial system. So it's like a state in the state. As I was driving quite a bit in Navajo reservation, I actually felt like I was in a different country. And the biggest difference I've seen was the poverty. Navajo people mostly live in small houses, often mobile homes like on the picture below. 
There were many roadside vendors selling mostly hand-made jewellery. And it's not uncommon to encounter those chaotic vendors in parks, which is sort of strange, as it never happens in the US national parks. Not that I mind it as vendors are not nasty and never pull your hand, but still it's a bit odd.
Does it look like an elephant?
Monument Valley used to be a sea bed. When the water receded, a huge amount of sand solidified in a form of a sedimentary rock which was later covered by a softer layer of sand. Over time, rain, wind and ice has eroded the rock and continue to destroy it. 
You can see three kinds of pinnacles in the park: mesa, butte and spire. A mesa is the initial phase of a sedimentary rock erosion which resembles a table ("mesa" is a "table" from Spanish; below, centre and right). The second phase is a butte (like on the first image of this article). And the last phase is a spire (below, left). 
I never thought that a puddle in a desert could make such a great view.
Mesa of the god of rain.
Iron dioxide in a siltstone gives an orange colour to these rocks and soil.
More spires.
The installation of traditional Navajo dwellings.
Tour horses are freely grazing in the park.
The Cube.
Sand dunes.
With such an unobstructed view, you can probably see your dog running for days. Those tall mountains on the horizon are perhaps the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Hotel with million-dollar view on Monument Valley.
Winter is the best time to visit vast deserts of the American Southwest. No rattlesnakes, no scorpions, not hot, yet same scenery year around.
Russian Thistle is an invasive species from Ural plaines (Russia) that has become a symbol of the American Southwest. It first appeared in South Dakota in the 19th century, and since then has been a huge headache for American farmers. It believed to have been brought to the US by Ukrainian farmers.
Sunset over Monument Valley is gorgeous.

When to go
Any time of the year should be fine to visit this park. Winter temperatures are cooler, so be prepared to wear layers.

Located 100 miles / 160 km north of Tuba City, AZ on U.S. Highway 160 and then on US Highway 163 from Kayenta, AZ.
Address and GPS coordinates of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park: Monument Valley, Utah 84536; N 36°58'56.7" W 110° 06'43.7"

Additional Information
For additional information visit the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park's official website.

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