Monument Valley


Photo Spot Summary

Category: Landscape

Country: United States

State: Arizona

City: Oljato-Monument Valley

GPS Latitude: 36.991371

GPS Longitude: -110.193871

Directions: Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Indian Tribal Park, which straddles the Arizona-Utah state border. The entrance to the park is from rt. 163 on the very southern edge of Utah, but the park itself resides in Arizona.

Photo Spot Details

There are several ‘iconic’ locations within the park, many of which you’ve probably seen in movies and TV commercials.  The picture above is the spot in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ where he decides that he’s tired of running coast-to-coast. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), in the movie ‘Vacation’, jumped the family car off the road in Monument Valley.

There is one hotel in Monument Valley, The View hotel, which is run by the Navajo Nation. It’s located adjacent to the Visitor’s Center, which you’ll encounter when you enter the park. It gets its name from the fact that every room has a spectacular view of the most-recognized part of the Valley – the left and right ‘mittens’, and Merrick Butte.

There is a single, 15-mile dirt road winding through the valley which you can drive on. You cannot depart from this road without a Navajo guide along. You’ll find yourself stopping every few hundred yards to gawk at the scenery and take photos. As you’d expect, sunrise/sunset is the best time to photograph, but you can still get spectacular images just about any time of day. During the summer the temperatures can get quite high, so you might want to visit during a cooler time of year. Most of the time the weather is sunny, but if you encounter rain, you can also get some very memorable shots.

If you sign up for a ‘photo tour’ with one of the guides (who are located just outside the View’s parking lot), they’ll take you to spots not open to the general public. They’re not the ‘iconic’ spots everyone takes a picture of, but they’re every bit as spectacular, if not more so. My recommendation would be to sign up for a tour ; make sure it’s a ‘photo’ tour, so the guide will take you to the most photogenic places.

As for gear, you’ll probably want a wide-angle zoom (16-35mm, or 24-70mm, or so) for the landscapes.  A telephoto zoom (70-300mm or so) will be useful for details of the buttes, etc.  Since you can’t leave the road (or the parking spots along it), zooms, rather than primes, will allow you to frame the shots ‘just right’.  If you’re not shooting too wide, you should use a circular polarizer during the daytime.  It will be bright in the desert, so you may be able to get by without a tripod, even at small apertures (e.g. f/16).

Nikon D750 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 122mm, ISO 100, 1/2500, f/8.0
Nikon D750 + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/8.0


Monument Valley

Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ, USA


Reader Interactions


  1. Scott
    September 11, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you for this brief but thoughtful post. I’m headed out in November and I will use the local hotel, and get a tour per your suggestion.


    • Al Gentile
      September 11, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Good luck, Scott. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

  2. Monica
    February 23, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Goulding’s Lodge at Monument Valley which is the historical site and what made Monument Valley know to the world.
    Goulding’s Lodge is a full service location also – Tours for photography in many areas are available.

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