Monument Valley doesn’t really need an introduction. Even if you’re not into travelling and not that familiar with the famous sights in the world, there’s a good chance you’ve seen it in the background of a movie filmed sometime in the last half a century.
Monument Valley is best known to film nerds such as ourselves as a hugely popular filming location for good old westerns, but our interest blossomed mainly from films like Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, Lone Ranger and of course our beloved tv show Doctor Who. For a quick introduction on the topic we recommend this fun article featuring 12 movies filmed in Monument Valley.
And to be honest, even if they hadn’t filmed anything at all, we would’ve probably made the trip as we knew it’s something not to be missed. Monument Valley is truly something you have to visit if you ever get the chance.
Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163.
We were there mainly as film tourists and as busy roadtrippers and sadly, didn’t have the whole day to spend. Seeing as that wasn’t nearly enough to get the full Monument Valley experience, it’d be fun to go back some day for a little hiking or to attend a Navajo Spirit Tour, which seems like a very interesting one!
You can also take a drive through the valley on a 17 mile dirt road, of which 13 miles is a one-way loop. The American Southwest website has plenty of information about the drive and sights.
As you can see in the above photo, the valley drive seems like a pretty impressive one. We did attempt to go there, but the bumpy, sandy road just seemed a bit too rough for our rental car. As we were still a bit spooked by our stuck-in-sand adventures at Lake Powell, we decided not to take the risk this time…
(Shame on you, car! No sense of adventure whatsoever!)
So instead of a “quick drive through the valley” (which can actually take up to 2-4 hours!), we took a moment to browse through the lovely gift shop full of handmade Navajo artwork, jewelry and pottery, and bought a few pretty things. The thing about six weeks roadtrips, though, is the fact that you can’t possibly fit all the things you’d like to buy along the road in your luggage. So we had to settle for little place mats and the usual pencils and stickers.
We also spent a good while just admiring the view from the platform outside the tourist centre. It’s a pretty breath-taking view that makes you feel utterly tiny.
In case you get to visit this glorious place and decide to spend a little more time there than we did, there’s a Navajo owned hotel called The View right in the valley. They have premium cabins and a camping ground, so there seems to be plenty of options to choose from. The other option, of course, is to stay in a town nearby and just do a day roadtrip to the valley.
(Or, why not combine a trip to the Grand Canyon to your visit to Monument Valley? It’s only about a 3-4 hours drive, after all!)
After visiting the tourist center and snapping photos we drove a bit further in search of some sceneframing locations. Within just a mile of each other you can find the spots where Forrest Gump stopped running and where Amy & Rory get off the bus and meet up with the Doctor in an episode titled “The Impossible Astronaut”.
Ugh! Film nerd heaven!!
We managed to park our car on the side of the road and snapped away while avoiding getting any tourists standing in the background in our photos which proved to be a real challenge, as we certainly weren’t the only ones stopping for photos of the famous view from the highway.
And who can blame us tourists, really? It’s a pretty photogenic thing, this.
Thanks to Satu’s pre-trip research (pre-search?) we knew to look for the Forrest Gump sign at the spot where he stopped running in the film, turned around to face his followers and uttered “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”
We met some fellow fans and took photos of each other so we could pose with the sign together. We also noticed that visitors around the world had left their little notes on the back of the sign, so we gently carved our hellos there too. Would be pretty amazing if someone spotted our website address and decided to say hi!
Here are our two Forrest Gump sceneframes. As you can see, we decided to honour our lovely, loyal rental car by featuring her in one of the shots. We’ll publish the Doctor Who photos a bit later as an update, so do come back for those if you’re a Whovian!