Monument Valley, pt. 1
The View Campground in Monument Valley
Amenities: bathrooms with toilets and showers, The View Restaurant within walking distance
We have been planning this trip since January and it has been a long time coming. We actually took a day off work for this trip, too, which rarely happens for weekend adventures, so this felt particularly exciting. We left on Thursday night to drive to Grand Junction - this is our typical stopover for trips out west. It cut four hours off the drive on Friday, meaning we were able to take the extra time and go to Four Corners!
This place was so cool! We parked in Arizona, peed in New Mexico, stood in line in Utah, and walked around in Colorado. We could have stayed for longer and wandered around the shops, but we were eager to see Monument Valley in person so we hit the road again!
I'm actually super grateful we drove in this way - coming from the southwest, you can't see any part of Monument Valley until you're in the park. It made it that much more magnificent and breathtaking. It costs $20 to get into the park, and I paid like $40 for our campsite, so it was a pretty good deal for the weekend.
When we arrived, we headed straight for the visitors center and gift shop. It's so cool that this park is on Navajo land because everything in the shop was made in the USA and certified authentic. It made me feel much better about spending money there!
From the visitors center, we went to find our campsite. With our reservation, we hadn't reserved a specific site, just a guarantee that one of the sites would be ours for the night. We were given a map of the area, told to go down and pick a site, and then the manager simply highlighted the site we chose. We wanted to find a site that had a relatively unobstructed view of the Valley, so we walked the whole campground and chose 29 - a beautiful site right on the edge with no room for anyone in front of us.
We set up camp, made friends with our neighbors (who had a GIGANTIC 6-person tent for two people. We got there after them and we were set up almost 45 minutes before them), and started to cook dinner. It was starting to get SUPER windy, so we cooked as fast as possible before packing up and putting the food away so it wouldn't get covered in sand. The sun started to set and the Buttes were doused in gorgeous golden-hour sunshine.
Logan and I went up to the bathrooms and all the sudden the sky on the side opposite the Buttes was lit up - I abandoned Logan in the bathroom, grabbed my camera, told our neighbors about the view, and ran back up to watch.
I set my alarm for 5:00 the next morning to watch the sunrise. The night was pretty rough - the wind picked up and ripped some of our stakes out making the tent super loud. The wind also whipped the sand around and literally everything we owned was coated in red sand. My sleeping bag was filled. My pad was covered, because the static it created just attracted all the sand that was in the bottom of the tent. I woke up with sand in my mouth.
Needless to say, getting out of the tent and brushing off was a welcome change.
...then, the wind got to be too chilly and my sandy sleeping bag became more and more appealing. I crawled back in the tent to finish watching the sun came up.
The wind was too strong to even consider getting out the stove, so we went up to the visitors center for breakfast at The View Restaurant. DELICIOUS - the service wasn't so good, but the food was good enough that it didn't even matter.
After breakfast we hiked The Wildcat Trail, which was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. From there, we took a little nap, got pelted by more sand, and then drove part of The Valley Drive. This drive is a 17-mile loop through the Valley. The road itself is dirt, and for the most part is an easy drive to make - that being said, I would never take my little Corolla down it. There's sections where high clearance and 4WD/AWD is almost a necessity, and if not required, it definitely gave us piece of mind to be in Logan's car instead. It is absolutely stunning, and is self-guided with designated pull-offs and signs that label the different formations.
We didn't go that far down Valley Drive because we had signed up for a guided tour later that afternoon. See more about that particular adventure in part 2!
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