When traveling through the Southwest, you should definitely take the time to drive through Monument Valley, located on the Utah-Arizona state line near Four Corners. Monument Valley is within the Navajo Nation Reservation.

Monument Valley has been made famous as the location of countless Western films, most notably by director John Ford. In fact, Ford made so many films in the region, there is an overlook named after him, John Ford Point. More recently, a round snaking its way through Monument Valley was where Forrest Gump stopped running and there is a roadside sign marking the spot. Car manufacturers also love to film car commercials in the valley.

Much of the region is unpaved so renting an SUV or dune buggy is recommended for exploring the region in depth after you’ve setup a base of operations in one of the local resorts or campgrounds.

Of course, the real stars of the region are the “monuments” themselves. These sandstone buttes formed as a result of ancestral Rock Mountain sediments being deposited in the area while a regional geologic uplift occurred on the Colorado Plateau. The pressure of the uplift pushed the plateau upward, causing it to bulge and crack. These remaining buttes dot the landscape with majestic forms, each with their own unique beauty.

Watching sunrises and sunsets over the monuments is a sight to behold, especially if there are some clouds present. The warm glow of the sky and streaks of sun poking through the craggy spires is breathtaking.

There are several places to stay right in the heart of the valley, including resorts and campgrounds. I highly recommend the KOA where you can camp in view of several of the more picturesque monuments and it’s a great place to take photos of sunrise. It’s also convenient to Jeep rentals and other organized tours of the area.

It should be noted that this region can get extremely hot in the summer so make sure to plan accordingly with extra water and supplies. There are also various snakes and scorpions around, so keep an eye out.