A location that had been on my bucket list since Clark Griswold crashed the stationwagon there in National Lampoons Vacation and Forest Gump chose it to end his jog across the country. On one of our treks from CA to Washington D.C. we were able to stop for a visit. It’s certainly well off the beaten path, which makes it pretty boring to get to. Worth it though? Absolutely!
We had our camper and were able to stay right in the valley at the Monument Valley KOA. As locations go, you really couldn’t beat it.
They had a great little dog park and play ground as well. Best part, wake up for the sunrise! It’s so strangely quiet, it doesn’t seem real. No, this sunrise photo is not edited one bit and was taken with my little cheap digital camera. It was really that spectacular.
Of course, once there, you realize you really can’t just hike out on reservation land, so now what? Well the KOA offered both jeep and horseback tours right on site. We did not have reservations made in advance but were able to call on the spot and they took us out an hour later. Can’t beat that! Our guide was great, and being Navajo, he told us much about the Native American history of the area and even about several movies that have been filmed there and what movie stars he had met. The horses were all mustangs caught locally and trained by his family. As a horse person, my mare was rougher than a pogo stick and mustangs are not my favorite breed, but I have to admire their grit to handle the terrain. The pampered dressage/hunters I’ve mostly associated with would have thought they were being abused to trot along through the rough, often rocky patches with deep sand where there were no rocks, dotted with prickly pear cactus and bleached bones of deceased relatives. Yes, we found a few remains of the lower jaw of a horse and some of its spine. The rest carried off long ago by the area’s natural predator, mountain lions. Riley was fascinated by this and our guide let us explore the area to hunt for any other remains and take home a tooth as a souvenir.
After our ride we had a late breakfast at the Stagecoach Restaurant not far down the road in Goulding. They also have a nice gift shop, museum, lodging, and an RV park. The food was a kind of mediocre but served a few different Navajo inspired dishes. They have the market a bit cornered as the next town is a good hours drive. Expect to spend a little more than you want to for what you get.
Unfortunately, We had to hit the road after that. I would have loved to stay a little longer and taken a drive on the Tribal Park Loop, the only area you can drive into the dirt without taking a tour. There are several tour companies available in the area in all price ranges. We really were not sure we were going to get to make this stop, so we had nothing planned in advance. We were all very happy with our horseback tour right from the campground though and would highly recommend it.