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We decided to spend a night and go camping in Monument Valley after driving from the Grand Canyon on our western National Parks road trip. It’s a beautiful place in the middle of the desert on the border of Arizona and Utah. It’s also a good place to stop over if your coming from or on your way to the Four Corners.
The Navajo Tribal Park owns the property and operates a visitor’s center, hotel, campground, and guided tours. We spent half a day there, and along with camping, we got to see a lot on our short visit!
Read more about the Top 7 Things to do in Monument Valley!
Camping in Monument Valley
If you have your own tent and camping supplies, great. If not, don’t worry! There are Monument Valley campgrounds where you can rent a tent, or even go *glamping in a nice big canvas tent with a bed, a tipi, or a Hogan (a traditional dwelling of the natives that’s like a big wooden, or stone hut).
- The View Campground, located in the Tribal Park itself. It’s got RV hookups and traditional camping sites that you need your own tent for.
- Goulding’s has a campground too, complete with RV hookups, cabins, and tent sites.
- Monument Valley Tipi Village, located just before Goulding’s. How cool would it be to spend the night in a tipi! They also have cabins and tent sites available.
- Mustang Valley Campground, also located right outside the Tribal Park on Monument Valley Road. This is the campground where we stayed, and we booked it through Airbnb. If you’ve never tried Airbnb yet, I highly recommend it!
*Glamping is a newly coined word that means “glamorous camping”. There are the extremes where you have a full on hotel bed, nice floor, and even bathroom facilities inside or nearby your “tent”. And by tent I’m not talking one of those little small popups, but a big canvas tent that you can stand up and walk around in. More modest glamping tents will just include a comfy bed or cot.
The campground owner where we stayed at was a native Navajo who was really friendly, and even sold us firewood for a good price so we didn’t have to go shopping for it. Although if you do need firewood or food supplies there’s Goulding’s Grocery Store that you can stop at just down the road.
Hotels in Monument Valley
- The View Hotel. This is right on the property of the visitor’s center, and owned by the Navajo. It’s front and center set up for a beautiful sunrise view!
- Goulding’s Lodge. Another great and popular place with a view of the valley! Even if you don’t stay here it’s worth taking a ride up. There’s a lot of movie memorabilia from John Wayne. See the places he was at when they filmed the popular movies!
- Tear Drop Arch B&B which includes options for camping too.
- Fire Tree B&B, A bit on the expensive side, but pretty cool looking in that you you can sleep in a Hogan! This is a little farther away from the main monuments and section of Monument Valley however.
Other Places to Stay nearby
If the places right in Monument Valley are full or too expensive, you can also try in the nearby towns of Kayenta (20 minutes to the south), or Mexican Hat (20 minutes north). Both are generally a bit cheaper.
Mexican Hat, Utah
Our Monument Valley Camping Story
We drove into our campsite in the afternoon. I had planned to get here before dark as I heard there weren’t any streetlights, so it would be much more difficult to find the place. I definitely advise arriving during daylight hours!
We didn’t see anybody in the campground at first, but after a minute or two one of the owners came out and greeted us. She was nice and showed us to our spot. It was a big white canvas tent with 2 beds inside with colorful wool blankets, even a couch! (Yes, we took the glamping route, as we didn’t bring any camping gear with us on the plane).
There was a light hooked onto the pole in the center of the tent so we could see around in the dark-which was great since we forgot to take a flashlight with us! Yeah..so I highly recommend bringing a flashlight, especially one of these headlamps, if you’re going camping-or glamping even!
Oh and for bathrooms…there was the lone outhouse, set a little ways away from the tents, and facing towards one of the monuments. Well, at least you get a nice view! Since we forgot any sort of flashlight, we used our phones light to guide to us and from the outhouse at night, not really the best but it worked lol. They also did have some showers with running water on the other side of the area.
We left the campground for a while to go visit the park itself and Goulding’s Lodge (you can you can read here about all the things to do in Monument Valley), and then came back just before it got dark as we didn’t want to get lost or anything. This area gets VERY dark after sunset.
Since we were camping, we absolutely had to build a campfire! We set up the wood, and the owner also showed us where there were some matches and lighter fluid to start it with. Jason, my husband, got the fire going, and after a few minutes another camper came over to us, “Hello, mind if I join you?” he said with a heavy Asian accent. Sure why not! The more the merrier 🙂
Jimmy was his name, and he was a software engineer from China “Where iPhone is made!” as he told us. We all sat down on the wood benches surrounding the fire and ate dinner together. Me and Jason had stopped over at Goulding’s Store where they had a small fast food bar. I got a “Navajo Taco”, which was a piece of fry bread (a Navajo flat bread deep fried) with standard taco filling. It wasn’t too bad for something quick to eat.
Jimmy went back over to his car to grab his food, and came back…with a can of spam. “Uh Jimmy,” Jason started to say, “that’s um, not really good.”
“No, is good! Is American food. I want try real culture food!”
“Yeah, ok, but do you have anything else? That’s really not good food.”
“No, no, is good, look see here, it not expire for 5 year!” We then watched as he opened the can and took some out to try it. “Hm, I think, it needs cooked. Taste better warmer.”
“Well it’s kind of hard to cook that without a frying pan or anything here.”
Then he took some of the spam meat and tried to put it on a stick to hold it over the fire, which of course didn’t work as it just fell off the stick lol….Finally giving up, he went back to see what else he had and must have talked to the owner because before long he came back with some real American fair: a nice juicy hot dog!
We sat and chatted for a few hours around the campfire, played some music on the small travel guitar we’d brought, and enjoyed looking up at the stars until it got too cloudy. Inside the tent the beds were really nice and cozy with thick wool blankets on top which kept us warm the whole night. It did get chilly, and also very windy, probably was down in the 40’s outside in early October when we stayed the night.
The next morning I got up just before sunrise. It was still really cool out as I sat there with my winter coat on and hood pulled over my head, but wow was it worth it! As the sun came up it lit up the sky with the monuments backlit against it. Being right down on the ground in the valley made it even more spectacular!
We lit the fire and sat down while another camper and Jimmy joined us again, along with an armful of dried desert sticks that he had collected. “Here, I bring more wood!” He dropped the whole pile right next to the already lit fire and wooden benches. Eeek lol. We quick got that out of the way before it would create a problem. Jimmy grew up in the city and knew nothing about lighting fires or cooking, so this whole trip was truly an adventure for him!
After a small breakfast of granola bars and fruit, and some coffee that the campground owner had available, we let the fire die out and then said our goodbye’s to Jimmy. He was heading towards the Tribal Park for the day then onto other sites during his 3 week trip to the US. Some of the best parts of trips like these are meeting new people from all over the world and different cultures. It had been fun talking and getting to know him.
The campground owner, who was himself a Navajo, was nice enough to tell us we can go for a walk towards one of the buttes if we wanted. There was a dirt road we could follow. This was great! We were going to get to take a small hike in the valley after all! We packed up all our things into the car, got a few bottles of water to take with us and then went for a short walk in the valley.
Since we had a lot of other stuff to do that day, we didn’t go too far, maybe half a mile, but it was enough to get a small experience of being surrounded only by desert grasses and red sand and rock. We didn’t see any animals, but we did come across one thing you see in the wild west: bones!
Closer towards the butte there was actually a small water reservoir, surprising to us, but the Navajo who live in these lands actually get their water from underground springs in the area. After we got some pictures of the horse skeleton, we turned around and went back to camp to continue on our western road trip. Onto the Four Corner’s!
If you’re looking to read about the history on the area before you go, check out this book: Monument Valley: The Story Behind the Scenery
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