It is very common to go on a road trip from Grand Canyon to Monument Valley (or vice versa) while visiting the parks of the American West. The two parks in question are essential stops for anyone who wants to see with their own eyes the iconic views of the Far West, and due to their relative proximity, you should find a way to visit both of them and plan carefully the itinerary, accommodations and stops between the two most important parks in Arizona.
- How far is Monument Valley from Grand Canyon?
- Places to Stop Between Grand Canyon and Monument Valley
- Can You Visit Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in One Day?
- Places to Stay between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley
How far is Monument Valley from Grand Canyon?
The distance between Grand Canyon and Monument Valley is about 181 miles. Without any breaks, it will take about 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive this distance along a somewhat monotonous desert road, which I will talk more about in the next paragraph. However, the estimated travel time may not turn out to be as you expected. If you come from Monument Valley, you will gain one hour thanks to the special time zone of the Navajo Nation. If you take the opposite route, of course, you’ll have to count that you’ll have one hour less.
Coming from Monument Valley, after Kayenta you must take US-160 W and follow it to Tuba City. During the last part of the trip, you will drive along US-89 until the junction with AZ-64 W. After about 31 miles, this road becomes Desert View, the panoramic road that runs along the South Rim.
Places to Stop Between Grand Canyon and Monument Valley
As always, there are detours along the route that can enrich the road trip experience. I will describe the places of interest that can be visited along the way. If you have a little more time on your hands and would like to discover the natural wonders that are not as famous as the two well-known parks of Arizona, then you can follow this itinerary, which includes some very interesting stops that are often ignored by travelers.
Baby Rocks and Church Rock
The first interesting stop after Monument Valley is Baby Rocks, a spectacular red rock landscape vaguely resembling Bryce Canyon in the middle of the desert just off the road. After leaving Monument Valley behind you, when you reach Kayenta, instead of driving west on the fastest route, take a short stretch of road east towards Red Mesa and the Four Corners National Monument.
From the junction at Kayenta count 14 miles, then on the right, you’ll see the red escarpments and the hoodoos scattered around Baby Rocks (here are the coordinates). It will really seem like has teleported a section of Bryce Canyon to the Navajo Nation! Be careful though, the easiest access to the rocks located on private property and, at least when we went there, the dogs didn’t want us there.
On the way to Baby Rocks, just 7.45 miles from Kayenta, you will see on your left a massive and extremely picturesque rock formation called Church Rock, but originally it was called Sculpted Rock or Artenesales de Piedra. You can see it from a distance by parking on the side of the road. We liked it so much that before leaving to go to the Grand Canyon we photographed it from all possible angles!
After a quick visit to these two secret places in Arizona, you can finally head back to Kayenta and travel towards the Grand Canyon on AZ-64 W towards Tuba City. However, 20 miles after Kayenta, you will see a sign for the Navajo National Monument, a national monument in the Navajo Nation that never fails to amaze those who decide to visit it. In fact, it is not uncommon to read accounts of people who, during the trip, decided to stop at this park for a quick visit, and, to their surprise, they had an incredible experience.
The main feature of the Navajo National Monument is in fact the ancient settlements carved in the rock face of the Tsegi Canyon that are dated around 1250-1300 (III Pueblo period). This precious artifact of ancient ancestral civilizations (Anasazi, as they are referred to by the Navajo, their direct descendants) can be of particular interest to all those who are in the middle of a classic tour of the West Coast, whose itinerary would not allow them to see the typical native villages of northeastern Arizona (Mesa Verde and Canyon de Chelly, to name two famous ones), Utah (Mystery Valley, for example), Colorado and the pueblos of New Mexico.
So if you’d like to see the remains of such an ancient civilization, turn right at the sign and take AZ-564 side road to the visitor center, a short distance from the canyon cliff. The most popular hike in this small park is 1 mile long and is called the Sandal Trail, which allows you to see the village called Betatakin Cliff Dwelling from afar. The only other option is to join one of the park rangers’ guided tours, which are more demanding and tiring, but they allow you to see the various pueblos of the area from a more favorable observation point.
Prices and Schedule
Admission to the park is free.
Operating hours are as follows: from the last week of May to the first week of September, the visitor center is open from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm, while from October to May, closing time is earlier than 5 p.m. WARNING! Being part of the Navajo Nation, the park follows a particular time zone. If you do not take this into account, you may find it closed!
Elephant Feet Area
After visiting the Navajo National Monument, return to the main road and drive back to Tuba City. About 28 miles from the junction with AZ-564, near Tonalea, stop to take a picture of two large monoliths on the side of the road called Elephant Feet because of the curious resemblance to the feet of a pachyderm.
Coal Mine Canyon
Tuba City is not the most beautiful town you will encounter on your journey, but there are a couple of little-known attractions nearby you shouldn’t miss. The best of all is the pristine Coal Mine Canyon. To get there, you must take a detour from the main road that will take 70 minutes (round trip) and is a bit complicated to reach. If you absolutely want to see it, as was the case for me, the directions in the article in the link above (click on Coal Mine Canyon) will certainly help you.
Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks
Another interesting attraction is located just 6 miles south of Tuba City, this time right on the route to the Grand Canyon. You can take a short detour to get there by turning right off of the main road. Those who are fascinated by prehistory should definitely consider visiting the Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks (also known as Moenave Dinosaur Tracks), which will give you the chance to see with your own eyes real dinosaur footprints in the Navajo Nation desert.
Although there are Navajo guides who will offer to give you a tour, you can visit the short trail for free and consider purchasing a Navajo handicraft instead.
The last stop I would like to point out is the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park. It is located along AZ-64, just 9 miles from Cameron (junction with AZ-64 W), and it allows you to see from an elevated position a section of the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River which, with its swelling waters, helped to carve the Grand Canyon. Although overshadowed by the bigger river nearby, this river – in its small form – has also dug its own Grand Canyon, known as the Little Colorado River Gorge.
To enjoy a beautiful view of this gorge, you must reach the Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park. In order to access the first overlook you’ll have to pay ($5 per car), but the second overlook is free. In Cameron, 1.86 miles before taking AZ-64, near a Trading Post, you can also see an old suspension bridge over the river dating back to 1911.
Can You Visit Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in One Day?
If you ask me what I think about the plan to visit Monument Valley and Grand Canyon in one day – and personally I am opposed to short visits to national parks in general – I would tell you that it is not the best idea. If you do wish to follow through with it, I suggest that you to organize the itinerary very well, starting at the latest in the late morning from Monument Valley and go straight to the Grand Canyon without making any stops along the way and visit the canyon (it will be a superficial and hurried visit) in the afternoon, taking advantage of the favorable time zone. For advice on where to find accommodations after the visit, click on the link below to read the article. Flagstaff, Williams and Valle and Tusayan are good choices, but it all depends on where you are headed next.
Places to Stay between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley
Many people ask for tips on where to stay overnight between Monument Valley and Grand Canyon. While the distance between the two parks is not excessive, the shortage of convenient accommodations near the east entrance to the Grand Canyon makes everything more complicated. There are mainly 3 scenarios:
- If you visited the Monument Valley in the morning and want to get closer to the Grand Canyon during the rest of the day, you may decide to find accommodations in Tuba City (not particularly pretty, but it is in a very strategic location) or in Flagstaff (which is prettier and although it is not as convenient, there are more accommodations, since it is on Route 66), perhaps devoting some time to visit 2-3 attractions described above.
- In case you visited the Monument Valley in the afternoon (those who have little time do so after having visited Page’s attractions in the morning), I suggest you look for a placed to stay near the Monument Valley (for example Kayenta) and leave early in the morning the next day to travel to the Grand Canyon.
- If you are going from the Grand Canyon to Monument Valley, you have two main options. First, if after visiting the park you don’t mind driving another 3 hours and 20 minutes, you can spend the night in Kayenta. If you prefer to break up the trip, the only option is Tuba City, which is 1 hour and 40 minutes from the Grand Canyon (Flagstaff is not a convenient option, since you are going north), which is not bad at all, and you can also take the opportunity to stop by Coal Mine Canyon before dinner!
Here are all the links to find accommodations: