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Monument Valley: We'd do it different next time
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Monument Valley: We'd do it different next time

Monument Valley, Utah


Photo by Flavia Righetti

When we set off for Monument Valley we had a plan: Negotiate Valley Drive first and hike Wildcat Trail in the late afternoon. We hadn't factored in the previous night's rain. The park's only road was washed out; only guided jeep tours were allowed beyond the Visitor Center. We moseyed over to the tour booth a bit bemused.

The going rate for guided tours? Fifty dollars a person ($200 for a family of four) for a 1.5-hour jeep ride along the main drive. The road we should have been able to drive on our own. Horseback riding was $65 each ($260 for a family of four) for a similar length trail ride. Our first thought: This is a scam. But as we considered our options - it was too hot to hike and we had already paid to get in - we decided to try our hand at negotiating. Business was slow. We paid full price for the adults and half price for the kids and departed on a 90-minute trail ride.

Would we do it again? Yes and no. We got a closer look at an often-filmed sight, there were no lingering crowds on the trail, and the kids were smiling from ear to ear. But apart from pointing out two or three landmarks our guide provided little detail. What's more, the length of the horseback ride is based on the time it takes a horse to walk the trail. We trotted some and returned after 75 minutes, a quarter of an hour early. In short, we got a discount we didn't get a deal.

So what do we recommend? Don't get trapped at the tour booth in the parking lot. Ask about road and trail closures before you pay the entrance fee. (No one volunteered the information on the day we visited.) Research outfitters in advance and select a tour that offers more. Travel to the area knowing that Monument Valley can be flat if the view from the visitor center is the only one you get to see.

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