Monument Valley – Utah, U.S.A.

The Classic Western Skyline

You’ve been here before. You recognize it all. You grew up seeing this ancient wonder as the perfect backdrop for dozens of classic Western films and television series, as well as innumerable car commercials,

billboards, and fashion shoots. It started with John Ford’s 1939 masterpiece Stagecoach, which elevated then B-movie actor John Wayne onto Hollywood’s A list. Fort Apache, The Searchers, and others followed, making this stark landscape of wind-sculpted buttes, eroded, sometimes 1,000-foot-high mesas, and craggy red-rock monoliths into the indelible symbol of the Old West. And the Navajos made Ford an honorary member.

From the beginning, Goulding’s Lodge has been the epicenter of Monument Valley’s movie career, providing film crews (and random visitors) with the only accommodations of note in this remote 2,000-square-mile area. Because Monument Valley sits on sacred Navajo land, visitors must be accompanied by local Navajo guides when traveling anywhere beyond the scenic, self-guided 17-mile unpaved loop that runs through the park.

A few hours spent with a Navajo guide is the guaranteed highlight of any visit. Bouncing around the park’s dirt roads to remote backcountry, pictographs, Anasazi ruins, and natural arches, you also gain insight into the heritage of the Navajo Nation, the largest American Indian tribe, with about 300,000 members.

Comprising mostly high desert area (often over 5,000 feet), the 17-million-acre Navajo reservation is bigger than all of New England and includes not only Monument Valley but also the Four Comers area, the only place in the United States where four states – Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico – come together.

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