Monument Valley

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If you are comfortable on a horse, there’s nothing like riding in this area. Maybe it’s all the cowboy movies we’ve seen or the iconic images of Native Americans on horseback decked out in their finery, but there’s just something about being on a horse in Monument Valley that feels right.

Dineh Trail Rides, Located on the 17-mile loop drive on the valley floor at milepost 5. Rates: $45 to $195. 435-419-0135

The View Hotel

For decades, the only option for staying overnight in Monument Valley was Goulding’s Lodge or a picturesque campground, unless you wanted to book a room in one of the outlying towns. Needless to say, you had to plan your Monument Valley experience months, if not a year, in advance. That all changed in December 2008 when The View Hotel opened adjacent to the Tribal Visitors Center inside Monument Valley Tribal Park. The View includes 95 rooms and three floors; each room has stunning views of the Mittens formations and other iconic monoliths. Some of the best views of the park can be had right from your hotel balcony, especially at sunrise.

Each guestroom is comfortably appointed with a flat-screen television; spacious bathrooms; a refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker; and plush bath towels. The rooms are decorated with Navajo sand paintings, rugs and plant dye charts. The hotel also boasts a fitness center; an extensive gift shop; a cozy lobby with a floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace; and a restaurant that serves up traditional Navajo cuisine, headed by Executive Chef MacNeal Crank. MacNeal was born in Monument Valley, but he attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago when it was still the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. The restaurant serves up a breakfast buffet as well as lunch and dinner. You can dine indoors or outdoors – either way you’ll enjoy the same expansive views that you enjoy from your guest room (the hotel is also a wedding hot spot; owner Armanda Ortega was married at The View, and her wedding photos hang in the lobby). For dinner one night, we enjoyed The Duke’s Steak, a 14-ounce ribeye, and the Wild Wild West, a buffalo medallion with a port wine sauce. One thing to keep in mind: The Navajo Nation is dry, which means you won’t be able to purchase alcoholic beverages on the reservation.

Don’t miss the Tribal Visitors Center, which will give you a much better understanding of the Navajo Nation (especially if you don’t take a tour during your visit).

The View Hotel, Located inside Monument Valley Tribal Park. Room rates range from $99 to $199 plus tax depending on the season ($20 to $30 extra for rooms with premium views). 435-727-5555;

Wildcat Trail

The silence in Monument Valley is so enormous that your soul absorbs it. You speak in hushed voices as if the sound of humans might scare the quiet away. Mostly, you don’t speak at all because nothing you can say is more important than the scenery surrounding you. At no other time is the silence as profound as sunrise. It’s not as if people are still tucked away in their hotel beds. Sunrise is the equivalent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Monument Valley, and everyone wakes up for it. Travelers stand alone on their hotel balconies or gather in hushed groups near the visitors center, but they are all awake.

One of the best spots to experience the sunrise and the silence is the Wildcat Trail, one of only two trails in the tribal park that you can hike without a guide. The 3.2-mile loop leaves from the campground north of The View Hotel and immediately makes a sandy descent to the valley floor, eventually circling the left mitten. It’s a nature trail, which means signs identify the various plants along the route. Amazingly enough, we were the only people on the trail one Saturday morning, which allowed our imaginations to travel back in time to a pre-tourist Monument Valley when only the Diné had the fortune of watching the sun rise between the left mitten and Merrick Butte.

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