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The Wildcat Trail is the closest you can get to either of the mitten formations without a guide, so don’t miss it. Your views stretch all the way to the horizon, and you’ll be able to see many more distant monoliths and spires than just the mittens. This trail was not open the last time we visited Monument Valley about seven years ago, and we applaud the park for this much-needed addition.
Wildcat Trail. Trailhead located at the campground north of The View Hotel, 3.2-mile loop
For history buffs or fans of Western movies, Goulding’s Lodge is paradise. Harry and Leone (better known by her nickname of “Mike”) Goulding came to Monument Valley in the 1920s. Harry was a sheepherder from Durango, Colo. The couple opened Goulding’s Trading Post in 1928 (construction mostly took place in 1927; it opened for business in 1928, although the Gouldings had been trading out of tents for two years). The original trading post is now a museum complete with scores of magazine and newspaper clippings; a movie room; the Josef Muench Room, which displays Monument Valley photography as well as Harry and Mike’s marriage certificate; and Harry and Mike’s upstairs living quarters featuring dozens of framed family photos. The museum is open to everyone, and it would be easy to spend hours poring over all the documents and displays.
The lodge was built in 1953 as a row of motel rooms, and it was expanded in 1956. Today it includes 62 rooms, deluxe apartments and cabins, all with private balconies. The property also features the Stagecoach Dining Room; an exercise room; indoor pool; gift shop; campground with RV hookups; carwash; laundromat; and grocery store. We stayed in Goulding’s comfy cabins that are located behind the lodge and near the dining room. Each cabin has a patio with views of the park (the park entrance is five miles from the lodge); a flat-screen TV; a refrigerator and coffeemaker; a DVD player; plus a sofa sleeper, Murphy bed and two queen-size beds. You’ll definitely want to borrow one of the John Wayne films available in the lobby – a nice way to end the day.
Speaking of movies, Goulding’s also boasts the Earth Spirit Theater located behind the museum. The theater screens John Wayne films and Monument Valley documentaries.
Goulding’s Lodge, 1000 Main Street in Monument Valley. Room rates range from $78 to $185 plus tax depending on the season. 435-727-3231; www.gouldings.com.
It’s probably safe to say some of the most popular tours in Monument Valley are those conducted by Goulding’s Lodge. Everyone in our party had taken a Goulding’s tour at least once, and we all thought it was so memorable that we wanted to do it again. Enter Larry Holiday, a Goulding’s guide who grew up in Monument Valley, moved to Phoenix for six years and then returned to his place of birth. Larry is full of knowledge and legends about the valley, so we set off on a full-day (eight-hour) tour in an open-air truck with Larry behind the wheel.
The tour actually begins in Mystery Valley, which is south of Monument Valley and only accessible with a guide. The roads are carved out of red sand the consistency of baby powder, and you’ll need to be prepared for a dusty and somewhat bumpy journey. In Mystery Valley, you’ll stop at ruins including Square House, Baby Feet and Longhouse. Larry pointed out pottery shards littering the ground (DO NOT remove the shards from the site!) and explained how the broken pottery was ground up and used as a salve for wounded animals. He told us many elders believe the ruins still possess negative energy because the Navajo’s ancestors abandoned the dwellings so abruptly; all guides go through a ceremony before becoming guides “to protect us from the mojo in the ruins,” says Larry.