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Monument Valley, Utah, was not in our original road trip plans. It was too far south, and not really “on the way” to any of the stops we were making.

But then I found out you could take hot air balloon flights over the valley. We had to rethink our plans.

Ballooning

We woke up before the sun rose on Day 7 to make the 45-minute drive from the Valley of the Gods to the Monument Valley tribal park. The valley is located on Navajo lands, which is the only thing that prevents it from being named a National Park.

Monument Valley, UathThree Sisters, Monument Valley, Utah
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We met up with our balloon pilot Frank from Monument Valley Balloon Flights, Navajo guide Gabriel from Majestic Monument Valley Touring Co., and driver Danner at The View hotel, which — true to its name — offers sweeping views out across Monument Valley. Of course, when we arrived, the sun wasn’t yet above the horizon.

Monument Valley, Uath

Our little team headed into the park on a rather rough unpaved road (I would not suggest taking your tiny sedan through this park), and stopped to watch the sun rise between the Two Mittens. Every rock formation in Monument Valley has a name — and usually a story — and Gabriel pointed them all out as we traversed through the park.

Monument Valley, Uath

There are the Three Sisters:

Three Sisters, Monument Valley, Utah

Artist’s Point:

Artist's Point, Monument Valley, Utah

Totem Pole and the God Heads:

Totem Pole, Monument Valley, Utah

Many Westerns have been filmed out here (it was a favorite location of John Wayne’s), as well as scenes from Mission Impossible and countless car commercials. It’s not difficult to understand why — the scenery definitely leaves an impression.

Monument Valley, Uath

Eventually, after stopping to check the wind direction a few times, we came to a clear spot that would serve as the launching point for our hot air balloon. Frank, Gabriel and Danner set to work unfurling and inflating the balloon. It was actually a pretty fascinating process.

Ballooning

BallooningBallooning
….

And then, before we knew it, Melissa and I were climbing into the basket and rising into the air.

BallooningMonument Valley, Uath
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The balloon ride was smooth and rather warm, and the views we got from 7,000 feet up were indescribable. Instead of writing about them, I’ll just show you:

Monument Valley, Uath

Ballooning

Our awesome pilot, Frank. He’s a Vietnam vet who got shot down twice, and who still flies “anything that will go up in the air.”

Monument Valley, UathMonument Valley, Uath

Monument Valley, Uath

Sleeping Dragon

Monument Valley, Uath

Landing was not quite as easy as taking off, but eventually Frank set us down on a bit of uneven road, and the guys began wrestling with the balloon to get it packed away. While this was going on, Melissa and I were treated to a little breakfast, complete with sparkling cider (it’s customary to carry champagne on any hot air balloon ride, but since we were on a Navajo reservation where alcohol is prohibited, we settled for cider).

Monument Valley, Uath

Next it was off on a short backcountry tour, with stops at various natural arches.

The Sun’s Eye:

Sun's Eye, Monument Valley, UtahSun's Eye, Monument Valley, Utah
….

Ear of the Wind:

Ear of the Wind, Monument Valley, Utah

Big Hogan:

Big Hogan, Monument Valley, Utah

Our last stop on the tour was at John Ford’s Point, which is said to be one of the director’s favorite spots to film in Monument Valley (his most notable film, in case you don’t recognize the name, is probably “Stagecoach”).

Monument Valley, Uath

Not quite ready to leave Monument Valley just yet, Melissa and I headed into The View for lunch at their restaurant. We both got Navajo Tacos, which are served on fluffy blue-corn frybread. Yum!

Navajo Taco

After a few more photos in the early afternoon light, it was finally time to bid Monument Valley (and Utah, for the time being) farewell.

Monument Valley, Uath

Monument Valley, Uath

Each day, I’ll be cutting together a quick video to show you what we’ve been up to. Here’s Day 7:

Tomorrow, it’s on to Page, Arizona, where we’ll explore Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell!

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Disclaimer: We were provided complimentary balloon flights and tours in Monument Valley, care of Hot Air Expeditions. Big thanks to them, and to Frank, Gabriel and Danner, who were fantastic. As always, though, all opinions are my own.

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45 Responses to Road Trip Day 7 – Floating Over Monument Valley

  1. Traci says:

    What fabulous photos! You should publish a calendar! You’re much braver than I to go up in the balloon, but I guess it was worth it for these amazing shots.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thank you! It would be fun to put together a calendar after this trip… though I’d have a hard time choosing just 12 photos!!

      I know some people would not find hot air ballooning fun… I could definitely see how it would be scary for someone who doesn’t do well with heights. Lucky for me, heights don’t bother me!

  2. Candace says:

    Absolutely fantastic, Amanda! Your photos are stunning, thanks for sharing them :)
    Candace recently posted..london’s burning: heartbreak in the city.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Candace! I’m having so much fun taking photos here out West! I’m glad you enjoyed this batch. :)

  3. Stunning!! Gotta get myself there :)
    Loving following your trip
    Linda ~ Journey Jottings recently posted..An Australia Rainforest Delight ~ Moran’s Falls

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It’s so pretty out here. You SHOULD get yourself out this way, ASAP!

      And thanks for following along, Linda. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it!

  4. I am too disgusted to look at your blog anymore. ME, ME, ME.
    Marilyn Wenger recently posted..Link to Blood Shot Records

  5. Erik says:

    Wow. That photo of the valley from the air is breath-taking. One of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
    Erik recently posted..Photo of the Day- Pagoda, Guangzhou, China

  6. Danielle says:

    Riding in a hot air balloon is definitely on my to-do list. It looks like it was an amazing time and the views must have been stunning. Those rock formations are really cool. Can’t wait to see what the next stop brings. :)
    Danielle recently posted..Overlooked Gems of New York City

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Riding in a hot air balloon was on my bucket list, so I’m really glad I get to tick that one off. And you really can’t pick a better location than Monument Valley!

  7. Great post…gorgeous shots! And how awesome to try out a hot air balloon in such a lovely place! I’ve been up in one, here in NJ (out in the country) and loved it. I agree with you; landing is not as easy as taking off!
    Lisa @chickybus recently posted..1-Year Blogoversary and Oh Yeah, My 7 Links!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thank you, Lisa! We lucked out and had great weather. It was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget!

  8. Shannon says:

    Sleeping dragon is my favorite photo you’ve taken.

    Looks like a river was there recently, and in my opinion that’s the best aerial photo too :)

    I am supposed to be taking another road trip in 3 months but I won’t even get to cut through Utah either :(

    Out west is definitely something, you two need to head further west next time you’re still missing the rest of the western glories!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I didn’t know that was called “Sleeping Dragon” until later. I actually thought it looked like an alligator! So I guess I was close!

      Too bad you won’t get to cut through Utah on your next road trip. We still have lots of it to explore ourselves!

  9. You always do such amazing work on your photos! They’re really wonderful. I’ve been following the trip and it looks like you’re having an amazing time.
    Adventurous Kate recently posted..Race to the Alamo, Day Three: Bonsais and Sambas (WITH A GIVEAWAY!)

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Kate! I never really intended this to turn into a photo-heavy blog, but it kind of has on its own! I can’t help it… I love my camera!

      And yes, I’m having a great time! It’s great to be seeing so much of the US.

  10. Juliann says:

    Oh! I so want to do this!!! Amazing pictures. I will have to keep ballooning in mind for a future trip to the southwest.
    Juliann recently posted..Simulating ‘The Sims’ Experiment

  11. The colors in these photos are AMAZING, I bet they looked even more breathtaking in person! I’m definitely putting this on my list of places I have to see in the US. Maybe I’ll even do a road trip of my own!

    Sara

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks so much, Sara! You should definitely do a road trip of your own! The US has so much to offer. (And yes, the colors WERE even better in person!)

  12. Audrey says:

    WOW! These are by far my favourite shots thus far! The colours are incredible!
    Audrey recently posted..Long Beach: Escaping the NYC Heat

  13. Claire says:

    Agree with a comment above-publish a calendar! Or at least frame them, they are pretty awesome! I was thinking of going parasailing this weekend, and this post may have just sealed my fate.
    Claire recently posted..Misery and Illness Love Company

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I will definitely be framing some of the shots from this trip. You know, once I nurse my savings account back to health. Haha.

  14. Bob Crunch says:

    The views you took the pictures from are excellent. All the pictures were beautiful. I am afraid of heights so I told myself I would never ride in a hot air balloon, but to experience in person what I just saw might trump my fear of heights. Great article!

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Bob! Going up in a hot air balloon might be a challenge if you’re afraid of heights, but I promise that flying in this area is well worth it!

  15. How much did the ride with the hot air balloon lasted? The desert looks amazing!
    Cristian Balau recently posted..Why Won’t My Agapanthus Bloom?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      We were up in the air for at least an hour, floating over the same general area. Once you’re up there, you really can’t steer – you have to rely on the wind!

  16. Chris says:

    Holy amazing! I think this just got added to my bucket list, haha
    Chris recently posted..Ten Tips for ESL Teachers

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It DEFINITELY should be added to your bucket list! It was fantastic. One of my favorite parts of the trip so far, for sure!

  17. Maria Pavel says:

    Looks like you really enjoyed your trip! I really like the sleeping dragon picture and of course the food! A great experience up there plus a great treat after landing, perfect vacation!
    Maria Pavel recently posted..Certified Nursing Assistant Salary

  18. Awesome! Incredible landscapes and great photos. We hope to do a similar trip on our way to TBEX in Colorado next summer
    Cam @ Traveling Canucks recently posted..Camel Surfing at the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

    • DangerousBiz says:

      The landscapes in Utah are absolutely amazing. If you have the chance to do anything similar next summer, DO IT! It was probably my favorite thing we did on this whole trip.

  19. Adzaaahhh says:

    This looks BRILLIANT! I’m heading over to the States on holiday next year and was thinking about cutting Monument Valley out of my itinerary due to lack of time, but I reckon you’ve just convinced me not to! ;]

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Definitely DO NOT cut it out! It was one of my very favorite places that we visited on this road trip. Utah has a lot of stunning parks, and Monument Valley just might be my favorite so far! (Though I still have a lot to see…)

  20. Deirdre Knox says:

    Definitely keep it in mind! This looks BRILLIANT! A great experience up there plus a great treat after landing, perfect vacation!

  21. [...] Best overall experience: I had some great ones in New Zealand this past spring, but I think I have to go with taking a hot air balloon over Monument Valley. [...]

  22. [...] in a hot air balloon (Monument Valley, [...]

  23. […] chance to visit some of these places again. If you want to go whitewater rafting in Colorado, on a hot air balloon ride in Monument Valley, or to every museum you pass, do it. I’m sure your roadtripping dreams never included ending your […]

  24. […] it comes to the American Southwest, I always tell people that Monument Valley is my favorite spot. It’s not a national park — but only because it’s a Navajo […]

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