Road Trip Day 7 – Floating Over Monument Valley

Last updated on:
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.

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, Uath
Three Sisters, Monument Valley, Utah

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

Ballooning
Ballooning

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

Ballooning
Monument Valley, Uath

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, Uath
Monument 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, Utah
Sun'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!

——

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.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

Join the ADB Community!
Sign up here to get exclusive travel tips, deals, and other inspiring goodies delivered to your inbox.

46 Comments on “Road Trip Day 7 – Floating Over Monument Valley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. 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.

      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!

    Absolutely fantastic, Amanda! Your photos are stunning, thanks for sharing them 🙂

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

    Stunning!! Gotta get myself there 🙂
    Loving following your trip

      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!

    I am too disgusted to look at your blog anymore. ME, ME, ME.

      Hahaha. I really hope you’re being sarcastic! If I didn’t know you, I’d be sad about this comment.

    Wow. That photo of the valley from the air is breath-taking. One of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

      Thanks, Erik! It was a pretty breath-taking morning, that’s for sure!

    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. 🙂

      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!

    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!

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

    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!

      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!

    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.

      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.

    Oh! I so want to do this!!! Amazing pictures. I will have to keep ballooning in mind for a future trip to the southwest.

      Definitely keep it in mind! It was so much fun, and you can’t beat those views!

    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

      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!)

    WOW! These are by far my favourite shots thus far! The colours are incredible!

    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.

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

    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!

      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!

    How much did the ride with the hot air balloon lasted? The desert looks amazing!

      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!

    Holy amazing! I think this just got added to my bucket list, haha

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

    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!

      I REALLY enjoyed this! It was perhaps my favorite day out of the whole road trip. I don’t think it possibly could have been more perfect!

        We seldom see this kind of beauty so I’m not in doubt why you fell in love with the place and really enjoyed the trip! I hope to read more of your road trip updates!

    Awesome! Incredible landscapes and great photos. We hope to do a similar trip on our way to TBEX in Colorado next summer

      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.

    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! ;]

      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…)

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

    […] 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 […]

As Seen On

As Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen OnAs Seen On