Road Trip Day 7 – Floating Over Monument Valley

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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, 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

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

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  1. Hi,

    I just tried to find a place to hot air balloon over monument valley and they told me nobody is allowed to fly over it. I clicked on the link you shared for the company but it looks like they fly over Arizona. Can you explain a little more how you were able to book this trip?

    Thank you and I appreciate it.

      Hi Megan! I did this trip back in 2011, so there may have been different regulations then. We didn’t fly directly over any of the buttes, but I *think* we were technically within Monument Valley. But, like I said, this was almost a decade ago, so things may be different now.

    […] 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 […]

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

    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…)

    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.

    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!

    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!

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