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We’d been dreaming of visiting Monument Valley for years, and as we planned a trip out west, I discovered the Monument Valley Dreamcatcher Evening Tour by Simpson’s Trailhandler Tours. We loved the idea of getting up close to the monuments, and we also wanted to experience the area through the lens of the Navajo people. Since this tour is in the evening, the temperatures promised to be better during our summer trip. And when we discovered that the tour would share Navajo culture through storytelling, dance, and food, we knew this was the tour for us.
This trip was actually our second attempt at experiencing Monument Valley. Our first visit to the area was during Covid, and restrictions kept visitors out of Navajo Nation, and rightly so. We did get a picture from the Forrest Gump Viewpoint, though.
This time, we had the opportunity to stay in the cabins at The View Hotel in Monument Valley. Since we had reservations for two nights, we scheduled our Monument Vally Dreamcatcher Evening Tour for the second night of our stay, and it was perfect!
You can drive into Monument Valley without a tour, but I highly suggest a tour with a Navajo guide. You’ll get a lot of information about the valley and their culture, whichever tour you choose. Tours are offered by several companies throughout the day. Another thing to consider is the wear and tear on your vehicle. Some parts of the valley are rougher than others, and some parts feel like you’re offroading. We were glad we didn’t drive our Toyota Camry into Monument Valley.
You can also hike in Monument Valley, but it is really hot in the summer and can be dangerous. Be careful!
Monument Valley Dreamcatcher Evening Tour: Getting Ready
Several weeks before the trip, I made a reservation with Viator to hold our spot. As the day approached, Viator charged our card the balance due, and we were all set. The day before the tour, Simpson’s Trailhandler called us to verify our reservation and told us where to meet our tour vehicle.
Previously, the tour met in the parking lot of The View Hotel. During our trip, the tour met at the Navajo Welcome Center which is outside of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. If you meet at the hotel, you will have to pay the entrance fee to get into the tribal park if you haven’t paid for that day.
The tour vehicle is essentially a modified pickup truck with covered (most of the time!) bench seats where the bed of the truck is. There are seatbelts if you wish to use them. This is actually the perfect vehicle for this kind of tour. We like being “outside” as opposed to a bus, and there are many places along the route where you’re glad to have a truck! It’s often bouncy. Wear shoes for walking and bring some water. We filled our Hydro Flasks before the tour.
Our family of three had a bench to ourselves. The bench in front of us had a couple (from France!), and the first bench held a family. We had plenty of room. During our tour, there were several of these vehicles out doing tours, and we met up with another vehicle later for the storytelling, dancing, and food. My point is, these groups are small and you don’t feel lost in a huge tour group.
The guide drives the truck. When there was something to point out to us, our guide stopped the truck and told us about it. He even made sure we all saw what he was talking about because sometimes you have to use a little imagination to understand why a feature is called what it’s called.
It’s also worth noting that the tour takes you to areas that are off limits to people driving through the valley without a guide.
Monument Valley Dreamcatcher Evening Tour: Seeing the Monuments
As you can see, the sun was still out for our evening tour, but the temperatures were bearable, especially in the back of a moving truck with a cover overhead. The beginning of the trail takes you past many amazing structures carved by water and wind over the years.
Below is a famous feature–Three Sisters.
During this part of the tour, we also heard stories near the Navajo flag. Our guide explained the symbols on the flag, as well.
We continued along Valley Drive, viewing more beautiful monuments and features. Along this drive, you’ll eventually run into the John Ford Point area. Our guide let us out to explore this section.
This place is fun because you can pay to have your picture taken on a horse on John Ford Point. Below is a picture of someone doing this. The horse handler is nearby. The photographer is across the way, near where we were standing, ready to get the perfect shot.
Here is what the picture would look like without the handler. We didn’t do this, but it was fun to watch others.
It’s called John Ford Point because of the famous western film director who filmed here. Some people may mistakenly refer to it as John Wayne Point since he made so many films here. While we were there, some craft booths were still open selling jewelry and other items, but they began packing up for the evening while we were there.
It appears that sometimes the shops in the area are open, and you may be able to purchase food like frybread, but they weren’t open at the time of day we were there.
Monument Valley Dreamcatchers Evening Tour: The Cavern-Like Structures
A highlight of the tour was stopping at these hollowed-out areas that are like open-sided caves. This one is called Sun’s Eye. Here is how it looked as we approached it.
And here is what it looks like from underneath.
Nearby, petroglyphs decorated the wall.
The Ear of the Wind is a great arch in the area. Here is the arch.
And here is the sun shining through and appearing on a rock wall.
Probably the best feature is the Big Hogan. Hogan is the word used for the traditional Navajo homes with rounded tops. Here is what it looked like as we approached.
Here it is from the inside.
Here is a closer view of the hole.
While we were here, our guide demonstrated with water and the sand how the features came to be. It was easy to see how rain and flowing water would create these structures, then the wind would carve them, and the sun would bake them.
We also had music demonstrations. Our guide sang and played the drum. He also played a double flute. Another guide sang for us. If you’d like a taste of what we experienced, click the video.
The acoustics are amazing in Big Hogan. It’s no accident that they demonstrate their music here.
Monument Valley Dreamcatchers Evening Tour: Dinner and Culture
After our excursions out in the monuments, it was time for dinner. We drove to a picnic area and met another group. They cooked steaks for us over an open fire. When it was time to get our food, we went through a line where we got frybread and we could say what toppings we wanted. This was nice for my picky companions–Jeff could have a plain steak with frybread and Kristin could have frybread without steak! They also offered us cans of pop or bottled water.
I was so excited to get our food and get situated, that I completely forgot to take pictures! It was yummy, though. It’s not fancy, but it tasted great as we sat on picnic tables outside in Monument Valley. We also had a lovely conversation with the French couple in our tour group. We sometimes resorted to gestures and speaking slowly, but I will say this–their English was 100 times better than our French!
One thing we learned during the tour was the tragic history behind frybread. In 1864, the U.S. government forced the Navajo to relocate. This difficult and heartbreaking journey is known as the “Long Walk.” When they arrived in New Mexico, the government gave them flour, sugar, and lard. The Navajo created frybread out of necessity.
Now, frybread is seen as a linking of people to their heritage. Frybread does cause some controversy in some circles due to its origins and nutrition, but our hosts shared their frybread with us, and we were glad to sample it and learn.
When the meal was winding down, our host for the evening told us his personal history and what it was like to grow up in Monument Valley. He shared details about the culture, including stories and religion. He also told us we were all Dine, the word the Navajo use for themselves which means “the people.”
As the sun went down, he told more stories. Then, the singing and dancing started. Such an amazing experience!
After the performances, anyone who wanted to take a picture with the guide could. Then, it was time to head back to the truck.
Monument Valley Dreamcatcher Evening Tour: Ending the Evening
As we drove back, the monuments were beautiful silhouettes against a dark blue sky. The pictures I took in a moving truck in the dark aren’t fabulous, but I’ll share a picture to give you an idea of what it was like. This is the view from the cabin we stayed in.
On that first night, we took pictures at all times of day to remember the magic of the valley. And I have a confession. This is actually early morning. Like any proper Navajo hogan, the cabins face east towards the rising sun.
If you’re heading to Monument Valley and you’re wondering if it’s worth it to book a tour, my answer is it is absolutely worth it! Look, you can take a self-guided tour into the valley, and you can do the photo ops at John Ford Point, but you will miss the stories and the culture of the Navajo. Even if you don’t do the Dreamcatcher tour, my advice would be to take any tour with a guide into Monument Valley. You will learn so much, and that, my friends, is the whole point. I’ll never forget this experience.
Click below to read about some of our other Out West adventures!
Canyonlands National Park–Island in the Sky
Petrified Forest National Park
Monument Valley looks stunning! And I love visiting places with petroglyphs. They are so interesting to learn about!
Monument Valley Dream Catcher Evening tours sound great! What a great cultural event to experience!
You caught some beautiful shots during your Monument Valley Dreamcatcher tour! What a way to spend an evening.
The tour looks like the ideal way to explore Monument Valley! And the shared meal at the end of the tour sounds amazing. I didn’t know the story behind fry bread.
This is so surreal! Beautiful photos! Definitely adding the Monument Valley Dreamcatcher Evening Tour to my itinerary when I visit.
Sounds like doing the Monument Valley Dreamcatcher Tour is the way to go! I love learning about Native American history and culture and hearing about their relationship to the land
The Monument Valley Dreamcater Tours sounds fantastic. We loved your description of the pickup truck. Thank you for sharing.
A tour of Monument Valley sounds awesome! I would like to learn all about the Navajo traditions and history!