Best Tours for Horseback Riding in Monument Valley

For the adventurous traveler seeking an unforgettable experience in one of America’s most iconic landscapes, horseback riding in Monument Valley should be at the top of your list. Located on the Utah-Arizona border within the Navajo Nation, this striking red rock wonderland allows you to experience the captivating natural beauty and rich tribal culture. We encourage all visitors to explore it authentically, embracing a cowboy’s viewpoint from the saddle.

Monument Valley is one of the most striking and memorable natural landscapes in the USA.

When you saddle up for a guided horseback tour, you unlock hidden gems of the valley, unseen from the road. Also, you’ll feel the rhythmic strides of your mount as you traverse the untamed vistas, that have captivated hearts for centuries.

There are limitless photo opportunities available in Monument Valley.

With a knowledgeable Navajo guide, you can discover the history and legends woven into ancient rock formations. Horseback riding in Monument Valley is an extraordinary experience, to say the least. Not only will riders create unbelievable memories but they’ll also have wonderful photo opportunities.

Horseback Rides in Navajo Nation

It’s important to note that Monument Valley lies within the Navajo Nation, specifically Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. This is a sovereign Native American territory separate from the United States. As such, visitors must be respectful and go through authorized Navajo tour providers.

We begin our tour with a quick prayer for a safe and joyous ride.

These knowledgeable Navajo guides offer the only way to gain access to the trails and backcountry areas. Furthermore, this allows visitors to honor the land’s cultural and spiritual significance relative to the tribe.

Jaw-Dropping Options for Trail Rides

There are various outfitters offering a range of tours for horseback riding in Monument Valley. Luckily, they suit all ability levels and time constraints.

For those looking for just a taste, the 1-Hour Mitten Buttes and Sentinel Mesa Ride tour provides an authentic cowboy experience. You’ll be outfitted with classic cowboy hats or helmets at the stables before mounting up with your small group.

Cochise was an excellent and calm horse.

🐴🤠 1-Hour Mitten Buttes and Sentinel Mesa Ride > Check Availability

Next, you’ll follow your Navajo guide out amongst the iconic Mitten Buttes and towering Sentinel Mesa. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to capture that perfect Monument Valley photograph.

At John Ford’s Point, you can capture a photo atop a horse, gazing over the cliff’s edge.

If you’ve got a bit more time, we’d recommend the 2-Hour Merrick Buttes Guided Ride. This extended tour allows you to cover more ground in the dramatically sculpted landscape.

You will feel like an authentic cowboy straight out of a Western movie!

After being paired with your horse, you’ll meander along desert trails winding below the colossal Mitten and Merrick Buttes. Along the way, your guide will share the ancient history and legends surrounding the mesmerizing sandstone formations.

🐴🤠 2-Hour Merrick Buttes Guided Ride > Check Availability

Open-Air Safari-Style Vehicle Option

For the full experience though, we’d highly recommend the all-day open-air safari-style vehicle tour. Covering up to 15 miles, these 6-8 hour epic adventures will have you feeling like a true cowboy explorer.

The “Ear of the Wind” is a natural arch that resembles an ear.

Traversing the high desert landscapes, surrounded by iconic towering rock formations, you’ll feel like you’re exploring lands untouched.

🚙🤠 Open-Air Safari-Style Vehicle Tour > Check Availability

The Ancestral Grounds of the Navajo

Known as the “Spanish Underpants” to the early Mexican explorers for the unique shapes of its buttes. This sacred homeland, for the Navajo, was eventually dubbed Monument Valley for its awe-inspiring scenery resembling grand manmade monuments. Yet these massive sandstone megaliths were crafted over millions of years by the incredible sculptural power of winds and water on the ancient rock layers.

The view from the safari-style vehicles.

Visitors are afforded a rare glimpse into the day-to-day Navajo life that goes back centuries. Many of the Navajo guides still practice the traditional ways passed down through generations.

Dream catchers are talismans believed to filter out negative dreams, letting positive ones pass through.

Their deep ancestral ties and profound respect for the environment enhance the cultural experience. You’re sure to feel this intrinsic spirituality during your tour of the area.

Iconic Backdrops of the Silver Screen

You’ll surely recognize the vast, cinematic scenery of Monument Valley from countless classic Westerns and adventure films. This unforgettable landscape has served as the rugged backdrop for over 20 major motion pictures. From John Wayne classics like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” to Forrest Gump’s cross-country run and visually stunning “Back to the Future III“—they’ve all been filmed here.

Forrest Gump Point is located approximately 20 minutes north of the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center by car.

As you wander on horseback, you’ll notice the majestic sandstone formations, resembling elephant trunks and castle turrets, which have attracted filmmakers for generations. Riding here evokes the spirit of old Hollywood westerns, with panoramic views revealing themselves around every bend. Each turn of the trail offers a fresh perspective on the breathtaking landscape.

Exploring Beyond the Saddle

For those who prefer four wheels over four hooves, Monument Valley’s 2.5 Hour Backcountry 4×4 Tour provides a great overview while accessing areas off-limits to regular vehicles. You’ll venture out in an open-air truck with a Navajo guide to marvel at the famous panoramic views. Also, you’ll discover backcountry wonders like arches, ancient petroglyphs, and traditional hogans still used by locals today.

You’ll find the area to be like nowhere else on Earth!

Photography enthusiasts will especially want to consider booking one of the unique Sunrise or Sunset Tours. With a Navajo guide leading the way, you’ll be granted special access to the restricted backcountry as the rising or setting sun bathes the entire valley in stunning golden light. This is ideal for capturing those dramatic, glowing butte silhouettes that make Monument Valley so visually iconic.

Sunset is a special time to be in Monument Valley.

Both Sunrise and Sunset offerings go beyond just the incredible scenery too, incorporating captivating glimpses into Navajo culture. You may witness traditional rug weaving demonstrations, pauses to hear legends from your guide, or even be treated to authentic music and dance performances, letting you connect deeper with the rich heritage and spiritual significance this land has held for its Indigenous inhabitants through the centuries.

🌆🤠 Monument Valley Sunset Tour > Check Availability

Travel Tips For Monument Valley

Accommodations on the Navajo Nation reservation often offer lower standards of quality and cleanliness than similar off-reservation options. However, due to limited choices and competition within the reservation, they can be pricier. It’s advisable to set modest expectations when booking hotels there.

West Mitten Butte can be seen from The View’s premium cabins!

Nevertheless, one decent on-the-reservation option is The View Hotel, next to the visitor center offers premium cabins. Staying at The View allows visitors to have the buttes of Monument Valley quite literally in their backyard for easy access to hiking, horseback riding, and touring this legendary section of the Southwest. The lodge’s restaurant and trading post stocked with Native American arts and crafts add to its authentic Navajo cultural ambiance.

Off-the Reservation Accommodations
Most travelers are much more comfortable at Desert Rose Resort & Cabins.

If you’re willing to drive about 45 minutes east, two nice off-the-reservation options are Desert Rose Resort & Cabins and Canyon Wren B&B. Both are located in Bluff, UT, and feature cabin motifs with the B&B being a bit more affordable. Desert Rose offers superior amenities and dining choices compared to The View, all at a lower cost.

🏨 Desert Rose Resort & Cabins > Check Availability

Below, are a few additional pointers to make the most of your Monument Valley adventure:

  • Pack a Lunch: There are limited dining options in the park itself and most of what’s offered is low quality and highly processed. Don’t forget plenty of water too, as the desert climate can quickly dehydrate and everything will cost more on the reservation.
  • Layer Up: With over 5,000 feet of elevation, temperatures can fluctuate dramatically from the morning chill to midday desert heat. Dress in breathable layers and bring sun protection.
  • Watch The Weather: While the dry conditions make rain a rarity, summer monsoons are possible, and dust storms can strike quickly. Guides will keep you posted, but have rain gear just in case.
  • Give Yourself Time: Don’t try to rush through this magnificent landscape. Take your time, or better yet spend a night at the rustic cabins and enjoy both sunrise and sunset over the valley. Finally, be cognizant of time changes when crossing state borders.
  • Book In Advance: The most popular tour times and companies book up early, especially in peak seasons, so reserve your horseback tour well ahead.

Monument Valley: Wonders of the Southwest

With its awe-inspiring, otherworldly scenery and deep Native American roots, Monument Valley rightfully deserves its reputation as one of the great wonders of the American Southwest. And what better way for the free-spirited traveler to experience this geological masterpiece than by horseback – following the ancient trails once trodden by the ancestors of today’s Navajo guides while surrounded by the iconic buttes and mesas that have captivated adventurers, artists, and moviemakers for generations.

Monument Valley at night.

🙋‍♂️ What is a butte? A butte is an isolated, flat-topped hill or small mountain with steep sides, formed by erosion leaving harder caprock protecting softer rock underneath.

Whether you opt for a quick 1-hour introduction to the Mitten Buttes, a half-day exploration of the dramatic desert landscapes, or an all-day cowboy-worthy adventure with a backcountry lunch on the trail, a Monument Valley horseback riding tour isn’t just another excursion. It’s a chance to embark on a magical, multisensory journey that will connect you more profoundly to the land, its people, and the sheer grandeur of the great American West.

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