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Envision the American Southwest, and you’ve almost certainly conjured up images of Monument Valley. Thanks to Hollywood director John Ford and the movies he filmed there, like Stagecoach and The Searchers, Monument Valley is the embodiment of the American desert landscape. On the border between Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is about as far away as you can get from civilization in the lower 48 states. It’s nearly five hours' drive from Phoenix, the closest large city, and three hours' drive from Moab – Utah’s hub for outdoor recreation. When camping at Monument Valley KOA, expect to do some driving to get to nearby attractions.
RV camping at Monument Valley KOA might not be as luxurious as it could be at some of the brand's other campgrounds. This KOA keeps things simple, comfortable, and convenient, offering sites with full hookups with 50 amp electrical capacity, with some sites large enough to accommodate 75-foot-long RVs. Most visitors who book an RV in San Juan County are trying to get away from crowds and technology though, looking to enjoy nature in its purest form. If you’re bringing a four-legged companion on your campervan rental adventure though, the park does offer a designated area for them to exercise.
The rock formations of Monument Valley are the most obvious outdoor attraction when renting an RV in the area, and you can explore the valley in your own vehicle if you want. However, to really understand the region, it’s best to take one of the tours led by Native American guides who can better explain the land’s significance to their culture. Don’t forget to step outside your RV rental after dark too; Monument Valley has some of the darkest skies in the country and is ideal for stargazing on a cloudless night.
Visiting the Grand Canyon is another must when motorhome camping near Monument Valley. Most of the park’s tourist facilities are located on its southern rim, which is about three hours' drive away, but if you’re hoping to avoid lots of other tourists, the north rim, about four hours' drive away, is the place to be. You can experience the grandeur of America’s most iconic natural landscape from the Bright Angel Point Trail, a flat and paved path near the Grand Canyon Lodge that has expansive views of canyon’s colorful rock strata. Serious hikers can descend the separate Bright Angel Trail down to the Colorado River, an eight-mile hike with over three-quarters of a mile of elevation loss. Just remember you’ll have to climb the same distance to get out (after spending the night).
Lake Powell and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are also just a couple of hours' drive from Monument Valley and a popular place to cool off during the heat of summer. The massive reservoir is the second largest in the country, behind nearby Lake Mead, so you’ll never feel crowded there. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available for rent in the nearby town of Page, but many visitors just enjoy swimming in the beautiful sandstone canyon.
Unlike most KOA campgrounds, Monument Valley isn’t very close to any major towns. The closest community is Halchita in Utah, but most visitors will drive to the larger town of Kayenta in Arizona, about half an hour’s drive away. It’s considered the gateway to Monument Valley and will have most of the basic services you’ll need for RV camping. Restaurant options are fairly limited, but you will find some excellent Mexican cuisine and a few places serving Native American specialties like hot pillows of fry bread. While there is a gas station in Monument Valley, it might be best to fuel up your rig and dump your tanks in Kayenta.
Despite its small size, Kayenta also has some excellent historical sites worth checking out while you’re in town. The Navajo Code Talkers exhibit is the most well known and focuses on the critical role that Navajo soldiers played in World War II, using their native language as a cipher to conceal American communications from the Axis powers. What’s unexpected is the location of the exhibit – it’s inside a fast food restaurant. Its unorthodox placement aside though, there’s a lot to learn from the informational panels. To learn more about the Code Talkers, there’s also a larger exhibit at the Monument Valley Visitors Center.
There’s also the Navajo Cultural Center just down the road from the Code Talkers Exhibit, in front of a hotel. It’s a rather small museum, but a fascinating look at the Navajo culture. Outside the museum is a historical Navajo sweat lodge built from mud and wood beams. On the weekends, real-life code talkers sometimes give presentations too.