On this day my only goal was to get to my hotel in Monument Valley for sunset, so I actually had a pretty chill morning. Gotta take advantage of that hotel waffle maker when you can, you know?
Luckily the drive to Monument Valley put me back through the east end of Zion National Park. You may remember I drove that section in the dark on the way in, so it was nice to be able to see it in the daylight on my way out!
So here’s a fun fact I discovered the night before while checking my Monument Valley hotel confirmation — did you know that Arizona doesn’t participate in Daylight Savings? And what do you know, Daylight Savings had just happened THAT WEEKEND. Let me tell you, I was all sorts of confused for a while. I knew I’d be driving through Arizona that day (and back to it the next…keep reading for that story) and was pretty confused about how that would impact my timing.
Now normally I’m a great planner, so I’m not totally sure what happened with this part of the trip. The only thing I can think of is that the hotel in Monument Valley had a 2-night minimum stay, which must have been why I didn’t stay in Page, AZ this night. You see, Page is two hours away from Monument Valley, which is fine except I was planning on catching sunrise at Horseshoe Bend the following morning…back in Page. Let me tell you, it wasn’t super fun driving those two hours to my hotel after hitting Page, knowing I’d be backtracking that the next morning. And then heading back to Monument Valley again. This is definitely one instance where I would’ve done things differently, so take note!
That being said, my hotel in Monument Valley was absolutely worth the drive. The View Hotel is the only hotel in Monument Valley, on Navajo Nation tribal land. It was built with great respect for the landscape, painted a similar color to the surrounding rocks. Plus, every room has a view of Monument Valley.
I mean, LOOK at that! That was the view from my room! I did in fact arrive in time for sunset, which was positively stunning.
The hotel faces east, so the sun sets over the parking lot behind, casting golden shadows on the rocks. After the sun was down I made my way to the hotel restaurant for dinner, which also faces the valley. I was struck by how the last remnants of daylight cast a pink hue over everything.
That being said, I was still very confused about what time I needed to wake up and leave in order to catch sunrise back in Arizona. Which may sound stupid to you, but I conferred with several people and we were all pretty perplexed. In the end it worked out in my favor — I could wake up an hour later than I originally thought!
The drive back to Page was a little nerve-wracking. There’s a good hour and a half of driving between Monument Valley and Page where there are just absolutely no services whatsoever. If I hit a deer or got a flat tire it would’ve been a disaster…because there was also no cell service! Luckily the ride went smooth as could be, and I arrived at Horseshoe Bend exactly when I had planned.
Light was just beginning to break across the desert, and the moon was still high in the sky. The walk from the parking area to the canyon itself is so unassuming. You can’t even really see it until you’re right at the edge.
And then BAM! This stunner looms before you. I realize it’s incredibly hard to tell scale here, but it is just massive. The drop from the edge to the river below is 1,000 ft. For some perspective, look at the base of the center of the canyon — you’ll see tiny lines and a little white square. Those lines are roads for service vehicles and that white square is a building!
Horseshoe Bend has become a pretty popular spot these days, so I was there with probably 15 or so people (until the tour busses arrived…) The sun was rising to our backs, hitting the cliffs in the distance first. We all waited, patiently snapping away, as the glow slowly crept closer. (That guy in the green hoodie nearly gave me a heart attack, look at how his tripod is perched! That’s a 1,000 ft drop my dude.)
It was around this time two tour busses unloaded and interrupted the calm. I’m glad I got there so early and had the opportunity to enjoy that peaceful sunrise for a bit. I’m also pretty proud of myself — I don’t have a great track record of waking up for sunrise, and not only did I wake up, I drove 2 hours to get there!
(I’m at my tallest and therefore most powerful just after sunrise, so I should really do this more often.)
While this day isn’t over, I’m going to end the post here. Coming up next I have approximately 4 million pictures of my tours of Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, which happened later this same day, and they deserve their own post.