Room with a view at new Navajo-owned hotel
The View Hotel, in Monument Valley Tribal Park, is Navajo-owned and looks out on one of the most spectacular vistas in the Southwest U.S.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)
Navajo tourismMonument Valley Tribal Park: Visitors can take a self-guided 17-mile drive or a guided tour. Wildcat Trail, a four-mile loop around the Left Mitten, is one of the only trails visitors can walk without a Navajo guide. Monument Valley information: 928-871-6647 or www.navajonationparks.org.
The View Hotel: Room rates from $95. The Monument Valley hotel has a restaurant that features Native American dishes (no alcohol is served on tribal land) and a gift shop with authentic rugs, pottery and jewelry. 435-727-5556 or www.monumentvalleyview.com
Goulding's Lodge: Rooms start at about $123 a night from mid-March. 435-727-3231 or www.gouldings.com
Monument Valley Simpson's Trailhandler Tours: The company has a variety of tours available in Monument Valley, ranging from a 90-minute visit to an overnight stay in a hogan with dinner and entertainment. 877-686-2848 or www.trailhandlertours.com.
Aptly named The View Hotel, it looks out on one of the most spectacular vistas in the Southwest U.S., the red-rock monoliths rising from the desert floor of the approximately 30,000-acre Monument Valley park that straddles the Arizona-Utah border. The hotel is the only lodging on Navajo land in Monument Valley, and each balcony at the hotel frames the most famous of its rock formations, the Mittens and Merrick Butte.
The enchanting landscape is one of the most photographed in the United States, and not just by tourists. Visitors to the valley some 60 years ago could have watched John Wayne chase Indians for the filming of John Ford's epic westerns. (And the landscape continues to crop up in movies and car ads.)
The View Hotel was the midpoint in my 900-mile scenic drive that began, and ended, in Phoenix. Over five days, I would visit many of the iconic spots of the Old West — the vintage railroad town of Winslow, Ariz., the villages on the Hopi reservation, the Betatakin ruins at Navajo National Monument — with The View Hotel as the newest addition.
Before The View's opening in December, the only lodging near the valley was established by the late Harry Goulding, who set up a trading post in 1928. In the 1930s, Goulding sold director Ford on the idea of Monument Valley as the perfect backdrop for his Westerns, and he put up the stars during filming.
The trading post is now a museum, with a display paying homage to John Wayne, and a motel, restaurant and gift shop have been added to the site. Goulding's Lodge has rooms with balconies that look out onto Monument Valley, but it is on private land just outside the entrance to the tribal park.
The Ortega family, Navajos with a longtime reputation as entrepreneurs, built The View Hotel and pay a guest tax to the tribe. The hotel is an effort by the Navajo to bring jobs and visitors to their land. The Hopi, whose reservation is surrounded by the Navajo Nation, also are increasing tours of their villages and building their own hotel in Tuba City.
Harold Simpson, 42, is a Navajo who was born and reared in Monument Valley and now owns a company that gives driving tours of the tribal lands, including areas that are off-limits without a guide. "That's our sandbox out there," Simpson said, as his brother, Richard Frank, drove a van over the rutted red-dirt road. "We played in the rocks, climbed in the sand dunes. I was the cowboy, he was the Indian."
Simpson welcomed the opening of The View as a boost to his business.
"We get about 300,000 visitors a year — the Grand Canyon gets into the millions, but that's too much, too overcrowded," he said.
"They built the hotel on the perfect spot. Environmentally, they've tried to do the right thing with it. Visitors didn't have a lot of choices out here. Most people would drive in for the day and move on. The hotel is a good thing. Monument Valley is a special place. It's home, for us."
Exploring Monument Valley
For $5 a person, you can enter Monument Valley Tribal Park and drive the 17-mile loop through the red-rock monoliths on your own. Or, you can pay $60 a person and let Harold and Richard Simpson negotiate a van over the washboard roads and into the areas restricted without a Navajo guide.
The two showed me ancient rock art and arches they climbed over as children. We walked back to the alcove under Sun's Eye Arch and Richard sat down on a boulder, pulled out a flute and played a wondrous song that reverberated off the canyon walls.
We also visited a hogan, a traditional Navajo structure made of logs and covered with earth. Simpson's company, Simpson's Trailhandler Tours, has eight hogans that it rents out to visitors. For $155 a night, a guest gets dinner and is treated to performances by the hosts.
"The majority of our clients are Japanese," Simpson said. "Europeans and Asians keep the Southwest alive."
Imagine a tourist from Tokyo spending the night in an authentic hogan in Monument Valley, hearing only the rustle of the wind and the howl of the coyote.
"Everybody who stays here is taken by it," Simpson said. "There's no neon lights, just the moon and the stars. And when we do the flute-playing and dancing, they're so in awe of that."
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company