NORTH WINDOW OVERLOOK
Monument Valley, AZ
Monument Valley - is one of the truly iconic places to visit and photograph in the American Southwest. The magnificent landscapes are filled with never ending mesas, plateaus, and enormous sandstone monuments (known as buttes). It’s a landscape photographer’s playground.
The most famous monuments in the valley are the mittens (east and west), which you have seen many times in stunning landscape images, movies, and TV shows. The mittens themselves are worth the visit, however, there is so much more in this sacred Navajo valley.
This summary is specific to the shot above which is known as the North Window overlook. This part of the Monument Valley area provides a great view of the mittens and other buttes in the valley. This location is best photographed at the very moment the sun rises above the horizon.
I would suggest spending several days in the valley and explore the 5-10 other great photographic opportunities that exist here (both sunrise and sunset).
Trail Difficulty (2 out of 5)
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 2 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike to the location of this shot is a moderate 200 yd. walk from the North Windows parking area. However, the dirt road “Valley Drive” can be VERY bumpy and full of pot holes in places.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
5,339 Ft. Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to North Window Overlook.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is in a very rural area on the Utah / Arizona border, with the closest town being Kayenta, AZ. Directions are from Kayenta, AZ: Drive north on US 163 for 22 miles. Turn right on Monument Valley Rd. (you will see lots of signs pointing to Monument Valley).
At the turn on Monument Valley Rd., drive 6.3 miles to the parking lot of the Monument Valley Navajo visitors’ center (you will pass through an entrance booth with a required $20 daily fee). The parking lot is for the visitors’ center and The View Hotel.
From the Monument Valley Navajo visitors’ center take the dirt road down into the valley floor known as the “Valley Drive.” This winding dirt road is pretty steep in the beginning with many holes and rocks along the way. You should have received a map of the “Valley Drive” when you entered the park. You will need it to find this location. You will be looking for station #10 “North Window.
Once you get to the bottom of the descending road from the parking lot, continue on the dirt road “Valley Drive” for about 3.3 miles until you hit a “T” in the road. The last mile or so of this stretch gets REALLY BUMPY. Just drive slowly and navigate around the potholes.
At the “T”, it gets a little confusing - just follow the sign that directs you toward the Loop. At this point, the road turns into one-way that heads toward the back loop. Continue on the loop all the way around until you get to station #10 for North Window (or station #11 for the Thumb - they are the same turnout). The dirt road for the back loop is not easy and is full of very bumping parts and some sandy areas.
Once you come up on station #10 for “North Window” (or station #11 for the Thumb - they are the same turnout), take a right and directly in front of you will be a small dirt parking area. Veer to the left of the small dirt parking area and look for a dirt road heading toward the tall buttes known as the North Window.
At the end of this dirt road, you will see another small dirt parking area. From here, take the path toward the valley and to the right. Walk for about 150-200 yards or so until you find your composition.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
This location can be photographed at both sunrise and sunset. However, to me this shot is best at the very moment the sun rises over the horizon.
The only way to get the soft red glow of the sandstone formations is the take your shot in the first 10-30 seconds after the sun crest the horizon. VERY SOON after sun rises, the shot is blown out.
As mentioned, you can also shoot this location at sunset but the scene is reversed with sun setting on the left side.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
This location can be visited and photographed any time of year. However, clouds and interesting weather help to produce a better image, so I like to go during the late summer months (monsoon season).
What Lens(es) Do You Need
This shot was taken with a 24mm lens.
There are no permits required. There is a $20 daily fee to enter the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. While in the park you must stay on visitors’ roads.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot is north @ 340°.
Special Nuances of Shot
This shot is fairly straightforward. After parking in the small parking area for the north window overlook, hike a few hundred yards around the bend and pick your composition.
The light from the sunrise moves VERY quickly and this shot only last for about 30 seconds. Make sure you have picked your composition and are setup several minutes before sunrise or you will miss the shot. The sun waits for no man!
Special Equipment Needed
Other than a tripod, there is no special equipment needed unless you plan on doing a panoramic shot.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
The north window overlook has many visitors during the day during tourist season, but this spot is around the corner from the normal overlook so few visitor’s will walk to this spot and fewer at sunrise. That being said, I have been to this location several times at sunrise and each time there are other photographers there.
Monument Valley is in an arid part of the Arizona/Utah desert, but has an elevation of 5,200ft. For the most part, the weather is modest with highs in the summers of upper 90s and lows in winter in the 20s.
I use Verizon, and there is LIMITED cell service in most parts of Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is on the Utah/Arizona border, with the closest town 26 miles south (Kayenta, AZ). The town of Oljato-Monument Valley, UT is about 5 miles west of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, AZ (which is the classic area for most visitors and photographers).
There are both camping and lodging in both the town of Oljato-Monument Valley and the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. When I visit, I really enjoy staying at either “The View” hotel or “The View Mitten” campground / RV park. The View is a very nice hotel, decorated in Navajo decor, with a pretty nice restaurant. But, the best part of the hotel is the incredible view of the classic Monument Valley Mittens. The campgrounds are just a few hundred yards away.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
The View Hotel
Indian Rte 42, Oljato-Monument Valley, AZ
1000 Main Street, Oljato-Monument Valley, UT
There are not a lot of food choices in the Monument Valley area. But fortunately there is a pretty good restaurant right next to the visitor’s center called The View Restaurant. When I visit, I usually enjoy a nice breakfast after a morning of photography and for dinner I almost always get the very tasty Green Chile Stew with blue corn bread.
There is also a pretty good steak restaurant 22 miles north of Monument Valley in the little town of Mexican Hat. The restaurant is called The Swingin Steak. But it is not open year round, so call before driving there.
Beer & Wine are not allowed to be sold within the Navajo Nation borders, since the Navajo Nation is a dry nation.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
The View Restaurant
Attached to the visitors center
The Swingin Steak (22 miles north)
2265 US-163, Mexican Hat, UT
Goulding's Stagecoach Dining
Oljato-Monument Valley, UT
There is a nice laundry mat next to the Goulding's general store in Oljato-Monument Valley (6 miles west of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park).
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest international airports are Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) in Albuquerque (323 miles east), or Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) in Phoenix (319 miles south).
There is a small regional airport in Page - Page Municipal Airport (PGA / KPGA – 125 miles to the west) that services: Great Lakes Airlines, Frontier Airlines, United and Airlines Scenic Airlines.
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.