Scenic USA - Arizona

Monument Valley Scenic Road

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Monument Valley Scenic Road (U.S. Route 163) - Kayenta, Arizona

Photos by Ian Parker
Evanescent Light Photography

     Often called the "Gateway to Monument Valley", U.S. Route 163 heads southwest from Mexican Hat, Utah, across the border into Arizona. One of the most popular scenic byways in the northeast corner of Arizona, the Kayenta-Monument Valley Scenic Road offers some of the first views Mittens Montage - Monument Valley, Arizona of Monument Valley's iconic buttes, mesas and striking rock formations. This straight path across the desert starts to stir the excitement as travelers approach these dramatic symbols of the American West. Stars of motion pictures, advertisements and art galleries, scenes of Monument Valley are somewhat familiar to everyone. The only thing missing is the scale. Byway travelers soon become aware of the huge distances to the horizon, and the spectacular iconic Mittens continue to grow before their very eyes.
     Standing between 400 and 1200 feet tall, the monuments in the valley have resisted weathering for millions of years. The red rock scenery is just a snapshot in time, as subtle changes go unseen to countless visitors traveling the byway and through the Navajo's Monument Valley Tribal Park.
     The byway corridor, about 5500 feet above sea level, passes through part of the Great Basin Grassland where patches of galleta and Indian rice grasses take hold. The valley's scant rainfall averages eight inches per year, but pinyon pine and juniper Monument Valley Road - Kayenta, Arizona manage to add touches of green to the red desert sands. With a great deal of luck, byway sightseers may catch a glimpse of the endangered ferruginous hawk, a peregrine falcon or American pronghorn.
     Sacred to the Navajo and lying in the heart of Navajo Country, the scenic byway begins in Utah at Monument Valley Road just north of the border, and extends southward to Kayenta at mile-marker 393. Just over 20 miles in length, the byway is just a small part of the valley experience. Sightseers must take a tour of the Navajo's Monument Valley Park, whether it's a self-guided tour or one with an experienced Navajo guide. Established as an Arizona Scenic Road in 1996, the highway may be one of the most familiar ... until you arrive.

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