Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is beautiful. Unfortunately, most tourists only experience a quick viewing of the area’s famous mittens and buttes from a designated viewing platform in the visitor’s center. It usually goes like this: point and shoot...get in the car and head to the next far-away destination. But hold on! There’s some great hiking to be had here.
That said, there are travel restrictions in place, so backcountry and off-road travel is prohibited unless you’re with a licensed Navajo Guide. However, you can explore Wildcat Loop Trail so get out of the car, examine the terrain, and see some non-traditional views and capture some great pictures. It is totally worth your time.
If you take this lasso loop trail around the West Mitten you can catch views of the nearby East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte, along with the rest of the north end of Monument Valley. Once you set foot on the trail, you’ll be surprised to leave the hordes of tourists from all over the world behind—likely, you’ll see very few other people on Wildcat.
What Makes it Great
It’s time to get all John Wayne and wander around the Mittens and talk in a drawl. Or you can just hike and enjoy the scenery—whatever is your pleasure. This iconic place has been on the silver screen and on landscape posters around the world. Monument Valley is one of the most-visited attractions in the west with tourists coming in from around the world. Surprisingly, you will have this starkly beautiful landscape all to yourself on the Wildcat Loop Trail.
This hike is a 3.2-mile lasso loop hike that takes about three hours to complete. You will hike around the West Mitten Butte on a flat, sandy trail. As you continue along the self-guided trip, you’ll meander through cactus and sage as you look upon world-famous buttes, including East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte.
What You’ll Remember
Smiling as you leave the crowds behind; remarking that the buttes look even more massive when you are right next to them; capturing the scene as the sun sets and casts long, lovely shadows on the valley floor.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers of all ages; families with children old enough to walk three-plus miles; appreciators of beautiful buttes; seekers of isolation.
GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations
Park at the visitor center and walk to the trailhead across from the cabin/campsite check-in. The best and most comfortable time to visit is March through early-June and October through September; summer months, due to the excessive heat and lack of shade, can be too hot. Hike the Wildcat Loop Trail any time of day for spectacular views, but try to catch it at sunset if you can; the long shadows and brilliant red hues will not disappoint.
Entrance fee into the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is $20 per vehicle up to four people with an additional fee of $6 per person over that allowance. There is no permit or additional fee required to hike the Wildcat Loop Trail. Dogs are allowed in the park, but must be leashed at all times.
Difficulty: 3 (due to exposure, sandy trails, and heat)