History and Hollywood in Monument Valley: Goulding's Lodge

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Goulding’s Lodge is an historic, sprawling complex in Utah, just outside the borders of Monument Valley. Goulding’s features a lodge, campground, stores, restaurant, and a museum. You can use Goulding’s as basecamp and from here enjoy all of your butte and mesa excursions, hire a guide and take a tour to far-reaching scenic destinations, or relax and enjoy a bit of Western history. There is much to do.

Goulding’s Lodge dates back to 1921 when Harry Goulding and his bride Leone (nicknamed Mike) purchased 640 acres of property here. They operated a trading post for decades. During the depression, Harry sent photographs of the local environs to Western movie director John Ford, who was looking for new places to film. Ford fell in love, and he and actor John Wayne would eventually film many movies here. Upon visiting Goulding's, you can learn about all of the history yourself. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

What Makes it Great

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A veritable smorgasbord of options awaits visitors to Goulding’s Lodge. Start your stay by heading out on a guided trip. Book one of a myriad of excursions, including hour-long, half-day, and full-day options to Monument Valley proper or to less-travelled and exotic spots like Mystery Canyon.

After you get your fill of sandstone buttes and the red rock in the area, refresh and fill up at the on-site restaurant. The staff recommends the Navajo Taco, an area specialty, which consists of beans and taco fixin’s piled high on top of fry bread.

Then, walk into Goulding’s Trading Post Museum. Entrance to the museum is donation based and all proceeds go toward a scholarship fund for graduating Navajo high school students. Within the museum, you’ll find the trading post floor reminiscent to days of yore—when it sold provisions in the 1920s and 1930s. You’ll also get a glimpse into all of the movies that were filmed here—including a number of John Wayne classics and even Back to the Future III—with its vast number of memorabilia and posters in the movie room. Upstairs, you can see the living quarters as they were nearly a century ago.

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Behind the museum is Captain Nathan Brittles’ Cabin—also called John Wayne’s Cabin. This was actually a potato cellar used by Mike Goulding, but director John Ford used it for exterior shots of the personal quarters of the character played by Wayne in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon . The interior is made to resemble that in the movie, although this interior was not used for the movie.

Also on the premise is a large gift shop specializing in Navajo art, jewelry, pottery, and more—lots of souvenirs to bring home. And finally, there is the small, on-site movie theatre, which plays historical features and classic Westerns nightly.

What You’ll Remember

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The indecision that struck because you couldn’t decide which great activity to start with; heading out on a Jeep trek of the area with a licensed and knowledgeable guide; your delicious Navajo taco; mining through the historical remnants at the Trading Post Museum; learning about a slice of Western movie history.

Who is Going to Love It

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Movie buffs specializing in Westerns; people looking for a great place to stay; families who want to keep the kids entertained for hours; history enthusiasts; tourists from all over the world.

GPS Coordinates, Parking, and Regulations

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GPS Coordinates:
(37.007728, -110.203916)

Park at the lodge if staying at Goulding’s or in the designated area. The main attractions such as the museum, the expedition center, the trading post, and restaurant, to name a few, are all within walking distance. To get to the campground, gas station, and more, you’ll have to drive a short distance from the lodge.

Because the attractions at Goudling’s Lodge are inside and air conditioned, it’s OK to go any time of the year. That said, the preferred seasons to visit Monument Valley and canyon country are spring and fall.

There are no fees at Goulding’s Lodge, save for room and board, should you stay here, or a donation at the museum. Entrance into Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is $20 per vehicle up to four people, and $6 for each additional person. Dogs are welcome on the grounds of Goulding’s Lodge, but must be kept on a leash. Inquire about bringing them inside buildings or your hotel room.

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