No trip to the US Southwest should be completed without having seen Monument Valley (just my personal opinion). The valley lies in the middle of nowhere, just at the edge between Arizona and Utah. It’s a more than 6 hour drive from Las Vegas, 3 hours from Flagstaff, and 5 hours from Phoenix, but your reward will be one of the most stunning views in North America.
The valley is a forest of red mesas and buttes in various sizes thanks to iron oxide in the sandstone and a million years of erosion. The different layers of the buttes helped shape the form of the buttes as well (there are three in total: Organ Rock shale is the lowest, Chelly sandstone is the middle one, and the top is finished up by Moenkopi shale capped by Shinarum siltstone).
While a lot of people just drive through the valley (which is also highly recommended), my favorite was the 3.2 mile Wildcat Trail which starts right next to the valley drive entrance. It will take you all around West Mitten Butte, and will take about 2-3 hours with an elevation change of approximately 900 feet.
I was in Monument Valley in July and can recommend starting the hike just around dawn. The sun rises behind the buttes and gives them the most beautiful colors, the temperatures are still not that hot, and you can even take advantage of a little bit of shade if you hike the loop counter-clockwise.
There is an entrance fee to the park you have to pay and you should also give the rangers notice that you’re going for the hike at the visitor information desk.
The loop goes around West Mitten Butte, probably the most photographed Butte in the valley. Pay attention to the small trail signs on the ground as sometimes it can be a little difficult to stay on the trail.
When you hit a wider dirt road, DON’T cross it. Follow it for a bit before continuing on the trail. It is a very short walk on the road, if you walked more than 5 minutes, you probably missed the trail. Always make sure to loop the West Mitten Butte and you should be fine.