Lower Monument Valley
Restricted & 17 Mile Loop
Lower Monument Valley holds the most iconic and synonymous portions of Monument Valley. The Lower Monument Valley portions includes such sites as Merrick Butte, Mitchel Butte, Sentinel Mesa, The Castle, Bear and Rabbit, King on his Throne, There Sisters, Elephant Butte, Rain God Mesa and more. However, there are two sections within Lower Monument Valley.
The 17 Mile Loop
This is the beginning portion of Lower Monument Valley. This section is also accessible without a guide and can be driven with your own car. I would recommend that you have an AWD or 4WD vehicle with enough ground clearance to make it over the varied terrain within the 17 mile loop. There are hundreds of cars that venture out on these dirt roads every day. They also tend to liquify the ground and make it very sandy especially on the portions that are on the hills.
There are many iconic views and locations that can be seen from this section of the road. Such as Rain God Mesa, The Three Sisters, John Ford's Point, and Artists Point. 90 percent of Tourists venture out onto this section and do not explore further as the rest of the valley is a guided tour section only.
The Restricted Back County
Saving the best for restricted access is the Back Country. This is where you will get up-close and personal inside Monument Valley. You will be able to see the culture and ancient side of Monument Valley. There are iconic locations such as The Big Hogan, Petroglyphs, Ear of the Wind, Suns Eye, Totem Pole and more. Its well worth the money to hear, learn, and explore our about the Back Country.
Uranium Mining in Monument Valley
Carnotite was discovered in Monument Valley in 1942 by Luke Yazzie. Upon discover private companies rushed into the area to extract this ore because it contained a 70% vanadium and 30% uranium. It was extremely valuable when the US was in an arms race from the 19402 to the 1970s. Between 1943 and 1968 767,166 tons of ore was extracted from the Monument Valley No. 2 Mine. This was the most productive mine in the whole of Arizona. There are lasting effects to the area and many water sources have become contaminated. You can still see the remnants of mining in this area near Mexican Hat a place where they processed the ore.