Monument Valley is an iconic place full of reddish orange mesas and buttes. The desert landscape has captivated Hollywood for decades and is synonymous with cowboy movies. Yet did you know that unlike other national parks in the US, there is only one hike in monument valley you can do without a guide? Monument Valley is on Navajo land. Understandably as it is private and sacred to them, locals do not want hikers to go off by themselves and offer many excellent guided tours. However, if you only have a couple of hours to spare or are on a budget, there is one amazing hike in Monument Valley you can do without a guide! Consider hiking the Wildcat Trail in Monument valley to get a taste of this epic desert landscape!
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Where is the Wildcat Trail?
The Wildcat Trail is in Oljato-Monument Valley which is a national park in Navajo county, Utah and Arizona. The Wildcat Trail is in the heart of the national park and the trail head is next to the main Monument Valley visitor centre.
Where can I hike in Monument Valley without a guide?
There are many hikes in Monument Valley. Most of them require you to book a tour to hike. There are many companies and hikes to choose from.
Yet there is one hike in Monument valley you can do without a guide. The hike in monument valley that you can do without a guide is the Wildcat Trail.
How much does it cost to do the Wildcat Trail?
It costs 20 dollars per vehicle to visit Monument Valley. This covers you for 2 days. Whilst Monument Valley is a national park, the America the Beautiful pass is not valid here. Monument Valley is on Navajo Land meaning it is privately owned.
Once you have paid the Monument Valley entrance fee there is no extra cost to hike the Wildcat trail.
Hiking in Monument Valley without a Guide – Wildcat Trail
The trail you can do in Monument Valley without a guide is known as Wildcat Trail. This is a very scenic, 3-mile loop which takes you around a spectacular desert landform known as a butte. Here is everything you need to know about hiking the Wildcat Trail in Monument Valley.
How do I get a permit for the Wildcat Trail?
In order to hike the Wildcat Trail, you will need to obtain a permit. The permit is free. As you enter the visitor centre there is a wooden kiosk with a clip board. There will be a sheet of paper on the clipboard where you can write your name, how many people you will be hiking with and what time you set off on your hike.
Wildcat Trail Hike Description
The Wildcat Trail is a relatively flat circular trail with a short descent at the start and short ascent at the end. The terrain is sandy and rocky on the Wildcat Trail. Whilst it is just 3 miles long it offers incredible views of the Monument Valley landscape.
After leaving the Monument Valley visitor centre, walk through the parking lot. Head towards the Monument Valley scenic drive to the right. You will see accommodation huts on the hill, what a great place to stay in Monument Valley! As you reach the start of the Monument Valley scenic drive you will see the start of the Wildcat Trail. There is a handy sign at the Wildcat Trailhead. This is where the fun begins! The Wildcat Trail is the best hike in monument valley you can do without a guide!
Follow the path downwards. You follow an orange dusty trail and are treated to spectacular views of the iconic Monument valley mesas and buttes. Shortly after starting the Wildcat Trial you will reach one of the most instagrammable views in the American South West. As you look to your right you can admire East Mitten Butte, West Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte. It is an other-worldly landscape that will not fail to impress you. This view is one of the reasons that the Wildcat Trail is the best hike in Monument valley!
Continue downwards along the dusty path. You will pass signs with the names of various fauna on them. You will soon reach a fork in the road. This is where you can choose whether you wish to walk around West Mitten butte in a clock-wise direction or an anti-clockwise direction.
Whichever direction you choose, the path is easy to follow. If there are any unclear sections, usually there is a sign with an arrow on it to guide you. This is a wonderful hike in Monument valley!
After circumnavigating West Mitten butte, the path meets up with the fork again. Whilst the path around the butte is very flat you will have to work a little to go back up the hill to your vehicle.
What can I see on the Wildcat Trial?
The Wildcat Trail is a beautiful hike in Monument Valley. Along the way you can see incredible desert landforms, unusual plants and wonderful sunsets!
Wildcat Trail is the best hike in Monument Valley to do without a guide. However, as you will not have a guide to talk you through the beauty of the landscape it is good to know a few things beforehand. For example, what is a mesa or a butte? What is the difference between mesas and buttes?
Buttes are tall, flat-topped, steep-sided towers of rock found in arid desert landscapes. The most famous buttes in the world can be found in Monument valley and you can see of them on the Wildcat Trail! West Mitten is a butte as is East Mitten is as well. You may recognise them from Wild West films. So what is the difference between a butte and a mesa then? Well the main difference is size! Most scientists agree that a butte is taller than it is wide, compared to a mesa which is wider than it is tall. Mesas can form into buttes as well after years of erosion.
There are various different types of plant you can see on the Wildcat trail. As you can do this hike in monument valley without a guide it is handy to know a little bit about the plants in Monument Valley. There are five plants you can spot on the Monument Valley trail Purple Sage, the Cliffrose, the Rabbitbush, the Mojave Yucca, and the Brittlebush.
The purple sage is a purply shrub which can grow up to 6 feet! Another plant that grows quite tall, up to 8 feet, is the Cliffrose. The Cliffrose has pretty petals and only grows at high altitudes. Rabbitbush is a plant with nice yellow flowers similar to the Brittlebush. The Mojave Yucca is a 16 foot shrub which is the tallest plant you may see on your Wildcat Trail hike in Monument Valley. Surprisingly, there are no giant cacti as the cartoon of Road Runner depicts.
How long does it take to walk the Wildcat Trail?
It takes most hikers 2-3 hours to hike the Wildcat trail. The loop itself is 3 miles long but if you include the walk from the visitor centre where you get your permit it is a 4-mile hike.
In the summer it can be very hot which can slow you down. Whereas in the winter, it can be quite chilly which may increase your walking speed! Of course, you will want to take plenty of photo stops on the Wildcat Trail!
Can I take my dog on the Wildcat Trail?
Yes, you can take your dog on the Wildcat Trail in Monument valley! The dog has to be kept on a leash but the Wildcat Trail in Monument Valley is dog-friendly.
Best time of Year to Hike Wildcat Trail
The best time of year to hike the Wildcat Trail in Monument Valley is spring or fall. These times of year offer more comfortable temperatures just make sure you still bring plenty of water as you are in a desert.
In summer, the temperatures can soar to over 30 degrees Celsius (over 85 degrees Fahrenheit) which can be uncomfortable to hike in. Also, there is little to no shade during the summer months meaning you are very exposed to the elements. You may also not leave the trail to find shade.
In winter, there can be snow on the ground! Despite Monument Valley being a desert landscape, the high altitude means it can get quite cold on the Wildcat Trail.
As this hike in Monument valley is without a guide make sure you are well prepared by bringing plenty of water in summer and wrapping up in winter.
Best Time of Day to Hike Wildcat Trail?
The best time of day to hike in Monument is either sunrise or sunset. Hiking the Wildcat Trail at sunrise is magical as the sun rays cast their magical across the desert landscape.
Alternatively, hiking at sunset in Monument Valley is a US bucket list experience! The evening sun turns the Monument Valley mesas and buttes into bright red rocks. The reddish hues are breathtakingly beauty. Towards the end of the Wildcat Trail make sure you look back at the three beautiful buttes at sunset. You will never forget the beauty of that Monument Valley viewpoint for the rest of your life.
Is this the Best Hike in Monument Valley?
Wildcat trail is the best hike in Monument valley to do without a guide. There are many more wonderful hikes in Monument Valley. Just remember that you should book a tour in advance to go hiking in Monument Valley.
If you fancy trekking to the highest point in Monument Valley you should book on a tour to Hunt’s Mesa.
For a more spiritual hike in Monument Valley you should do the Mystery Valley tour. This tour takes you to a more secluded part of Monument Valley which the Navajo people hold sacred. You will also see natural arches and ancient petroglyphs.
If you do like natural arches, one of the most famous arches in Monument Valley is teardrop arch. Hiking to Teardrop arch with a guide is a 2-2.5 hour trek in Monument Valley.
There are many wonderful hikes in Monument Valley but the best hike in Monument Valley without a guide is Wildcat Trail!
Things to do in Monument Valley
Aside from hiking the Wildcat Trail or any other hike there are lots of other things to see and do in Monument Valley.
You must go into the visitor centre and see some of the fascinating exhibitions inside about the history of the national park and the people who live there. There is also a gift shop where you can buy traditional Navajo goods as well as various cowboy props to unleash your inner John Wayne. A restaurant and toilets are also useful to visit before starting your Monument Valley hike.
There is a self-drive loop if you don’t fancy hiking. However, please consider hiking instead. Although listed as one of the world’s most scenic drives, you can’t beat the feeling of the orange sand beneath your shoes. Also, you will have had to have driven quite a way to reach Monument Valley as it is quite remote. Therefore, minimise your carbon footprint whilst you can, park up and walk on the Wildcat trail instead.
After hiking the Wildcat trail, head up to Forrest Gump point to catch the end of the sunset. Try and get that iconic pose without getting run over!
Another thing to see in Monument Valley is Mexican Hat. This is an unusual rock formation which, yes you have guessed it, looks like a Mexican sombrero.
Where can I stay in Monument Valley?
Surprisingly there is not a huge amount of accommodation by the Monument Valley visitor centre. There are of course a few places to stay in the heart of Monument Valley but it is recommended to book these far in advance.
If you don’t manage to find a place to stay by the Wildcat Trail, you can look at the nearby towns of Mexican Hat, Kayenta or Bluff. We stayed in Bluff and loved our stay at Desert Rose Resort & Cabins. Check out our full review of this luxury affordable accommodation in Monument Valley.
You can check out the booking.com tool below to see various accommodation in Monument Valley to suit the dates you would like to go.
Have you been inspired to hike Wildcat Trail in Monument Valley?
Have you been inspired to hike Wildcat Trail in Monument Valley? Do you like the idea of hiking around these iconic desert landforms? Let us know in the comments below!