Moab, Monument Valley and Movies

Southern Utah is a favorite region for us because of superb scenery and interesting cultures. This week we visited an old favorite, Moab, and a new favorite, Monument Valley.   You may not have physically been to either, but you’ve been there in movies, TV shows, and commercials.

fullsizeoutput_40dfWe have visited Moab several times and have wandered Arches and Canyonlands National Parks quite extensively. Randy went into Arches one afternoon and hiked to Delicate Arch but we also did some new things!

fullsizeoutput_40e6We enjoyed a Canyonlands Sunset Cruise with Rory – one of the most engaging tour guide boat captains we have ever experienced.

fullsizeoutput_40f6We saw people brave enough to climb these steep cliffs –  65% of climbers are female!

fullsizeoutput_40f8We saw jug arch, petroglyphs and amazing scenery. Dinner was pretty good too.

fullsizeoutput_40fdBy truck, we traveled the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway out of Moab through more marvelous scenery. The first few miles out of Moab have an adjacent bike trail.

fullsizeoutput_40f1We hiked a bit and saw some climbers way up on this rock!


Climber is about half way up on the right side!

P1120895We traveled to Red Cliffs Ranch Lodge and the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage.  We learned more than 120 movies were filmed in this area.  Former owner of the site, George White, was instrumental in bringing the first movie, Wagonmaster, to the area in 1949.

Many movies, TV shows and commercials were filmed on White Ranch and the surrounding area. White worked for the Utah Highway Department and was instrumental in finding locations for film crews. He was also the founder of the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, the longest tenured movie commission in the world.

fullsizeoutput_4150The film industry has been a source of income in the Moab area for many years as locals are hired as actors, extras and professional crew.  Animals and trainers are also employed. An auto tour allows you to find specific locations for movies and shows.

fullsizeoutput_411eMovies, TV shows and commercials continue to be a lucrative industry for both Moab and Monument Valley.  The movie industry came to Monument Valley during the great depression.  Harry Goulding, owner of the local trading post, sought additional industry for himself and the Navajo people and spent his last $60 to take landscape pictures to John Ford in Hollywood. The rest is history.


Harry and Leona “Mike” Goulding – photo by Josef Muensch   Harry said he couldn’t spell Leona’s name, so he called her Mike.

Harry Goulding and his wife “Mike” came to the area in the 1920s, established their trading post and lived and worked with the Navajo for the next 40 years.  Although deceased,  both are still remembered fondly by local Navajo.  The new owners of the Gouldings enterprise value the past.


The former Trading Post is now a museum.


John Wayne’s Cabin is from the movie “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.”

The immediate area holds a lodge, gift shop, grocery store, restaurant, theater, gas station, chapel and campground – all under the name of Gouldings.

fullsizeoutput_4144We had one of the nicest sites in this campground and enjoyed some easy and accessible hiking within walking distance.



Randy, wearing a yellow shirt, is right in the middle of the picture way up on the rock – because that is what he does….


Sunrise view of Monument Valley from our campsite

Although we have a view of Monument Valley from our campsite, we wanted to see more.  Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park and some areas are publicly available with an entrance fee.   Other areas are available only with a Navajo guide. We opted for the whole experience and are very glad we did!


For $73 each we had a very enjoyable 4 hours with our guide Carol.  She told us about growing up in the valley and being forced to go away to boarding school as a young girl of seven.


We saw arches and wild horses and hogans.



This young woman demonstrated carding and spinning wool and explained weaving and Navajo designs.


Navajo families live in Monument Valley.


This is the area where John Wayne’s The Searchers was filmed.


We saw petroglyphs!


An enterprising young man asked for tips to pose for this iconic picture.  You can pay more to be in the photo yourself.


Gotta have Fry Bread!   I shared with Randy.


We really enjoyed our trip to Monument Valley!

The beauty of this area isn’t exclusive to Monument Valley.  We found two other areas that especially appealed to us.


Mexican Hat rock is near the town of Mexican Hat.

fullsizeoutput_4116Goosenecks State Park has dry camping right on the bluff overlooking the river.  Some sites are worth not having hook-ups for.  Maybe next time!

Southern Utah NEVER disappoints!



About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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9 Responses to Moab, Monument Valley and Movies

  1. Ann Shadiow says:

    I just LOVE reading your blogs!!!👏👏👏👏👏 the pictures are just wonderful. guy and I are counting down the months 23 to go. We want to see our country, the parks especially. Keep your adventures and consider writing a book about the beauty of our country from an RV!!!🤗🤗🤗

    • Serene says:

      I’m very glad you enjoy the blog. I also highly recommend traveling and seeing the sights! I add more to our “to see” document than I ever take off.

  2. Teri McClelland says:

    Those Navajo rugs are amazing. So much talent and hard work goes into them. I was surprised to see both of you in long sleeves! It is pretty warm here – we’re still in shorts and sandals.
    That is such a beautiful area. Great pictures!
    What does fry bread taste like? Sweet? Doughy?

    • Serene says:

      Think Mexican sopapilla. The sweetness is from the toppings, usually honey or sugar. The one pictured in the blog was very light. The one we had with dinner tonight was heavier but not doughy. We saw some rugs in the gift shop this evening. They ranged in price from $500 to $2700 – not surprising considering they take months and months to weave.

  3. Connie Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures!

  4. Elizabeth Wiebe says:

    We spent 5 nights in Moab on our way home to BC from the south last March. Enjoyed hiking and touring in the national parks and exploring back roads. We didn’t get to Monument Valley though. Thanks for sharing this post and the lovely pictures. We must add it to our bucket list. Will you still be at Fortuna de Oro in Yuma for some of the winter? If we get that way, we’ll try to find you to meet you in person.

    • Serene says:

      We do plan to be at Fortuna de Oro but just for two weeks in mid January. Real life happens and plans change. I would love it if it works out that we can meet!

  5. Mark McClelland says:

    Such beautiful country, and it looks like you are enjoying some cool weather. Wish we were there to enjoy it with you!

  6. rightlaners says:

    What beautiful skies! I can’t wait until we can get there – so much to explore and do! Thanks for sharing.

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