Nestled against crimson mountains, a cozy lodge coated in red dust and history welcomes explorers from around the world. Far from bustling centres and city life, Goulding's Lodge is a relaxing getaway and gateway to Monument Valley.

From Trading Post to Film Set to International Accommodation

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

In the early 1920s, Harry and his wife Leone “Mike” Goulding bought a strip of land just outside the Navajo Nation. They set up a trading post out of their tent and began a thriving business. In the midst of the Great Depression, Harry convinced film director John Ford to use the stunning surroundings as the backdrop for Western movies. Scenes from John Wayne classics and famous films such as Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, How the West Was Won, The Lone Ranger and even Back to the Future III were shot in this area.

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

Today, Goulding’s Lodge has an immensity of amenities, from a gas station to a grocery store to a laundromat. Visitors come for tours and lodging, stay for nightly screenings in the free theatre and dine on traditional dishes with a spectacular view. It’s a photographer's dream, a movie buff's heaven and an explorer's happy place.

Exploring Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

On the border between Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park showcases some of the most striking, recognizable and breathtaking sandstone mesas and pillars in the world. I embarked on the 3.5-hour Deluxe Tour with Goulding’s Lodge to get up close and personal with some of the most famous monuments.

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

Three buttes stand solo in the sprawling desert. Known as Left and Right Mitten, two resemble hands with protruding thumbs. “Do all of these rocks have names?” I ask our Navajo tour guide.

“Oh yes,” he says with a laugh. As we drive, he points out Elephant Butte, the Three Sisters, Totem Pole, Big Indian.

I walk across fine red sand to stand beneath arches carved by water. Petroglyphs line the side of lichen-coated walls. Blue sky and sunshine pour through smooth openings in the rock.

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

I doubt much has changed since John Ford shot scenes with John Wayne out here, which is an unmistakable part of the park’s charm.

Another special trait is that this park is still tribal land. When the government imposes strict regulations or closes other parks, Monument Valley stays open and makes their own rules.

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

A Navajo woman welcomes us into her Hogan, where she demonstrates traditional weaving and jewellery-making. On our way back down the rutted dirt road, we pass a herd of wild horses ambling to the watering hole.

Wild horseAlison Karlene Hodgins

The people who live on this land don’t have running water or electricity; they use tanks and generators. At night, the sky is completely devoid of artificial light: instead, the stars ignite the inky blackness. A million little white dots wink at me, and I smile back at them.

Goulding'sAlison Karlene Hodgins

Goulding's Lodge Fast Facts

# of rooms: 63

Amenities: 

  • Indoor Heated Swimming Pool
  • Seasonal Sun Deck
  • Fitness Room
  • Complimentary Wireless Internet
  • Yellow Ribbon Gift Shop
  • Historical Museum
  • Stage Coach Dining Room
  • Earth Spirit Theater

Address: 1000 Goulding's Trading Post Rd, Oljato-Monument Valley, UT 84536, USA

Website: http://www.gouldings.com/ 

Disclaimer: This experience was part of a press trip provided by Utah Tourism and Goulding's Lodge. All opinions are my own.

Related content on explore

Plan your next great adventure with explore!
Off the beaten path locations, tips and tricks, interviews with intrepid explorers and more.