By Andrew Collins
Originally published on Advocate.com August 05 2009 12:00 AM ET
Immortalized in such classic Hollywood films as The Searchers and Easy Rider , the breathtakingly vast landscape of sandstone-studded monoliths known as Monument Valley stretches across windswept miles of northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah. Its base elevation of a mile above sea level and its arid, sunny climate ensure optimal conditions for avid shutterbugs, who rejoiced last winter with the opening of the View Hotel ( MonumentValleyView.com ). Now visitors to this sparsely populated valley, where the Navajo people have lived for more than a millennium, can awaken any morning of the year from a restful night's sleep inside a comfy, contemporary hotel room and behold one of the world's most captivating vistas from a private balcony.
Armanda Ortega, a member of the Navajo clan Kiy`anníí (Towering House), owns and operates this low-slung stucco hotel, which adjoins the recently reconstructed visitor center and trading post on the Utah side of the 90,000-acre Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. From nearly every room-as well as the airy, high-ceilinged restaurant-you're treated to striking panoramic views of Monument Valley's legendary formations, including the Mittens, a pair of 1,000-foot red rock towers that frame the landscape as you gaze northeast. Step outside and you have direct access to the three-mile Wildcat hiking trail as well as a 17-mile self-guided driving loop along a bumpy dirt track; a four-wheel-drive vehicle is best, although not required, for this adventure. (With no rentals available near Monument Valley, you'll have to bring your own.)
Just about every space inside the eco-consciously designed hotel is optimized to take advantage of the surroundings. Even the views from the exercise room and the handful of units facing west are jaw-dropping, especially at sunset, and the lone elevator has a small window, lest you go even a moment without admiring the setting. At night Monument Valley's rich copper, ocher, and crimson hues give way to a jet-black sky dappled with brilliantly twinkling stars-light pollution is nil in this part of the world.
The live-and-let-live Navajo Nation's mystical environs have long been a popular getaway among same-sex couples seeking romance, spiritual enrichment, and tranquility. It's hard to imagine a more alluring spot for a restorative retreat than this upscale yet low-key hotel, whose 96 rooms come with carved-wood furnishings, plush beds with Navajo spreads, and a few requisite modern conveniences (you don't have to use the free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV, but it's nice to know they're there). The best viewing entertainment, of course, lies right outside your window.