While Monument Valley boasts some stunning scenery, there are almost no hiking trails: the Wildcat Trail is the only self-guided trail in the area. Although you’ll get equally good (or better) views from a guided or self-driving tour in Monument Valley, there’s something humbling about walking around the enormous rock formations.
I arrived in Monument Valley on a day with mist and low cloud, and as I set off down the well-marked trail I’m questioning the wisdom of undertaking a hike on a day when visibility is less than a few hundred feet…
East Mitten Butte occasionally pokes it’s head enigmatically above the clouds, although the base remains shrouded in mist.
Looking back up the trail, the cabins of the View Hotel can be seen lined up along the valley rim. It’s the only sign of civilisation on the almost deserted trail.
Due to the low cloud, there’s very few people on the trail – I catch-up with two other hikers. And I spot a couple of horses grazing near the trail.
After about 0.7 miles (1km), the Wildcat Trail reaches the start of the loop around West Mitten Butte; the recommended direction is anti-clockwise, but I’m feeling a bit contrarian so I head left to do the loop in a clockwise direction.
Still shrouded by low cloud is Sentinel Mesa to the north, a series of high rocky plateaus that resemble huge tables (mesa meaning table in Spanish).
The trail follows an ephemeral creek for a short distance, with West Mitten Butte looming above.
The clouds are starting to lift a little, showing a bit more of the enormous Sentinel Mesa.
To the east is East Mitten Butte, which is 6,226 ft (1,898 m) in elevation.
There’s changing perspectives of West Mitten Butte as the Wildcat Trail circles the 6,176 ft (1,882 m) high rock formation.
East Mitten Butte is now (almost) completely visible.
The views get more spectacular as the clouds continue to lift. I’m now more than halfway around the Wildcat Trail, between West Mitten Butten, East Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte.
While the low cloud has mostly gone, it’s also getting much warmer – this is not a hike you’d want to do in the middle of the day. A few people are starting to appear, with all the buttes now visible.
As I complete the Wildcat Trail, climbing a small hill near the end of the hike, I enjoy the panoramic views back over the two Mitten Buttes and Merrick Butte.
It’s been an incredibly scenic hike, with the low cloud and mist at the start making the landscape even more evocative.
Getting to the Wildcat Trail
The trail starts near the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center; walk north along Indian Route 42 and look for the signpost at the start of the trail. Monument Valley is 175mi / 280km drive from Flagstaff (the closest airport) or 320mi / 515km from Phoenix (the closest international airport).
Accommodation near Wildcat Trail
The newer View Hotel is a short walk to the start of the Wildcat Trail. You can also stay at the historic Gouldings Lodge, which is the original hotel and has more facilities (including gas station, grocery store and laundromat).