The Mittens Monument Valley

The Mittens and Merrick Butte in Monument Valley are three of the most recognizable and iconic sandstone buttes to be found in this region, which itself epitomizes the iconography of the American Southwest. These three rock formations of red sandstone stand together, almost isolated from other formations and surrounded by the vast flat scrubland of this unique landscape set within the Navajo Tribal Park.

As with so many named rock formations, the Mittens Monument Valley resemble exactly what you might think they do from their name. These are two large red sandstone buttes jutting up from the desert floor, called East Mitten and West Mitten. Even the thumbs of the “mittens” are properly placed. West Mitten butte, also known as Left Mitten, is one of the few formations in Monument Valley that can be viewed up close by unescorted travelers. Virtually all of the land here is privately owned by Navajo tribal members, and there are few public trails. The exception is Wildcat Trail, which forms a 3.2 mile loop around West Mitten. It’s a flat route that takes about two to three hours as an easy stroll. Merrick Butte is a massive square block of red sandstone set atop a sloping hill, and rising like a sentinel over the desert. (If you want to see the other formations, Monument Valley tours with Navajo guides are available.) These three monuments are grouped together quite close to Monument Valley Drive and not far from the park’s visitor center. Because they are so visibly close to one of the only roads through the park, they are probably the three most photographed buttes in all of Monument Valley.

There is a reasonable fee to drive through Monument Valley. If you to explore further than the Mittens and Merrick Butte, there are various tours that can be arranged at the visitors center or from private operators on the borders of the park. There are horseback tours, hot air balloon flights, and scenic flyovers by small plane. Some are day trips, and there are also overnight camping trips.

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