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Last Updated on August 4, 2021
This Arizona road trip to 4 Corners Monument takes you through the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state. You’ll see Monument Valley and many other stunning ancient sights related to Native American history and culture. For geography geeks (like us!), a trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-see road trip destination. It’s the only place in American where you can stand in 4 states at once!
PRO TIP: 4 Corners Monument (i.e.The Navajo Nation) observes Daylight Savings Time, the State of Arizona does NOT; be sure to plan your schedule accordingly!
The 4 Corners Monument Road Trip Itinerary
This Arizona road trip itinerary begins near the north center of the state (Flagstaff or the Grand Canyon) and heads northeast into the Navajo Nation toward 4 Corners. Customize your journey to make it your own personal best road trip in Arizona by linking to one of our other itineraries. Along the way you’ll see some magnificent scenery, including Navajo National Monument and a historic Navajo display in an unlikely location (more on that below).
Spend a night (or two) at spectacular Monument Valley, using it as a base as you explore the area and visit 4 Corners Monument. Afterward, continue southward, stopping in to see the ancient Canyon de Chelly and historic Hubbell Trading post. Finish up near Petrified Forest National Park, where, if you’re so inclined, you can head back west on Route 66 in Arizona.
NOTE: Some National Park and Navajo Nation sights may be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check prior to visiting.
Cliff Dwellings at Navajo National Monument
Visit cliff dwellings that date back to the 1300s Navajo National Monument. There are two sites within the park that are available to visit: Betataking and Keet Seel. You can seek the Betatakin dwellings from a distance via an overlook on a self-guided trail. If you want to seek the site up-close, sign up for a ranger-guided tour, which takes 3-5 hours of rugged hiking. For a real in-country Navajo Nation experience, sign up for the 17-mile round trip hike to Keet Seel.
PRO TIP: Up-close looks at the cliff dwellings involve rugged hiking on ranger-guided tours. Sign up at ranger-guided tours at Navajo National Monument.
The Navajo Code Talkers Exhibit
After driving about 150 miles east the Grand Canyon you’ll come to the small town of Kayenta. Don’t bypass the Burger King: what appears to be a run-of-the-mill fast food outlet contains a hidden gem. Inside there’s an exhibit dedicated to the Navajo Code Talkers. These Navajo soldiers transmitted encoded military messages in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The Japanese were unable to decipher the ancient language, helping the Allied path to victory.–a code the Japanese navy was never able to break.
PRO TIP: Interested in learning more about the Navajo Code Talkers? Seek out the 2002 movie Windtalkers, starring Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach.
On the Navajo Code Talker website you can hear fascinating interviews from actual Code Talkers who served in World war II. One display depicts a fascinating blend of cultures: a Purple Heart medal decorated with local turquoise.
What, exactly, is 4 Corners Monument?
We’re both geography geeks so even from a tender age we used to look at maps and always wonder about that magical place where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah met. That’s 4 Corners: the only place in the United States where you can stand in one spot and be in four states at once. And because of that bit of geographic weirdness, naturally there’s a monument. To some it’s a tad silly, but to travel nerds (and since you’re reading this you may be one, too) a road trip to 4 Corners Monument is a must-do journey.
The 4 Corners Monument straddles four states but it is firmly located within the Navajo Nation. The tribe controls the monument at the remote location and charges an admission fee of $5/person in winter; $10/person in summer; ages six and under are free. Given the uniqueness of the site that’s not bad. The monument itself consists of a pink granite slab with markings showing the boundaries of the four states. They intersect at a round brass marker which designates the actual spot where they meet, stamped by the US Department of the Interior.
What about GPS? Is 4 Corners Monument in the right spot???
There’s been some talk lately that GPS technology has proved that the spot isn’t the actual corner of the four states. Some critics theorize that it could be 2 1 /2 miles away. Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation addresses this issue by saying, “In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.” The local Bureaus of Land Management also agree. So when you stand on the brass plaque in the you can be confident that you are indeed standing at the 4 Corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
“In 1868, GPS technology was not available to surveyors. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the current location is the legal location of the Four Corners.”Ray Russell of the Navajo Nation
4 Corners Monument: A Breaking Bad Moment
The Four Corners Monument even made it into an episode of the TV show Breaking Bad. When Skylar White was thinking of leaving her husband Walt she drove up to the 4 Corners with baby Holly in tow. She stood near the plaque and flipped a coin at the middle to determine where she should go. Her choice is pretty telling. (Observant fans of the show will notice that Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skylar, never actually made it to the Four Corners. Due to the magic of cinema her body double was used for the shots.)
After getting your geography fix at Four Corners, head to Monument Valley to see some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, straddling the Arizona and Utah borders. The epic landscape has been featured in hundreds of old Western films, many of them starring John Wayne riding to the rescue and other star-studded fare including Forrest Gump, Thelma & Louise and even the most recent version of The Lone Ranger. (Okay, so maybe they all haven’t been hits.)
Where to stay near 4 Corners Monument
We stayed in Monument Valley for a few nights. We found it was a great location a base to explore the 4 Corners Monument and the stunning rock formations at Monument Valley. There are only two hotels, but they are both winners, each offering their own unique charm:
- Right at Monument Valley, stay at The View Hotel. It’s owned by the Navajo Nation and just like the name promises, it looks right out over Monument Valley and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
- Historic Goulding’s Lodge opened in the 1920s as a trading post, eventually growing into a motel that housed John Wayne and crew when those Westerns were being filmed. The views of Monument Valley are more long distance views but still spectacular.
Canyons of Navajo Culture
Leaving Monument Valley and the 4 Corners Monument behind, turn south and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument to see the site of 5,000 (!) years of civilization. Because this park is contained within the Navajo Nation, it is a rare National Park that has inhabitants, whose ancestors have lived there for generations. While there you can view spectacular cliff dwellings, take a guided hike with a park ranger, or an off-road tour with a local Navajo guide.
If all this Navajo immersion has you hankering for a special souvenir, stop into the historic Hubbell Trading Post, which has been selling the work of Native American artisans for nearly 150 years. You can tour the Hubbell homestead, then watch Navajo artisans-in-residence practicing their craft. Much of this magnificent work is available for sale.
After leaving Hubbell Trading Post, head due south for about an hour to connect you with Interstate 40 and Old Route 66. From here you can head west, exploring the mid-century delights of Route 66, or continue south through Petrified Forest National Park and a Road Trip along the Mogollon Rim. Either way, you’ll have completed a unique trip through northeastern Arizona . . . somehow managing to visit 3 other states at 4 Corners Monument!
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Where is Four Corners Monument?
Four corners monument straddles 4 states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah, but this intersection of states is firmly located in the midst of the Navajo Nation.