Monument Valley, the home to three buttes that make up the definitive image of the American West for most folks, is out of the way, and very expensive.
The Valley is on tribal land, near the Arizona and Utah border. It's five hour drive from the nearest big city, Phoenix, 7 hours from Las Vegas or 10 hours from Los Angeles, and there's only one hotel overlooking the buttes, the View Hotel, whose rates often top $400 nightly. And they're hard to come by.
Once there, if you want to venture into the tribal park, which is controlled by the native Navajo Nation, you can go during normal business hours, which means no entry any earlier than 8 a.m.
For us photographers, that knocks out catching the sunrise over the buttes, a key photo request. (Only sunrise matters--the sun sets out on the other side of the buttes, and isn't worth catching.)
But if you want to get in there early, you can--as part of a tour. I signed up for the Navajo Spirit photo tour with a guide named Will Cowboy, (for real) and we caught many of the best spots, including sunrise over the buttes, the Totem Pole and Big Hogan.
The tour promises to "take you to see the beautiful panoramic view points that the western films made famous," per the website. "Our focus is in the back country areas where you will visit beautiful natural arches, natural amp theaters and petroglyphs."
The cost of the tour was $150 per person, and we met our guide at 5:10 (sunset was just after 6 a.m.) to ride in his open-air Jeep down the rocky roads