Arizona, United States, Utah

Forrest Gump Point and Monument Valley

Arizona United States Utah

Forrest Gump – The final scene where he is running in the desert with his long beard & red cap followed by a sea of followers & lovers of him, he is running through Monument Valley, Mexican Hat, Utah. In the background is that of the famous monument, Monument Valley, which are sandstone buttes that are a part of the Colorado Plateau located on the border of Arizona & Utah. The lone street that Forrest & his followers are running on is US Route 163 & he is running northbound towards Mexican Hat. Monument Valley is a part of the Navajo Nation & is located on the Navajo Tribal Park. The buttes range in colors & sizes. For a small fee, entrance to the Tribal Park (if not staying at the must-stay View Hotel) is permitted & one can drive deeper into the Valley & explore buttes not necessarily visible from the road.

Mile 13, i.e., Forrest Gump Point (FGP) on US Route 163, is the exact point where Forrest stopped his running phase & told his followers, “I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now.” How does this pertain to me? Forrest Gump is & will always be one of my favorite movies from childhood. Granted, I was too young to understand the adult themes of the movie, but my inner wanderlust was evident as a child & watching him run to these beautiful places made me pay attention. This movie remains a top 5 movie in my life; when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona in the summer of 2015, I was already very well-traveled, particularly in domestic road trips. Road trips have become a hobby of mine & I have driven all throughout this country numerous times (at least to everyone else, I feel I have not scratched the surface).

Last year, I happened to watch Forrest Gump on Netflix & of course my favorite scene from the movie, the desert scene came up. But I never in all these years of watching, bothered to look to see where the road or where that beautiful background was. That night, I googled “filming locations of Forrest Gump”; the first thing that popped up, Monument Valley, UT. I then was shocked to see that one of the most pivotal scenes in my film-watching life was in the state above me, an easily drivable distance. Then, I Google-Mapped the exact location & it was on the border of Arizona & Utah! May I just say I almost lost my mind! I had been living in Phoenix for months driving all over the place & did not know that I was missing out on seeing something that resonated from my childhood.

Fast forward to December of 2016. Brian & I decided to do another desert road trip with a few similar & new stops. Monument Valley & Forrest Gump Point were priority number one. We stayed at the View Hotel & if you ever go to this region & do not stay here, you are missing out on pure magic. We drove straight to FGP, Mile 13 & I felt my entire body tingle; I felt like that 9-year-old child watching a movie that I probably had no business watching at that time. I felt like I created one of the most memorable travel experiences of my entire life. I parked the pick-up truck on the side of the road & I warned Brian, “I will probably cry in a few minutes, do not take my picture when I do.” There is never consistent traffic on US-163 so it was a photographer’s dream to take pictures in the middle of the road with Monument Valley in the background. I left Brian’s side to get my picture taken & those tears were streaming because it is still one of the most beautiful, underrated wonders in this country. We turned Mile 13 into a photo shoot, taking so many pictures on the road, the abandoned Navajo Trading Post next to us, from the back of the pick-up & with our bottle of 1800 Silver Tequila.

After a while, a part of me was like, “We do not have to leave.” We had the Grand Canyon, Palm Springs & Salvation Mountain in Slab City, CA on our road trip agenda but I was in a state of euphoria being right where I was. Then we got to the Tribal Park & hotel guests receive access to the dirt road that you can go deeper into the Valley. I had no idea how huge that place was & we could not stay long as it would be closing for the night but we captured epic photos, stood over cliffs, did some hardcore off-road driving & we met Black Beauty the wild horse (I named her that).

We stayed only one night which is my only regret. The hotel was stunning & the Navajo people were inviting & friendly. We ordered the Navajo Plate, which derived of numerous dishes that are a part of the Native American culture, including mutton stew (sheep) & that was DELICIOUS! It tasted like pot roast! There is no cell reception as I have Sprint but T-Mobile & the others will be fine.

The next morning, I woke up Brian immediately as I saw the sun about to rise. It was imperative to see that raw sunrise. Beauty makes me cry & yes, I was waterworks watching the desert sun come up from the patio of our room. The footage we got is something you cannot describe. From arrival to departure, there was not a dull moment. I will go back & I am 100% positive Brian will find an excuse to as well. For anyone who wants to just see desert beauty at its finest, I insist you drive out of your way to northern Arizona/southern Utah & go to Monument Valley. Also, keep driving until you see “MILE 13” on your right-hand side & stop your car, because you are now at Forrest Gump Point.

Contributed by Whitney A. Hughley