Is Four Corners on your bucket list?
My husband had especially wanted to visit this special spot for a long time and we first made it happen on our Mesa Verde National Park trip in 2012. I recently returned with my son and niece on a road trip through Utah's San Juan County.
Four Corners Monument is the only place in the United States where you can stand in four states AND three sovereign nations at the same time. It is the spot where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. The Navajo and Ute nations both overlap the United States at this point.
Thousands of visitors travel to this remote monument each year. Here is everything you need to know for a successful trip to Four Corners Monument.
It is in the right place
A few years ago, it was reported in the media that the spot where the four states meet is actually 2.5 miles west of the monument. What!? Who wants to visit Four Corners if it isn't really Four Corners?
I looked into this to find that the original surveyor, using the best tools available in 1868, missed where the spot should have been by about 1800 feet, not 2.5 miles. The marker was placed and accepted by the U.S. Congress, and from that time forward, the marker has been the legal divider between the four states. So, it doesn't matter where it should have been, because the marker is legally the exact spot where the four states meet today.
If you'd like to read more about this, check out this short, straightforward article from the Washington Post and a more detailed explanation from the National Geodetic Survey, whose report was the one that was misreported in the first place.
It is in the middle of nowhere
That's not exactly true, because being in four states and three nations at once is an impressive number of somewheres. However, fuel, food and lodging are limited within 30+ miles of the monument. I felt all alone in the desert for miles, then wondered where all the people came from when we reached Four Corners.
There is no running water at Four Corners Monument, though it looks like a new, modern bathroom is under construction. I'm guessing that it will open in 2019 or 2020. If it's open when you're there, please tell me about it! The current bathrooms are past-their-prime porta-potties.
Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your car, cash, food and drinks, hand sanitizer and extras of whatever else you will need for your trip to Four Corners. The nearest convenience station is only about 6 miles away, in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, but this area really feels remote.
It is managed by the Navajo Nation
The flags of the Navajo and Ute Nations fly side by side with the flags of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona at Four Corners. The Navajo Nation overlaps these parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The Utes occupy the southwest corner of Colorado.
Admission is $5 per person for ages 7 and up. Children aged 0-6 get in free. Cash or credit cards are accepted. U.S. National Parks passes are not accepted.
The parking lot is large and there is a section reserved for RVs, semi trucks and other large vehicles. There are no painted parking spaces, so parking felt a little lawless. However, Four Corners is not that crowded, so it wasn't a big deal. The unpaved lot was a bit rough and bumpy, but most cars should be fine at low speeds.
Service animals are the only animals allowed inside the monument. Pets are OK in the parking area and surrounding wilderness.
Expect to wait your turn
Nearly everyone who visits Four Corners Monument wants to take a photo of themselves standing in all four states at once. Other visitors were considerate about taking turns on the monument and allowing us to get good photos. We did the same for them.
There is a sign asking visitors to take only three photos. It keeps the line moving. Generally, the person behind you will be happy to take a photo of your family, if needed.
On both visits, I've been surprised by how many people were at Four Corners, considering how few we saw on the road. However, it's not really that crowded.
We waited 10-15 minutes for our photos on both visits, and watched the line randomly get longer or shorter. There was briefly no line at all as we finished our recent June visit.
Try some Navajo fry bread
You may find vendors selling Navajo fry bread and drinks at the monument, depending on when you go. There were two fry bread stands to choose from when we visited at mid-day in late June. They were not open when we arrived in late afternoon in mid-October.
Our Navajo taco with beans, cheese tomatoes, lettuce and onions cost about $12. You can add meat for little or no extra charge. Fry bread with honey cost $5. I split one of each with my son and niece and it worked for a light lunch. We thought that the Navajo taco toppings were a little too light and the flavor was a bit bland. The hot fry bread with honey was a tasty treat.
They do take credit cards, but may charge a little extra for the convenience. I was glad I brought cash.
Save time for shopping
Navajo vendors occupy permanent booths that surround the monument. Nearly all of them sell jewelry and other Navajo crafts. Many are the artisans and can tell you all about the items. Most Four Corners vendors accept credit cards.
Ask questions to learn the difference between high-quality and low-quality materials and artistry. There is a reason that some silver and turquoise items are cheap and others are expensive, and I found that vendors were happy to share information. You can find hand-crafted local art and souvenirs to fit any budget.
On our first visit, my daughter wanted a dream catcher. She was able to choose from a large selection of dream catchers at Four Corners, in a variety of colors, sizes and prices. She settled on a small pink one for $5.
I fell in love with the horsehair pottery on our second visit, and perused several booths before finding the perfect Christmas tree ornament in that medium. My niece found a cute silver and turquoise jewelry set.
I love unique and authentic destinations and think that Four Corners Monument is worth the drive. It's a must on any Monument Valley trip and an easy side trip from Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. It would also be a good day trip from Arches or Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.
Good to Know
Where: Just off of U.S. Highway 160, about 6 miles north of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona.
When: Open every day from about 8 AM until 5 or 8 PM, depending on the season. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
How Much: $5 per person over the age of 6. Ages 6 and younger are free. Cash and credit are accepted at the admission booth and by most vendors. I recommend keeping cash on hand, just in case.
How Long: 30-90 minutes
Amenities: Primitive toilets and picnic tables. Large unpaved parking lot for vehicles of all sizes. Fry bread and souvenirs may be available from vendors.