The shopping scene in the Four Corners area is not very happening, but it can be tempting. At some of the shops, you will find really interesting, authentic Navajo handicraft to buy as souvenirs. However, beware that these items can not only be expensive, but some of them may also be fakes from Mexico and other overseas businesses.
The Four Corners monument, also known as the Four Corners Tribal Park, is a unique landmark in the US, where the boundaries of four states intersect at one point. The creation of the Four Corners area dates back to 1868, when Colorado was preparing for statehood and admission into the Union. The first survey of the area demarcated only Colorado's southern border. In 1878, the western boundary of New Mexico and the eastern boundary of Utah were surveyed and added to the map. This was soon followed by the addition of the Arizona boundary, at which point the states make up the four corners area.
A small metal and cement marker was installed in 1912, and the area remained simple and unremarkable till 1992, when a flat granite slab with an aluminum/bronze marker was installed. An inscription on the granite monument reads, 'Four states here meet in freedom under god'. The place is surrounded by the flags and seals of all four states, along with the native American Navajo and Ute flags.
How to Get Here
Getting here in a flight or train is not practical, as any airport and railway station is not located nearby. Your best bet would be to travel by road. There are four primary routes that one can follow:
- From Cortez, Colorado: Follow the US 160 southwards towards New Mexico for 44 miles. Take a turn at the Four Corners Monument sign on a short road called the NM 597.
- From Farmington, New Mexico: Follow US 64 towards the west for 10 miles, then turn right and stay on US 64 for another 26 miles, where you will enter Arizona and reach the US 160. Now travel the same as the first route.
- From Flagstaff, Arizona: Follow the US 160 for around 230 miles, where you will enter New Mexico and reach NM 597. Then follow the instructions given above.
- From Blanding, Utah: Follow UT 191 for 46 miles to enter Arizona. Now follow the US 160 for around 40 miles to reach New Mexico and NM 597.
What to Expect
The Four Corners National Monument
People visiting the monument either leave excited by running from state to state and taking photographs, or leave very disappointed that they drove out so far to see so little. The Four Corners monument is a very limited attraction, and is plainly a cartographic curiosity, which allows a person to be in four places simultaneously. So, it is highly recommended that you add other places such as the Mesa Verde National Park, Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley to your trip's itinerary.
Weather of Four Corners
- The best time to travel to the Four Corners area is between the months of May and September. Temperatures can reach as high as 110ºF (43ºC) in the summer, and therefore, it is important that one carries sunscreen, sanitizers, and lots of water to drink, to counter the natural elements.
- The high heat of the summer can make the metal in the park too hot to touch, including the bronze surveyor mark on the monument.
Things to Do
- The visitor center at the monument is open throughout the year (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day), and it also contains a demonstration center which is run by Navajo artisans, where you can learn about their culture and way of life.
- Navajo vendors sell a wide variety of handicrafts, jewelry, and traditional foods near the center. One can buy Native American dream-catchers, Kachina dolls, Navajo rugs, pottery, jewelry, and other pieces of traditional art from here.
- Visitors get on their hands and knees so that each limb is in one of the four corner states at the same time. There is also a platform where someone else can take your photograph as you touch the four states. As there might be many people who want to do this, be patient and await your turn.
Although picnic tables and restrooms are available in the area, it is highly recommended that you carry your own food, water, and toiletries when visiting, as this is a remote place, and running water, telephones, cell phone coverage, and electricity is not available, and service areas such as convenient stores, cafes, and gasoline stations are few and far apart in the region.
Although there are chances that you might meet natives who speak only Navajo, the vast majority of the people here can speak English, so language should not be a problem.
There are no hotels in the park, and camping here is not allowed. One can look for accommodations in the surrounding communities, or look for nearby hotels in Farmington, Bluff, Blanding, or Cortez.
Food and Drink
There are no sit-down restaurants in the park, but one can find food stalls which sell fry bread, Sno cones, Navajo burgers and tacos. Also, alcohol is strictly prohibited on Navajo land, but one can find sodas and bottled water at the food stalls.
- Respect the Navajos, their land, and their rules and regulations. Do not litter, and ask for permission before photographing the natives. Give them the same courtesy and respect that you wish to receive.
- The entry fee for the park is USD 5 per person, and the park remains open till 5 pm. However, it is important that you do not enter the park after closing time, as you might encounter untied dogs who might get aggressive.
Four Corners Area Attractions
Although the Four corners monument itself might be quite uninspiring, there are many places in the surrounding region that are worth a visit, to enjoy the natural beauty of the southwest:
Mesa Verde National Park
Originally the home of the nomadic Anasazi people, the park now offers great views of ancient cliff dwellings and more than 4,000 archaeological sites.
One can find some of the best landscape and scenery in the southwestern United States over here. Great rock spires and numerous geological formations make this place ideal for some amazing photography.
Durango Silver Company
If you are in the mood for some great, handmade, regional jewelry of the area, this is one of your best options. Also, if one visits the Durango and Silverton Narrow gauge railroad nearby, one can find superb views of southwest Colorado, and the historic mining town of Silverton.
Aztec Ruins National Park
Preserving buildings and artifacts dating to the 1100s and made by the Anasazi/Ancestral Pueblo people, this place can be very interesting for history buffs.
Anasazi Heritage Center
This is primarily a museum which will help you in interpreting the history of the various cultures which thrived in the Four Corners region over the ages.
Another ancient site of the Puebloan era, this place consists of five villages that were built around 800 years ago along the Colorado and Utah border.
A great place to be when the heat gets the better of you, this lake is surrounded by tall cliffs and canyons, and one can enjoy boating or water skiing here.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Home to three massive rock arches and the very first international dark sky park in the world, this is an amazing place for hiking, mountaineering, and stargazing.
It is recommended that a new visitor should spend at least one week in the area to enjoy the experience to the maximum and cover the area properly. Best of luck and stay safe.