Novelty lovin' travelers who've always wanted to put all four limbs in four US states at once can make that dream a reality. Located in Canyon Country, the Four Corners Monument is one of the most famous attractions in the USA and is the only place where it's possible to be in four separate states at the exact same time. This incredibly unique location marks the point where the borders of four different states meet, and these are Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
Nowhere else in the U.S. allows such a fascinating and entertaining opportunity, which has seen this spot become exceedingly popular amongst both Americans and international visitors alike. However, along with taking iconic pics and going home with bragging rights, there's also something else of intrigue that makes the monument even more fascinating than ever before; the controversy over its accuracy. Is the landmark really where four states meet at a point? Some argue no - that its placement was miscalculated, while others are adamant that it is indeed correct. Once and for all, the true answer to this question is finally clear - and this guide goes into that in-depth.
The History Of Four Corners Monument
The Four Corners region was first claimed by Native American tribes, and once the USA started to expand into the west, the area was divided into many different territories with disputed borders. After the American Civil War ended, proper borders were established and officialized by surveyors, who did their best with the tools they had at the time to mark out these borders along latitudinal parallels. Thus, they created the official state borders of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona - and the Four Corners Monument was birthed.
Ever since those days, the monument has been updated and renovated many times after its creation; it was first a mere sandstone shaft, but today - with the most recent renovation occurring in 2010 - it consists of an elegant granite disk embedded with a smaller bronze disk, with even smaller state seals and flags featured that represent both the Native American tribal nations and the four states. In this more regal way, the updated monument now marks and honors this unique spot of geographical and historic significance much more beautifully than it did before.
Four Corners Placement Controversy
In 1901, the final surveys and mapping of the borders were completed. But in more recent years the accuracy of the Four Corners Monument's placement has been heavily questioned and debated. Back in the days of its first establishment, the original surveyors in 1868 didn't have the modern tools and methods available today - and it turns out they didn't actually follow the lines of the meridian and parallel quite as accurately as they should have. Due to their slight misalignment and questionable accuracy, it was estimated that the monument's correct placement should in fact have been about two and a half miles from where it sits currently.
However, it was later revealed that the original surveyors only just missed where the four corners should have been. Instead of two and a half miles out, the monument was only misplaced by around 1,800 feet - an offshoot that's far less dramatic than initially thought. Despite the precise location being slightly off according to the lines of meridian and parallel that were first intended as the state borders, the lines have indeed been accepted and approved as they are and are still legally the official state borders of all four states. This means that, in spite of the controversy, the position of the Four Corners Monument is correct according to geographical boundaries, although that doesn't stop passionate historians from arguing about it and reminding everyone that its actual location was supposed to be elsewhere.
What Happens At The Four State Lines?
Visitors arriving at the monument will be quite surprised at the sudden onset of small crowds after such a long deserted drive without a single other soul in sight - although they're usually not so overbearing. People stand in line and wait their turn to get their photos at the four state lines, which the monument managers kindly ask to be kept to a maximum of three in order to keep the line moving. They're not usually so pedantic about this, however, because it's normally not that crowded.
Once visitors have had their photo ops and enjoyed the typical must-do proverbial “I'm in Colorado! Now I'm in New Mexico! Now I'm in Arizona! And now Utah!" gag, they move on and the next people in line have their turn. But that's not the end of the story; although the actual interaction with the monument isn't that long, there are other things to do and see during a visit.
Other Things to Do at Four Corners Monument
Of course, the Four Corners Monument is a major attraction and the reason for one's visit - after all, it's world-famous for its geographical and historic significance and is the only spot of its kind in the entire USA. It's also a great place for educational opportunities - particularly for kids who can learn about state flags, US geography, and the fascinating culture and history of the Native American reservations in the area.
But whilst the monument is a bucket-list item offering geography and history lessons and is fantastic for getting a few family photos, there are a few other things one can check out as well. Right on-site there's a small market run by the Native American managers of the place, where they sell all kinds of Native American crafts, art, jewelry, and even some traditional food. They're said to be very friendly people who'll delight in telling visitors all about the cultural items for sale, as well as the history of their tribes and the monument itself.
However, the day doesn't have to end after all has been said and done at the Four Corners Monument; visitors can check out many other awesome attractions and things to do in the region. Canyon Country has plenty of offerings, and the Monument Valley's sensational, rugged landscapes are one of the American West's most recognizable regions ripe for exploration.
A great way to learn about Monument Valley is by enjoying a scenic road trip through the region. Less than two hours from Four Corners, road trippers can discover lots of picturesque routes that showcase the magnificent area's gorgeous scenery from the comfort of their vehicle. There's also the incredible Canyonlands National Park only two and a half hours away from the Four Corners Monument, which, as the largest national park in Utah (and possibly one of the USA's best), opens up even more adventure and scenery.
Furthermore, visitors to the area can also check out the Natural Bridges National Monument with its three naturally-formed rock arches. This particular landmark was actually the first place on the planet to be designated as an official Dark Sky Park, where ample protection from light pollution allows for truly breathtaking stargazing and nighttime sky photography.
The iconic quadripoint site is often mistakenly referred to as the Four Corners "National" Monument, which leads many people to think that it's free of charge to visit. However, it's actually jointly owned by Native American tribes - the Navajo Nation, who own the corners of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, and the Utes, who own the southwest corner of Colorado. Still, there's no need to gasp; admission doesn't exactly break the bank. The price for entry is only $5 per person and children under six years old go free.
Visitor Hours and Seasons
- Monday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:45 pm (October 1 to March 31)
- Monday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:45 pm (April 1 to April 30)
- Monday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:45 pm (May 1 to May 23)
- Monday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:45 pm (May 24 to August 15)
- Monday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:45 pm (August 16 to September 30)
- Closed during all major Navajo Nation Holidays, NN Family Day (November 26), Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day
What To Know Before Visiting
Even though the Four Corners Monument is easily accessed from Mesa Verde National Park and Arches National Park, it still is pretty much the definition of "the middle of nowhere". Surrounded by 30 miles of dry, brown desert in all directions, the site seems to appear out of nowhere all of a sudden without much warning, with droves of people seemingly descending out of that same nowhere just as quickly.
Due to its isolated geographical location, fuel, accommodation, food, and other amenities and facilities are limited within 30 or so miles of the monument, which means visitors are advised to bring plenty of fuel, cash, water, food, hand sanitizer, and any other items they may need throughout the day. Furthermore, many reports from visitors tell of no toilets or running water on-site - only temporary porta-potties. And although the place does feel remote and has a distinct lack of amenities and services, there is one convenience station about six miles away in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona for those who get caught short and are desperate.
It's also important to note that U.S. National Parks passes are not accepted at the Four Corners Monument - it is pay-to-enter only. Payment is accepted both in cash and by card, and many of the market vendors also take card payments as well. Conveniently, there's also a large parking lot available on-site with a dedicated section for RVs, semi-trucks, and other large vehicles.
Finally, be aware that pets are not allowed inside the monument - only service animals are permitted. However, pets are allowed in the parking lot and the surrounding areas, which means it's not completely a dud day for Fido who'll just have to wait a few minutes whilst the humans get their touristy monument photos.