We were heading to Monument Valley as some of the pictures we have seen of it are simply stunning. When we arrived at the Navajo Nation office though the vibe just didn’t do it for us. Too many people. Too much pressure to buy “authentic Navajo art.” Pressure to hire a “guide” to take us into the Valley and, apparently, point out stunning geologic formations we would never be able to enjoy by ourselves. So…nope. Snap decision that we are not going to play that game and instead we’ll just head a little ways up the road back into Utah to an equally impressive valley full of monoliths, pinnacles and hoodoos. Locally considered a miniature Monument Valley its real name is the Valley Of The Gods.
Heading up Hwy 163 we saw a turnout full of other expedition vehicles like ours that we had seen at the Overland Expo West in Flagstaff a few days before. We pulled in to see what was happening and they were all just doing a quick 50 yard drive down a side dirt road then turning around and coming back so that one of their group could take their video from his drone with Monument Valley way off in the background. I’m sure those turned out pretty good. We settled on the dog-on-dirt picture with that same striking background.
Further up Hwy 163 we passed through the little hamlet of Mexican Hat and a few miles past the town we came to the turnoff for the actual Mexican Hat rock formation and went to take a look.
Then we positioned her so that we could get the unoriginal “trying on the hat” shot.
That bit of geologic levity finished we got back on the highway and about 5 miles later turned off to the left onto Valley Of The Gods Road. The loop through the valley is 17 miles long on a graded gravel and clay road (San Juan County Road #242). It can be traversed by essentially any motor vehicle except after a heavy rain when the clay turns slippery and the washes it crosses become raging torrents. We saw a group of five Harley riders slowly making their was through the valley a mile or so ahead of us. We kept back to avoid tasting the dust they were creating.
As we meandered along the loop road looking for a suitable camping spot for the night we stopped a couple of times when we came across a rather picturesque scene and had Willow assume the pose position.
The partial cloud cover was really wrecking havoc on my poor overtaxed phone camera.
The majority of all the impressive geologic features within Valley of the Gods were all sculpted over eons by wind, water and ice out of 250 Million year-old (Permian age) Cedar Mesa sandstone into the shapes we see today. These sandstone layers are about 1200 feet thick and are cemented together with calcium carbonate from the remains of the creatures that lived in the shallow inland sea that was here all those years ago.
As I mentioned earlier the day was on the windy side and several promising camp spots were checked out and immediately vetoed as being too exposed for the severity of the wind we were experiencing. We eventually saw this little side road heading down from the main road level which came out at a little, partially protected campsite right next to a dry creek bed. As this was one of the far too many places in Utah that AT&T has decided is not worth their efforts to provide cellular coverage to we had no way to check the weather outlook. After a quick examination of the campsite we made the decision that, even in the unlikely event of a flash flood, our spot would be out of harm’s way. We set up camp, prepared a quick dinner, cleaned up and headed into the tent.
Knowing it was windy we placed a stake on every hold down loop our little Mountain Hardware tent had and tightened every strap to minimize flappy tent syndrome. It seemed to work well as we were not woken up in the middle of the night by a creaking, groaning, sloppy, floppy, noisy tent. A good night’s rest while on the road is a good and rejuvenating thing. That next morning after the coffee ritual the tent was taken down and repacked and we headed back out of the Valley continuing on the road we had arrived on. Of course, with the sun in a different position from when we arrived the day before and there being stunning vistas we had not yet seen we were obliged to stop a couple of time on our way out and take a few more photos just for you.
Just before we came to the exit we passed what we thought was a house. Eventually we saw the sign indicating that this was the Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast which is the only home within the surrounding 360,000 acres! Nice.
Only a short distance from dozens of other historical, cultural, geological and recreational wonders the Valley Of The Gods is a visually stunning setting that can be used as a base of operations as you explore the surrounding region or just as a destination in its own right. There are no entrance or camping fees and we just hope and expect you’ll take only pictures and leave only footprints.
Have Fun Out There.