March 2016 – Just over the border of Utah and Arizona at the eastern edges of the two states, a few miles north of Monument Valley, lies a fabulous scenic drive through an area called the Valley of the Gods.
This is a 15 mile or so dirt road that winds through incredible rock formations.
Some of the rocks formations are reminiscent of the famous ones at Monument Valley, but this area is much smaller and much less visited.
When we were there in late March, we had the whole place to ourselves as the sun was dropping low in the sky.
This is a parched desert land, but it had rained in the past few days and there were still puddles on the ground that made for some fun reflection photography.
We were hoping for a colorful sunset, but the skies darkened before any pink or red hues had a chance to form.
Early the next morning, we did the drive again (it is well worth driving through Valley of the Gods more than once!).
For brief periods, the sun penetrated the overcast skies and played with its shadow on the rock formations.
The most beautiful part of this drive is a two to three mile section in the middle where it makes a series of s-curves between the rock formations.
Each formation is lovely, and even though the sun decided to call it quits for the day, the muted light showed off the majestic scenery without the glaring brightness and shadows cast by sunny skies.
Not far from the Valley of the Gods is a phenomenal road that climbs through a series of very tight and steep switchbacks up to lofty heights. It’s called the Moki Dugway. This road was built in 1958 to move uranium ore from the Happy Jack mine to Fry Canyon.
We climbed up the switchbacks and 10% grades in our truck. At a viewpoint part way up we watched a Class C motorhome making its way along this insanely steep road. What a brave driver!
I had always thought these two places were one and the same, but they are actually very different.
Horseshoe Bend has vast stretches of red rock sandstone slabs at the top of the rim> The Colorado River far below is blue, because at that point in its journey it has just emerged from the dam at Lake Powell. Goosenecks State Park has more of a crumble rock surface at the rim and has lots of vegetation on the canyon walls. At the bottom, the San Juan RIver is muddy and brown.
Someone had placed a bunch of stones in spiral near the edge.
Unlike the National Park Service’s Horseshoe Bend, which is overrun with thousands of international tourists and is free, Goosenecks State Park is $5 for day visitors, and $10 a night for camping on the rim, and there is hardly anyone there. When we stopped by, I doubt the daily fees were covering the salary of the gal sitting in the guard shack at the entrance!
There were a few RVs parked along the rim. Some were camped in a cluster near the entrance, but one had claimed a spot far in the distance along the rim. What an incredible view out your RV window!
One RVer was enjoying the morning from his camp chair right at the edge of the overlook. How cool is that?!
All three of these places — Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway and Goosenecks State Park — are at the very southern end of the 3,000 square miles of Utah land that the Navajo and other Indian tribes are asking President Obama to set aside to become Bears Ears National Monument. This will protect their many ancestral archaeological sites that are scattered throughout the region. Currently, these areas fall prey to desecration and to mining and oil drilling activities.
National Monuments are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service whose mission is the protection of national treasures. In line with their charter, the NPS usually takes a hard stance against free wheeling recreation, and they control access and use with an iron fist.
However, the land in question is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and even Utah State Parks, each of which has its own unique mission, from resource extraction to recreational use to tourism.
So, this unusual proposal will require these public land management agencies to cooperate in a way they never have before. With any luck, if Bears Ears National Monument is created, recreational use like scenic driving, hiking, biking and camping will still be possible.
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More info about Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park and Moki Dugway:
- Valley of the Godes – BLM Brochure
- Goosenecks State Park, Utah
- Moki Dugway – Wikipedia
- Locations of Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park and Moki Dugway
Other blog posts from our RV travels in Southeastern Utah:
- Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!) 04/28/16
- Magical Sunrises at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah! 04/23/16
- Arches National Park Utah – A Playground of Soaring Red Rock Bridges! 04/21/16
- Moab Utah – Red Rocks and Snowcapped Mountains 04/14/16
- Canyonlands National Park Utah – Hiking in the Needles District! 04/12/16
- Newspaper Rock Utah – Petroglyphs and Rock Art from the Ancients 04/06/16
- Paria Rimrocks “Toadstools” Hike to A Hidden Canyon! 05/25/14
- Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking! 05/22/14
- Natural Bridges National Monument Utah – Vertical Hiking! 06/15/12
- Goblin Valley, UT – Where the Ghosts Are 10/16/07
- San Rafael Swell, UT – Pictographs & Dinosaur Prints 10/12/07
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