March 2019 – What with triple-towing and having a new Polaris RZR side-by-side these days, we had decided not to travel long distances in 2019. But when I got an email announcing that a photographer we admire, Ian Plant, was hosting a four day workshop in southeastern Utah, we decided to make a run for it and take our RV on a nearly 500 mile adventure ride past stunning scenery between Phoenix, Arizona, and the tiny village of Hanksville, Utah.
After a crazy cold winter in the Arizona deserts, the temps had just started to warm up in the Phoenix area. But we we hightailed it north for Utah’s higher elevation (and colder) red rock and snowy mountain scenery anyway. Brrr!
What were we thinking?
Despite (or because of) the incoming storm, the towering rock formations that form the gateway to Monument Valley stretched across the horizon in dramatic fashion, and we just had to get out and hike down one of the dirt roads to get a better look at them.
The clouds intensified as we walked. Every once in a while the sun swept across the vast landscape with the dark storm clouds in hot pursuit. Um… in cold pursuit!! Over on the other horizon a row of red rock cliffs lit up as the sun brightened.
Turning back towards the monuments we noticed a cool cloud had formed above them in the sky.
We hopped back in our truck for another twenty miles or so and were pelted with rain. But when we turned the corner at Mexican Hat the rain abated just long enough for us to get out again and have a look around.
The Mexican Hat rock formation is very easy to spot!
Just south of Blanding, Utah, we turned west onto US-95, also known as the Bicentennial Highway, and plunged down lots of 8% to 10% switchbacks to the desert floor far below. This is a fantastic scenic drive that leaves our jaws agape every time we drive it. Even this time in the rain and fog — and snow in the mountains we were passing! — it was still a glorious drive.
How funny, though, in the middle of all that majestic scenery to see an old dilapidated Winnebago sitting in the middle of nowhere. Mark hit the brakes so he could run back for a shot!
Some of the best views on this drive are when it descends into Glen Canyon. I fondly remember how the first time we drove it I was so excited by the beauty that I sat in the window of the passenger’s seat snapping pics as Mark drove!
This time we were driving in rain and mist, but as we pulled into the Hite Scenic Overlook the sun made a valiant effort to push its way out from behind the heavy blankets of clouds.
The view from the overlook was out of this world.
What a spot for photography!
We hung around for several hours taking photos. We were standing on a peninsula with views in every direction, and the views went on forever.
The massive stone towers on the desert floor below us looked like they had strayed from Monument Valley.
And how amusing it was to look back at a blog post I wrote about this same area seven years ago and find that I took almost the exact same photo (in sunshine) when we were there!
The tiny ribbon of US-95 snaked around in front of the enormous stone towers.
Even Buddy seemed to appreciate the view. He was very cautious looking down over the edge too, holding his weight back as he craned his neck forward to look down at the flat land below.
Behind us a row of red rocks that stood cheek-by-jowel like city buildings overlapped snowcapped mountains in the distance.
The skies finally began to clear and the last miles of the Bicentennial Highway were flanked with red rock cliffs as we approached the village of Hanksville.
All of the land in the lower half of Utah is spectacular beyond words.
Hanksville is home to about 250 people, and its two gas stations, restaurants and motels are all clustered around the intersection of US-24 and US-95. Most of the back streets in town are dirt. We went exploring and came across the ruins of an old stone homestead. We learned later that this is part of the Giles Ghost Town.
Those stone walls were pretty thick!
All around the area there were lots of exotic rock formations. Some formed beautiful patterns…
And others made recognizable shapes!
We’ll be in this area for another week, improving our photography by day and fending off sub-freezing temps by night!
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More info about these places:
- Monument Valley
- Mexican Hat – Home to about 50 people
- Hite in Glen Canyon
- Map of the highlights on our drive
Other blog posts from Southeastern Utah:
- Arches National Park Utah – A Playground of Soaring Red Rock Bridges! 04/21/16
- Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More! 02/01/19
- Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!) 04/28/16
- Canyonlands National Park Utah – Hiking in the Needles District! 04/12/16
- Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah – Magical Sunrises! 04/23/16
- Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground! 04/20/18
- Goblin Valley, UT – Where the Ghosts Are 10/16/07
- Heavenly Theatrics in Utah’s Red Rocks 10/04/19
- Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks 04/05/19
- Moab Utah – Red Rocks and Snowcapped Mountains 04/14/16
- Natural Bridges National Monument & Utah’s Bicentennial Highway 06/15/12
- Newspaper Rock Utah – Petroglyphs and Rock Art from the Ancients 04/06/16
- Paria Rimrocks “Toadstools” Hike to A Hidden Canyon! 05/25/14
- San Rafael Swell, UT – Pictographs & Dinosaur Prints 10/12/07
- SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains! 03/22/19
- Traces of Antiquity and the Not-So-Ancient in Utah! 03/29/19
- Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park 04/16/18
- Valley of the Gods & Goosenecks State Park, Utah – Beautiful! 04/04/16
- Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking! 05/22/14
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