May 2023 – Discover the Breathtaking Beauty of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks Park, & Forest Gump Highway
Our weekend adventure this time took us to the south east corner of Utah and the north east corner of Arizona. Our road trip was a total of 1460 miles give or take. We started around noon on Friday as we drove through traffic of Southern California Highway 15 to the 40. Once on the 40 we went straight through Arizona to Flagstaff the turned North and started to head up the 89. We wanted to get to our furthest most stop which was the Valley of the Gods so that we could wake up at our destination on Saturday.
While we still had light on Friday we stopped off the Wupathi Spirt Totem. The Wupatki Spirit Totem is right before the turn off to the Wupathi Visitor Center. It is a small dirt turn off and just a quick walk up a small mound. The Totem is best viewed up close and personal. As you walk around the offerings to the spirits is something to enjoy. I added to the offerings after enjoying the quick stop and then we were off again.
We finally made it to the dirt road turn off to the Valley of the Gods. It was about 11 pm but the moon was full, allowing us a glimpse of the Monuments all around us. We turned to the left and found a camp spot along the wash before the 17 mile road starts. This part of the country is BLM and you are able to disperse camp any where of your choosing. I would suggest to stay on the designated roads and to use already established camp sites and turn outs.
The next morning we woke up early and started our self guided tour of the Valley of the Gods. The Valley of the Gods takes you along a 17 mile stretch of dirt road that loops you along red sand stone monuments similar to Monument Valley, but this stretch is free, not as crowded, and you can hike any part, if you choose. As we toured the monuments we saw that there were a lot of people camping out. There were still places to camp along the road but it was slim. We were up early enough that there wasn’t really anybody traveling so we got some amazing pictures without dust or waiting for cars to move along. If you travel to Monument Valley make sure to save some time to tour the Valley of the Gods as well. It took us about an hour to do this stretch with only driving and pulling over for pictures.
Our next spot was Goosenecks State Park. The view of the San Juan River from the top of the park is amazing. The river itself does a double horseshoe bend that is breathtaking. There is RV Camping at the park along a thin point that gives you 360 views of the distance Monument Valley as well as the Valley of the Gods. If you dare, there is a dirt trail that takes you down the canyon wall closer to the river getting you a little more personal with the river.
After that we headed to Monument Valley but along the way we stopped at the highway from Forrest Gump’s movie to get that famous shot of the highway where he stopped running.
Once at Monument Valley we started up the App “Action Tour Guide.” This app was a lot of fun and is very informational. It told us all kinds of facts about Monument Valley as we reached different points of interest. It uses your GPS and turns on when you reach certain parts of the park. We highly recommend this as a great self tour guide tour. They have both an Android App and Apple App
When you enter Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitor Center you will come to a guard station were you will pay the $8 a person fee. I bought my tickets online so it was easy to enter the park. When you get to the visitor center/hotel you will go left to the end of the parking lot and then almost like a U turn you will end up at a dirt road which is the start of the tour. The park wasn’t crowded when we got there but there were still a lot of people there. When we started we had a tour jeep infront us that kicked up a lot of dust so it was hard to get good pictures. We ended up pulling into the first turnout and waited for them to pass so that we had an amazing clear view of the valley.
The pictures don’t do it justice. The grand scale of the massive sand stones had my jaw hitting the ground at every turn. My favorite spots was the West Mitten Butte, John Ford Point and Artist Point. Take your time and enjoy the ride. Monument Valley is on private property and is home to the Navajo Native Americans so take care of the land and don’t go beyond the road.
Our monring was coming to our end but our adventure was just beginning. Stay tuned for Part 2 & 3 as we explore Lake Powell, Wupatki National Monument and hike Gold King’s Mansion in Bullhead.