While researching for my trip to the southwest I read all about the limitations monument valley has regarding hiking. How there’s only one hike you can do unaccompanied and everything else must be hiked with a Navajo guide. I think guides are important to meet the locals and learn things not otherwise noted. However, I’m an advocate for also being able to explore at my own pace. So I came across Valley of the Gods and was pleasantly surprised to see you could walk right up to buttes and not need a guide. Just make sure when traveling to Valley of the Gods that you’re prepared. There are no facilities and no source of drinking water. And remember to carry out your trash.
We turned onto the 17 mile-long dirt road just north of Mexican hat. It’s a bumpy ride and we were in an SUV. I saw sedans on the road as well so I don’t think an SUV is necessary. But online it states that when wet the area is impassable, even in an SUV. So check the weather and enter at your own risk!
There were tents at the base of some of the buttes. I’m sure people who had stayed the night had an awesome experience there. It’s so peaceful and quiet.
The buttes have names and it’s fun guessing which ones are on the list. We found a very informative map Here. The one that struck me as the easiest to see was the lady in the tub. I couldn’t unsee her in that tub! It totally personified the butte for me.
After we drove the 17 miles we headed over to Moki (Mokee) Dugway. It’s also a dirt road and there are warning signs at the base before entering. Impassable during rain and 10% grades made for an interesting ride in the passenger seat.
But so worth it. The views were a bit hazy and the pictures don’t do it justice. Atop the dugway you can see the Valley of the Gods below. Can you spot the lady in the bath tub? On clearer days you can even see monument valley from there.
Overall Valley of the Gods and Moki Dugway are areas for people to explore with less crowds. You can have a real personal experience here in solitude if you wish. And that’s hard to come by in the ever growingly popular south west.
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
We woke up super early and were on our way to Capitol Reef! We stayed in Loa and were only 25 minutes away from the park. State Route 24 is a beautiful road to drive on and we were going to use it to traverse the park that day. Gifted with many beautiful sunrises that trip, I was grateful to be traveling with people who understand the importance of seizing the day. I would hate to miss morning views like the one we got that morning.
Once we were in the park we drove on Scenic Drive for 3.5 miles and turned onto Grand Wash road. This dirt road took us to the trailhead 1.2 miles away. There are flash flood warnings and a gate that was open when we arrived. I did a great deal of research for all the areas that had potential flash floods and had discovered this video. So please make sure you check for storms (especially upstream from the wash). That family was lucky to get out but I could see being seriously stuck if the water was any higher.
Once we got out of the car I noticed there were facilities at the trailhead. It’s a pit toilet, but for us small bladder owners, that’s all you really need lol.
The moon stayed out long enough to capture this picture. You can see the sun touching the peak turning it yellow just north of where we stood. Soon enough it would light up the whole park.
We walked on the trail and simply followed the signs. It is very easy to follow.
Some of the rock formations you see on the trail are like that of another world. I would go as far as saying it could even trigger someone’s trypophobia.
As we made our way we could see the sun forming shadows and illuminating rock faces. We were still wearing sweaters at this point because it hadn’t warmed up yet.
At this junction we joined the frying pan trail. It’s a sharp left and up. There’s a portion of this hike that gains 600 ft. very quickly and in a short distance.
Naturally the slick rock (with some human assistance) forms “stairs” to help you climb the trail.
And during that steep climb stopping for pictures is a great excuse to catch your breath. It was also nice to take a moment to notice the sun spreading it’s yellow light as it touches the rock formations ahead.
And then as though someone had flipped a switch the sun was on! There is less than a 20 minute time difference between the picture above and below. Awesome stuff and we hadn’t even gotten to the arch yet.
There was a moment where I couldn’t see where the arch could possibly be. And then this trusty little sign let us know we were heading the right way.
When we turned the corner, there it was! The arch! Still had a ways to go, but so excited to see the destination in sight.
Did you know the arch is named for the infamous outlaw Butch Cassidy? I wonder if there is any unfound loot in the thousands of hidden corners of the canyon. For the history buffs who want clarification between fact and fiction: I found a great article in the LA Times.
There comes a moment where the trail becomes harder to follow on the slick rock and these small cairns start appearing.
They appear in rows to guide us hikers.
And sometimes a bit more scarcely. But they guided us just the same. Thank you to whomever left these here for the thousands of people who hike this trail.
Finally, we were at the arch. What a beautiful sight! Of course being my very adventurous self I walked right up to the arch. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be but it’s enough to get my adrenaline going. I still can’t believe I was there even now as I look at that picture. You know what’s even crazier to think about? There was no one else. Not a single soul but us. We had the entire place to ourselves.
And since it was my best friend Nicole’s birthday we had a photoshoot up there. We weren’t being rushed by other hikers so we took our time and got all the angles. I love scrapbooking and like when I can make sure I have the perfect pictures for my books!
Just past the arch there’s a great vantage point overlooking the entrance to the Grand Wash. Great place to see the different layers of the Earth.
Even above from where I was sitting there was all this area to explore.
The views went on for what felt like forever.
On the way down we were told by other hikers that they could see the rose gold balloons from their cars driving into the Grand Wash. Watching Nicole head down with the balloons attached to her has to be one of the funniest things that happened that trip. 😂
We retraced our steps and headed back down to our car. When we drove out of the wash we were treated to some contrasting rock colors and super blue sky. It didn’t look this alive when we drove in that morning prior to the sun illuminating the canyon. And just like that we were done with the arch and onto the next adventure…
Having an affinity to any and everything old and indigenous I could not leave the park without visiting thepetroglyphs. I walked up to the boardwalk fixture they have just below the rock face and immediately spotted the markings. I have so many thoughts that whirl around my head when seeing this in person, even now my brain tries to put them into coherent words to share with you all.
When I travel I make connections with the spaces around me. Physical connections by touching a staircase handrail, visual connections by watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean, audio connections by hearing the birds, etc. The types of connections can be one or multi-sensory and impact me in different ways. I carry these connections I make with the world home with me. I think it’s the reason why I prioritize travel in my life. It makes me feel connected to the world as a whole. But at the petroglyphs it was more of a spiritual connection. The inhabitants of this area may not be our direct ancestors. But we are all human and come from the humans that have existed hundreds or thousands of years before us. It’s beautiful to stand in a space that they too stood in however long ago…
The etchings that have survived over time are at the base of the rock face. Try spotting them in the picture below. I’ll post a close up if you have a hard time spotting them from this distance.
Such a special place.
Here is the close up of the petroglyphs. I’m glad I was able to see them in person all these years after their creation. Hopefully you can see them one day too.
If you have already visited these or other petroglyphs, or if you’d like to one day, I would love to start a dialogue to share thoughts about what they mean to you. Leave a comment below!
“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”
I feel like this park is so underrated. I have taken so many pictures of this park that it was hard to decide which ones to add/leave out. It’s so cliche to say “pictures don’t do it justice” when you’re traveling. But I can’t help it if it’s true! This park! The hoodoos! And to think, I didn’t even get to see the whole thing because Navajo Loop was closed due to weather related issues.
So here are the points of interest with what I think are the best pictures we took of them:
At inspiration point you’re standing at 8,100 feet elevation. This is where the main amphitheater is located and where we decided sunrise would be best seen from.
We parked in a lot that already had about 15 other cars in it and were standing at the viewpoint by 6:35am. I was so excited to see that the sun had not yet gone over the ridge. The next couple of pictures show how fast the sun actually rises. I feel so grateful to have experienced this sunrise. It was one of the best ones I’ve seen. And it lit up the hoodoos in such a way; I would describe it as setting them on fire.
NAVAJO LOOP / SUNSET POINT
Our next point of interest was the Navajo Loop Trail. Unfortunately due to weather impacting the trail we were unable to do this one. The trail leads down into the canyon in the picture below. It’s the base of the really dark area. The second picture shows the beginning of the Navajo Loop trail and you can tell the trail is damaged. It’s not surprising really and people are lucky to hike it when it’s open. The rock is soft and crumbly in many areas.
There weren’t that many other visitors at the park yet so early in the morning and we were able to drive and park at each of these locations rather quickly. Bryce point was yet another delight. The green vegetation juxtaposed to the red rock and random white patches of snow were something to behold.
QUEENS GARDEN TRAIL
Queens garden is a pretty easy trail to complete. But it’s important to keep in mind that every descending step you take, you’ll have to retrace on the way back up.
I cannot make this stuff up! How perfect is this sunburst on Tony???
The queens garden trail ended up being the only one we did at the park. Once we were done with it though, there were many tour buses and a wave of visitors flowing into the park. We’d be moving on to another town soon and it was nice having it in the quiet of the morning. I was pleased to leave the crowds behind. I’ll have to re-visit Bryce National Park one day. The switchbacks from Navajo Loop are just begging to be crossed off my list!