MONUMENT VALLEY, ARIZONA VS VALLEY OF THE GODS, UTAH
Almost everyone travelling through the American West will try to include Monument Valley in their itinerary. And with good reason. It’s an iconic symbol of the region, and the sacred heart of the Navajo Nation, home to towering sandstone rock formations sculpted over time and soaring 400 to 1000 feet above the valley floor. It truly is one of the natural wonders of the world.
Most sightseers explore the famous 17-mile scenic loop in private vehicles (although it’s actually more like 11 miles, and generally takes about two hours, giving you a rough idea of the road conditions and volume of visitors). Or you can take a half- or full-day jeep tour to explore the area’s backroads and sacred lands with the help of a local guide. Either way, do be prepared for the crowds, which may dull the shine of the adventure aspect a little.
But that’s where our hidden gem comes in. What many visitors to Monument Valley don’t know is that just 40 miles northeast of here lies another geographical masterpiece – the Valley of the Gods – a somewhat smaller scale version of Monument Valley with a similar topography (isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide-open spaces that seem to go on forever) – but much, much less traffic, thereby adding solitude to its many virtues.
And nothing beats driving through nature’s wonders without the disturbance of other tourists (though because of its isolated nature and dirt road, we’d definitely recommend a high clearance vehicle here, and without any facilities, gas stations, stores or services, make sure you’re fully-equipped for the day before you head in).
Like its larger, more celebrated neighbour, you’ll explore the Valley of the Gods and all its intriguingly-named monoliths (Setting Hen, Rooster and Seven Sailors Buttes, De Gaulle and His Troops, and Lady in the Bathtub) on the scenic 17- mile unpaved loop (considered by those in the know as one of the best in Southern Utah).
It’s one of the most underrated trails too: and unlike Monument Valley – which is a Navajo Tribal Park, and not a US National Park – there are no tribal restrictions or permits required, no established hiking trails, and best of all, no entrance fee – so it’s a great place to escape the crowds, roam free, and see the finer things that Canyon Country has to offer.