Valley of the Gods
Perhaps one of the most intriguing names of all of the destinations in San Juan County is the Valley of the Gods. This special area, located nearby Bears Ears National Monument and Mexican Hat, Utah, attracts individuals looking for idyllic sandstone structures. While similar to the geography found at Monument Valley to the south, this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spot sees much, much less traffic, thereby adding solitude to its many virtues.
A number of tall, red, isolated mesas, buttes, and cliffs tower above the valley floor and can be seen while driving along the 17-mile gravel road on which it sits. Carved over the course of 250 million years from the Cedar Mesa sandstone, the variety of formations shows the power of time, water, wind, and ice at play in this desert landscape.
There is hiking throughout the Valley of the Gods, but it’s more of an exploration in cross-country meandering, as there are no established trails. Park at the base of whichever rock structure you like and walk about; you might even find some beaten paths from other walkers, which might make traversing through the sand less difficult.
During dry weather, the road is easily driven with a passenger vehicle. During and after rains, however, a 4X4 may be needed–always check the weather report before planning a visit. The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management(BLM), and there are no services in the Valley of the Gods, except for a bed and breakfast located near the western entrance.
Valley of the Gods is perfect for auto tourists looking for a quiet backway and more adventurous travelers looking to explore grand open landscapes — just come prepared with plenty of water, sun protection and a good plan.
What Makes it Great
This scenic drive is one of the best in Southern Utah and one of the most underrated. Largely due to its lack of developed hiking trails and other amenities, it's a fun place to escape the crowds and see the finer things that Canyon Country has to offer.
The sandstone formations are unique here and similar to those found in Monument Valley. These cool monolithic rocks have been given intriguing names, including Setting Hen Butte, Rooster Butte, Seven Sailors Butte, De Gaulle and His Troops, and Lady in the Bathtub, to name a few of the nearly dozen listed on tourist literature.
You can begin your drive at either the west entrance (Highway 261) or the east (Highway 163), and the direction of travel really isn’t of importance. As you drive along, you are welcome to get out of the car and explore at any location you choose (park at pull-offs). Because this swath of land is located on BLM land, there are no travel restrictions or permits required like at Monument Valley. Without established trails at this special place, roam freely and walk amongst the gods — the famous red dirt and richly colored formations beg for it.
What You’ll Remember
The vantage while driving on the highway to the west of the park at sunrise is rather breathtaking, as the monolithic sandstone monuments are silhouetted with the rising sun; the deep desert hues of big, bold skies juxtaposed next to even bolder rock structures; roaming freely among sage with the gods all around you; laughing as you try to name the formations yourself.
Who is Going to Love It
Those who love to get away from the crowds; those who can’t get enough rock viewing after visiting the more-popular Monument Valley and other scenic San Juan attractions; people who like feeling small by comparison to Mother Nature’s great doings; campers who are self-sufficient and don’t like to pay fees when they camp.
GPS Coordinates, Parking and Regulations
GPS Coordinates to the west entrance
No off-road travel is allowed. Dispersed camping is only permitted in previously impacted sites away from ponds and corrals. No campfires are allowed in Valley of the Gods.
Park at any of the designated pull-offs. This is BLM land so dogs are allowed.
If you’re looking for other accommodations, lodging options in Mexican Hat include a bed and breakfast, lodge, motel, an RV park and two inns.
Valley of the Gods is open year-round. The best times to visit are spring (March to early June) and fall (September to October). Summer months can become oppressively hot, and are right in the middle of monsoon season. For the best view of saturated red rock and deep-hued blue skies, visit the park at sunset or sunrise. When wet, the roads through Valley of the Gods might become impassible, so take caution and check the weather forecast before venturing out.
The BLM has developed georeferenced maps compatible with any georeferenced map mobile application. These work without cell coverage and are perfect for remote adventure. Find instructions and the latest available map