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6 Days   •   1222 Miles

Phoenix to Monument Valley: Exploring Utah's Historic Sites

Uncover the history of Utah's canyon country and desert southwest.
SALT LAKE CITY

Editor's Note: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Four Corners are closed until further notice, along with all Navajo Tribal Parks facilities. At this time we suggest adapting the first two days of this itinerary to include experiences in the Bears Ears National Monument area instead. Check out the Bears Ears Starts Kit for ideas in the region. Consult this resource for additional closures and travel considerations in Southeastern Utah.  

Southern Utah is unique in that much of it seems as raw, unspoiled and unexplored as it did hundreds of years ago. Put yourself in the shoes of the area’s first inhabitants and imagine their excitement and awe at the same views that stretch before you as you embark on this six-day road trip to the Monument Valley Region.

Heading north, you can live like the pioneers who settled this once-barren area at Bluff Fort. Or imagine what life was like farming in desert country at the well-preserved Gifford Homestead. Explore an ancient Ancestral Pueblo village or take a Jeep tour through the majestic Navajo lands of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Then, explore the ruins of an ancient Fremont Indian village rich with rock art sites and well-preserved artifacts.

On the final leg of your journey, follow the route of pioneer explorers as you drive Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Afterwards, discover the wildlife that have long inhabited the Paunsaugunt Plateau, then seem them for yourself as you explore Bryce Canyon National Park. This road trip is all about celebrating Utah's open spaces as they are, and as they have been for years.

Start: Drive roughly five hours northeast from Phoenix to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

End: Kanab, a charming city in Southwestern Utah.

Hours of Driving: 22+ hours, including the commute to and from Phoenix.

Places to Stay & Local Guides: Monument Valley is only the first stop of many. This road trip will lead you through many of Utah’s best historic sites. While you may want to spend a few nights camping under the stars, there are many nearby towns with wonderful lodging options, including Bluff, Monticello, Boulder, Escalante, Torrey and Bryce City. Also, be sure to make reservations with local tour guides beforehand in order to make the most of your road trip.

Day 1

Phoenix to Monument Valley

316 Miles

Day one starts at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, an iconic symbol of the American West. You’ll start with a hike along the Wildcat Trail to see some of the most famous rock buttes in the park. From there, take a drive up to Newspaper Rock in the Indian Creek Unit of Bears Ears National Monument to see one of the most impressive petroglyph sites in the West. Bears Ears is certainly deserving of a trip all its own, so feel free to add a day or two to your road trip to explore it further. Otherwise, continue onwards to experience the deep cultural history of the Four Corners Area. 

Overnight in BluffMexican Hat or Monticello, or at Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley

Day 2

Monument Valley to Bluff

92 Miles

Day two starts with a guided Jeep tour through Monument Valley to cover more ground and see some of the area’s most popular historic sites. From there, it’s on to the quaint and charming town of Bluff. Here you’ll see the unruly route that Mormon pioneers traveled across first hand at the Bluff Fort Historic Site. Don’t miss the petroglyphs and a chance to see the San Juan River at Sand Island.

Overnight in BluffMexican Hat or Monticello, or at Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley

Day 3

Monument Valley to Boulder

235 Miles

After a few days exploring Monument Valley, it’s time to head northwest to Capitol Reef National Park. Here, unbelievable monoliths of red rock stand watch over distinctively warped and remote landscapes. Imagine, then, setting up shop here as both early indigenous cultures and 19th century pioneers did as you gaze upon Capitol Reef’s petroglyphs. Nearby, the lush orchards and Gifford Homestead are both surviving testaments to the hardy settlers of the scenic valley. After some time rejuvenating in the orchards, head onwards to Anasazi State Park Museum for an even more rich understanding of the region’s ancient lifestyle.

Overnight in Torrey or another basecamp near Capitol Reef

Day 4

Boulder to Escalante

98 Miles

Now it’s time to put Capitol Reef in the rearview mirror and drive onwards to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The first stop is a hike to a literal desert oasis — Lower or Upper Calf Creek Falls. It’s no wonder ancient people traveled through and left their mark on the canyon walls. Afterwards, reward yourself with a drink and a treat from Kiva Koffeehouse, a soulful favorite with magnificent canyon views. Next, having already seen Bluff, you’ll traverse some of the dramatic terrain that kept the early pioneer expedition in check. Stop at fascinating sites like Devils Garden and Peek-a-Boo Canyon or, with a high-clearance vehicle and the right conditions, drive the full 62 miles to where the road descends to present-day Lake Powell.

Overnight in EscalanteBoulder or Tropic

Day 5

Escalante to Bryce Canyon

131 Miles

A short drive from Escalante, day five of your road trip explores the Bryce Canyon Region. First stop is the Western Wildlife Museum, where you’ll find a snapshot of the Paunsaugunt Plateau region’s fauna. Then, a morning in Bryce Canyon National Park can bridge the gap between museum exhibits and your own wildlife viewing memories. After a day rambling through Bryce Canyon it’s onto the charming town of Kanab. As the day comes to an end, drive south on Utah’s Heritage Highway, U.S. 89, to enjoy an evening meal in Kanab.

Overnight in Kanab

Day 6

Kanab to Phoenix

350 Miles

Before heading back to Phoenix, take some time to enjoy a Kanab activity of your choice. Volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as a way to give back and enjoy the uplift that comes from getting to know rescued cats, dogs, horses and birds. Or try sandboarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. You might even enjoy a stop by the Little Hollywood Museum to learn more about the area’s cinematic past.

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