If you are visiting the American southwest and are looking for scenic, off-the-beaten-path drive, consider Valley of the Gods. Located near Monument Valley, this area is filled with buttes and mesas and tall rock formations. It doesn’t quite pack the “wow” punch like Monument Valley, but the Valley of the Gods is still a worthwhile visit.
Entrance to the Valley of the Gods is free. This land is owned by the BLM, the Bureau of Land Management. A 17-mile loop courses through the Valley of the Gods, taking visitors past rock formations with names like the Seven Sailors Butte, Castle Butte, Sitting Hen Butte, and Lady in the Bathtub.
It’s an off-the-beaten-path location, visited by just a fraction of the people who tour Monument Valley. So it’s quiet, uncrowded, and a bit more “wild” feeling. You can drive the entire loop in about hour if you are quick or go slower, enjoy the many scenic views as the terrain changes. Camping overnight in the Valley of the Gods is also an option.
Note: Recently, the Valley of the Gods is becoming a more popular place to visit, based on reports I have read and a recent comment at the end of this post.
Is Valley of the Gods Worth It?
We visited Valley of the Gods as a quick excursion from Monument Valley. With a name like Valley of the Gods, it sounded pretty spectacular. Is it as awesome as it sounds?
We enjoyed our drive through the Valley of the Gods. The scenery was beautiful and we liked feeling like we were out on our own, but it can be a small letdown after amazing Monument Valley. Monument Valley is the big winner when it comes to jaw-dropping vistas and iconic American landscapes.
However, if you like leaving tour groups behind and want a quiet experience, put Valley of the Gods on your list as a place to visit. Just a handful of people seem to make it here, providing a much different experience than the constant stream of cars touring Monument Valley.
The Valley of the Gods is located in Utah, just north of Mexican Hat. From Monument Valley, it is 32 miles away, about a half hour of driving.
From Monument Valley, drive north on US-163. The entrance into the park is just a few miles north of Mexican Hat.
There are two entrances into the Valley of the Gods. The east entrance is on US-163. The west entrance is on US-261. A dirt connects these two entrances. You can drive through the Valley of the Gods in either direction. We chose to start at the east entrance from US-163.
The 17 mile road through the Valley of the Gods is a graded gravel and dirt road. You can do this drive in a car. A 4×4 is not necessary.
During wet conditions, this road may be impassable, even if you have a 4×4.
We did have an SUV with 4×4, which was necessary for other roads we would drive during our road trip through Utah and Arizona.
What to See Along the Way
Many of the buttes and mesas are named. If you want a full driving guide, check out this post which gives a map and driving directions through the park.
The best part of the drive is around Castle Butte, when you are closer the mesa walls and the rock formations tower above you. In general, the desert scenery is stunning. On a clear day you can see Monument Valley on the horizon.
Other Attractions Near Valley of the Gods
Goosenecks State Park. Unfortunately, we missed this one. And now I regret it. Goosenecks State Park has an overlook with not one, but two “Horseshoe Bends” side by side. It’s just a 5 to 10 minute drive from Valley of the Gods.
Mexican Hat. This rock formation is named for its Mexican Sombrero-like appearance. You can see it from US-163 on the drive to the Valley of the Gods. If you want, you can hike up onto the formation. If you have rock climbing equipment, it is possible to climb to the top of Mexican Hat.
Forrest Gump Point. Located on US-163, the famous view of Monument Valley featured in the movie Forrest Gump is not to be missed. GPS coordinates: 37.101393, -109.990973.
Monument Valley. Of course, there’s the stunning and very popular Monument Valley just down the road.
Post updated June 2018.
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- The Ultimate Guide to Monument Valley
- Is Teardrop Arch in Monument Valley Worth It?
- 10 Days in the American Southwest: The Ultimate Itinerary
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