Mexican Hat, Utah
If viewing some of the weirdest landscapes in the world is something that you have always dreamed about, then definitely point the car in the direction of southeastern Utah. This entire region offers scenic eye candy beyond belief! Monument Valley, Valley Of The Gods, Bears Ears, Canyonlands, Indian Creek, Natural Bridges, Goosenecks and Mexican Hat are all located in this corner of the state. As one can easily be imagined, there are plenty of unique landscapes to experience in this neck of the woods and Mexican Hat is at the top of the list!
The town of Mexican Hat is located on U.S. Highway 163 just a short drive north of the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. There are only a few paved roads in this region, so finding this destination on a map is easy to do. The economy of Mexican Hat caters to local tourism and this town is a good place to set up a basecamp for adventures in the Bears Ears region. The landmark motels, RV campgrounds and restaurants have not changed much since the golden age of automobile touring, so those who yearn for a stay in a classic Southwestern style setting will be right at home in the little town of Mexican Hat.
The San Juan River runs through Mexican Hat, so accessing this area by raft or kayak is possible after obtaining permits. There are also plenty of 4×4 trails that lead to scenic destinations that ordinary passenger cars cannot access in this region, which are well worth checking out. One of the best Jeep trails in the region happens to be the long dirt road scenic byway that runs through the Valley Of The Gods section of Bears Ears National Monument. The Valley Of The Gods is a beautiful continuation of the Monument Valley landscape, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride. ATV or Jeep rentals and organized 4×4 excursions can be found in base camp towns along Highway 163 and Highway 191 between Mexican Hat and Monticello. Horseback tours are an option too and there are several local guides to choose from. The hiking trails in Mexican Hat go to ancient pueblos, petroglyph sites and dramatic red rock formations in Bears Ears, so Mexican Hat truly is a destination of its own.
The Mexican Hat rock formation is what the town was named after, so this unique geological oddity naturally takes center stage. The Mexican Hat rock formation is a huge red sandstone slab that is balanced on a small boulder on top of a tall eroded mesa. From a distance or from any angle, this rock formation looks like a man wearing a large sombrero sitting on top of a big rock! The red rock sombrero certainly stands out against the cobalt blue sky and the wavy pattern of the multi color sandstone mountain in the background adds a dramatic visual effect.
The Mexican Hat rock formation is one of the most photographed landmarks in the Southwest and pictures of this geological oddity adorn many travel brochures. There are good vantage points along the highway that are easy to access and there are hiking trails that run all the way up to the Mexican Hat if a visitor wants to take a closer look. Southeast Utah is a rock climber’s paradise and many people do the Mexican Hat climb each year. Getting to the top of the platform where the Mexican Hat rests is not difficult to do, but getting on top of the sombrero does require some climbing ingenuity and a high degree of strength.
When driving through this region, it is best to expect the unexpected. This is open range ranching territory, so livestock have been known to roam the roads. Wild horses cross the road in this desolate region too, so it pays to stay alert for these hazards.
On a recent trip through Mexican Hat I saw a couple of wild burros standing on the edge of the road staring at me with a strange look on their faces. The wild burros had half panicked look that amounted to asking for help, which caused me to stop and check out the situation. All of a sudden, the wild burros took off in a hurry before I could figure out the bother. The sight of wild burros running at full speed was kind of shocking, because these animals are usually the laziest animals in the west and I actually have never seen a burro run before.
I was amazed at the way these animals gracefully trot like pacer horse and then the thought occurred to me that there must be a good reason why the burros were in such a hurry to get away. Then I saw the dust cloud in the distance getting closer and I heard the sound of barking dogs. The dogs looked like they were having a good time chasing the wild burros and the burros were just fast enough to stay ahead of the pack. Watching the wild burros get chased around by the pack of wild dogs near Mexican Hat certainly was cheap entertainment at its best!
Highway 163 is a major tourism corridor that runs from Kayenta, Arizona north through Mexican Hat. Businesses in these parts do gear up for a busy tourism season every summer, because so many people want to experience the unique landscapes and the endless outdoor adventures that the Bears Ears region has to offer. When visiting southwest Utah during the summer season, camping is the best option for getting the most bang for the buck, because there is so much to see and do in the vast Bears Ears wilderness area. No matter what the southeast Utah travel itinerary involves, one will inevitably pass through the town of Mexican Hat. When the gigantic red sandstone sombrero is seen high in the sky, it is well worth taking the time to check out this one of a kind symbol of the west!
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