Touring southeastern Utah is not exactly like going to a prime time destination. In fact, very little is mentioned by the media about the many majestic destinations in this region. The signage is inadequate and many of the dirt roads are unmarked or omitted from mapping systems altogether. You will find a few small towns along the highway, but you will not see any major national chain businesses. In southeast Utah, there is nothing but the wide open spaces and the looming threat of corrupt industrialization, which explains why this pristine wilderness area has never been heavily promoted for tourism.
“The less the general public knows, the better” is the root cause as to why southeastern Utah tourism is minimally promoted and why the roadside signage is nearly nonexistent. The “powers that be” simply want to keep tourists away, while there is so much public lands corruption going on. Basically, the less attractive southeastern Utah seems to be from a tourism standpoint, the fewer consequences there will be when destroying this pristine environment.
“Valley Of The Gods? I never heard of that place, yet the pictures look so beautiful!” … This is something that is commonly heard when mentioning this destination. The Valley Of The Gods barely shows up on a map and when traveling on Highway 163, which is the main tourism corridor in this part southeast Utah, a driver may or may not see the solitary little sign that designates the access point.
Because I have lived near this region for a few years, I have done many trips through Mexican Hat and Monument Valley. I did this trip at least a half dozen times, before I even noticed that the small Valley Of The Gods sign was even there! I made a mental note while passing by one time, then researched the Valley Of The Gods at my workplace home in the Grand Canyon National Park. I then asked a few co-workers if they ever heard of this place and only one had a positive response. He mentioned that there was a great dirt road scenic byway that runs through the entire length of the Valley Of The Gods that is simply a must to do!
The Valley Of The Gods is a continuation of the neighboring Monument Valley landscape and this vast wilderness area is within the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. The same towering red sandstone bluffs and mesas that can be seen in Monument Valley can be seen when traveling northeast on Highway 163 between Mexican Hat and Bluff, Utah. Because the Valley Of The Gods actually is part of the Bears Ears National Monument, the recent political corruption involved with selling these public lands to foreign mining companies makes it easy to see why tourists rarely hear about this majestic place.
Access to the Valley Of The Gods Scenic Byway dirt road is easy, once one knows what to look for, but this long dirt road is way too rough for an ordinary passenger car. On Highway 163 just north of Mexican hat, there is one small sign that says Valley Of The Gods. Near this sign is a break in the highway guard rail, where access to the dirt road can be found. This dirt road is the northern end point of the Valley Of The Gods National Scenic Back Country Scenic Byway.
The southern access point for the scenic byway dirt road is easier to find. The access is located on Utah State Road 261 near the Moki Dugway. This entrance to the Valley Of The Gods is fairly well marked and there is some BLM signage regarding camping and off highway travel. The scenic byway dirt road is fairly smooth for the first couple of miles going north into the Valley Of The Gods, then it becomes way too rough for an ordinary passenger car.
Back when I first checked out the Valley Of The Gods, I was driving a Dodge 392 Hemi Challenger, which had an extremely low ground clearance. Doing the Valley Of The Gods Scenic Backway dirt road was out of the question, so I resigned to just taking a few photos from the unofficial roadside overlooks along the paved road. The photos in this article depict what a visitor driving an ordinary passenger car can see from the roadside.
The Valley Of The Gods certainly is way out in the middle of nowhere, so be sure to bring along some emergency supplies and plenty of water. Once again, it is important to show support for Bears Ears National Monument at this time, before this majestic destination is destroyed forever. Every dollar spent in the nearby small towns during a visit does help the cause, because it is the tourism revenue that keep the protections in place. The Valley Of The Gods sure is a beautiful section of Bears Ears National Monument and it is well worth checking out!
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