Almost every traveller heading to the South-West of the USA will try to include Monument Valley in their travel route. And with a reason; it’s an amazing place with great sights and wonderful nature. But since everyone is heading there, it can get very crowded which immediately makes it all a little less magic.
But closeby, there is a similar park that is a lot less known; Valley of the Gods. Fewer people take that scenic route which led to us being practically alone on that route. And nothing beats driving through nature’s wonders without the disturbance of other tourists.
Luckily for us – thanks to the time of the year we were travelling -, it was also pretty calm in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
Monument Valley can be found close to the state borders of Arizona and Utah. The views of sandstone buttes, mesas and spires are famous and often pictured on the front of South-West America’s travel guides and advertisements. It’s obvious by that alone that the area is definitely worth a visit.
Unfortunately the weather had turned against us on the way over. Stormy clouds threatened in the distance and we were fiercly hoping not to be caught in a thunder storm in the middle of the 17-mile loop. Luck was on our side and we managed to stay dry through our entire visit. Thanks to the mediocre weather, the other tourists seemed to stay away so we were able to enjoy the loop without being rushed by cars behind us. It was really beautiful. At John Ford Point, a cowboy on horseback oftens recreates one of the famous views, and you can even get your picture taken like that. All for the tourists, but charming nonetheless.
For this 17-mile drive, a high clearance car is advisable, but it’s definitely possible to do it with a regular one as well. It’s just a little bit less comfortable and a little trickier.
About half an hour away from Monument Valley, one can find the Valley of the Gods. While the loop is also 17 miles long, the park itself is a lot smaller but also offers a lot of beauty. It’s not as spectacular as Monument Valley and doesn’t offer specific stops, but the fact that it’s basically just you and nature makes it equally special to drive through both of them.
We entered the loop at the entrance along highway 163 (Careful, you can miss it easily!) and only encountered three other cars driving in the opposite direction over the entire drive. It was amazing to just be able to admire nature’s beauty all by ourselves. It felt like we were the first to discover this part of the world.
Here I definitely recommend a high clearance car. The roads are really bumpy and full of holes. There are also several little rivers running through the park and over the road, so when it has rained a lot, be careful for flash floods!
While I loved Valley of the Gods for its tranquility, I wouldn’t have wanted to skip Monument Valley at all. It’s not like one can replace the other. Monument Valley has some famous sights and views there that I simply had to see. But if you’re looking to escape the crowds for a bit, the Valley of the Gods is definitely the way to go.
Monument Valley is open year-round, but the opening hours vary depending on the season. Entrance is 20 dollars per vehicle (max 4 people). Valley of the Gods is also open year-round and doesn’t require an entrance fee. It’s not advisable to go in without an high clearance car and know that the park might be closed if there is a flash flood warning.