Dramatic Canyons, Famous Valleys, and Crimson Spires.

We are wrapping up our time in Moab and still exploring this fascinating area. It’s quite a small town but I actually found a little local grocery store that carries all my favorite organic food brands that I regularly enjoy back home in Seattle.

Canyonlands National Park

Next on the list is Canyonlands and I will confess that I almost skipped this park in favor of something else. But, I am really glad I did not skip it. The park is really off the beaten path and I think that is what made it a special experience. I really enjoyed being here and it was nearly deserted so Lily got to explore some of the areas where dogs were not allowed.

The Shaffer Canyon Overlook.

And here’s a quick video of Lily trekking down the overlook trail.

First stop upon passing the visitor center was Mesa Arch. The little hike to the Arch was short and sweet and there were only a few other people on the trail. I spent about an hour there sitting on a ledge overlooking the expanse.

Just through the arch is a sheer cliff drop-off into the canyon below. Here’s a video of the dramatic situation.

After Mesa Arch, I headed over to the Green River Overlook and took a hike down into the canyon and literally descended 1400 feet down the side of the sandstone cliffs.

View from the trailhead just before descending down the canyon walls.
View of the Green River as it joins with the Colorado River.

After the hike, I woke Lily up from her nap in the truck and we sat on a sandstone ledge overlooking the canyon I had just conquered.

It was a great afternoon in Canyonlands and I truly appreciated the lack of people everywhere in this off-the-beaten-path National Park. With that, it was time to wrap up our stay in Moab and hit the road to the next amazing destination.

Monument Valley

Just down the road from Moab is the film famous Monument Valley. For this adventure, we drove deep into Navajo Nation Land to experience the incredible scenery and camp in a pretty unique spot.

This is the spot where Forest Gump stopped running. Everyone stands in the middle of the road to take pics of the famous film location.
Parked in space 34 at Gouldings Lodge Campground.

I signed up for a guided tour into the Valley Tribal Park and it was a great decision. Since there are about 10 families that actually live in the valley it was worth it to be taken behind the fences of the residents by a Navajo guide and see things I would miss if I drove in alone.

Natural Bridges National Monument

This was a fun afternoon excursion. We set out north on The Trail of the Ancients which is Utah State Route 261 from Monument Valley to Natural Bridges. Three miles of the journey included traversing the Moki Dugway which is an unpaved road literally carved into the side of a cliff with steep switchbacks ascending/descending.

The Moki Dugout warning sign as you approach the cliff.
View of the switchbacks from the top.

We didn’t have much time in Natural Bridges so we quickly did the 9 mile drive around the park and stopped at the last bridge to take a quick hike and some photos. I would like to come back someday and hike down into the canyons to see the bridges up close.

Owachomo Bridge.

Video of the quick hike to the Owachomo Bridge viewpoint. The trails in National Parks and National Monuments are so cool.

Valley of the Gods

On our last day in the area we took the 17 miles scenic off-road drive thru Valley of the Gods and explored more sandstone formations which also included quick stopovers at Goosenecks State Park and Mexican Hat.

Parked for a little break in Valley of the Gods.
Strange solitary sandstone statue in Valley of the Gods.
Goosenecks State Park.
Mexican Hat.

And that completes our time in Monument Valley but before we leave I had to capture some of the incredible sunsets to take with us. The evening sky is phenomenal here as it lights up the sandstone mesas with heavenly colors of red, then orange, some yellow, and finally purple. It was marvelous.

Kanab, UT (again)

We have come full circle and are parked back at the amazing Dark Sky RV Campground for one last excursion. So far, this is the only place we have stayed at more than once on this journey. And here’s why …

The sunsets are spectacular and the campground is setup perfectly.
It was the weekend for Balloons and Tunes so this is what we woke up to each morning.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Finally, it’s time for Bryce. TBH, I almost skipped this park because the campgrounds near it were closed for the winter but I’m glad I came back to Kanab and kept it on the list. Bryce was like nothing I had ever seen before. I couldn’t wait to get parked and hit the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trails. Unfortunately, Wall Street was closed due to snow.

The amphitheater lit up by the mid-day sun.
Queens Garden Trail with a few tunnels for the queens goblins to pass thru.
The famous switchbacks at the end, or the beginning depending on which way you go, of the Navajo Loop Trail.
View from the top of the switchbacks.
One last look at the amphitheater from the Bryce Viewpoint.

And that’s it, our time in Utah is complete. We spent nearly an entire month exploring the strange landscapes and mighty national parks. It’s such an amazing place and I’m sure we will be back again soon.

With only about two weeks of travel remaining on our West Coast trip, Lily and I head west into Nevada for some fire and drought.

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