We took off on Tuesday for southeastern Utah to see Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Rather on a whim, we decided to drive through Monument Valley. It knocked our socks off! Driving in, we knew we were in for something special.
We stayed at a rather modest campground (Monument Valley Camp Park) with a rather grand view.
The next morning we took the 17-mile dirt road through the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley, which is a Navajo Tribal Park.
We drove up through Mexican Hat to Moab, seeing golden cottonwoods along the way.
We stayed at Canyonlands RV resort in Moab, nabbing their last spot. It was a nice enough campground and had the excellent feature of being within walking distance of the Maob Brewery.
We had assumed that during the middle of a week in October there wouldn’t be much in the way of crowds, but we hit the Utah schools’ “fall recess,” a four day weekend that allows families to get out for one last fair-weather trip. Campgrounds were full and parks were crowded.
The next morning we joined the line of cars waiting to get into Arches National Park. Once in, the crowds quickly dissipated as we climbed the plateau, giving way to incredible red rock formations with the Le Sal Mountains as a backdrop. In addition to all the arches, there are fins, balanced rocks, pinnacles, and spires.
Time for a quote from Abbey’s namesake:
“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.” Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
After enjoying Arches, we drove into Canyonlands National Park to see if there was a spot available in the Park’s Willow Flat campground. There wasn’t, but we got nice late afternoon view from the Shafer Canyon Overlook.
We drove back out to the main road and found a BLM road going off into the distance. We followed it until we found a nice place to camp. We were happy to be off the grid and Abbey was happy to be off the leash!
In the morning we headed back to Canyonlands and toured the Island in the Sky area. It’s a huge mesa between the Colorado and Green Rivers, offering miles of panoramic view of canyons, mesas, and buttes in every direction. We hiked to Mesa Arch and took a few other short trails. Some parts of the park were so crowded we deferred them until a future visit.
On the way out, we stopped at Dead Horse Point State Park to check it out for a future trip, maybe with bikes. It’s pretty close to the entrance of Canyonlands and not far from Arches and Moab. With a little advance planning we could get a great spot at the lovely campground there, with views that rival Canyonlands’ overlooks. Dead Horse Point offers views of the snaking Colorado River.
Heading toward home we drove to Bluff and spent the night at Cadillac Ranch campground on a small lake — again nabbing the last spot.
Unable to resist the opportunity to drive through the Monument Valley area again, we crossed the San Juan river one last time and left beautiful Utah in our rear-view mirror and headed back to Prescott.