The Valley of the Gods
Isn’t that name just so irresistible?
Well that’s all there is to it – just a name.
Nothing to see here.
There’s a desert, a dirt road, and some sandstone. That’s all.
Maybe you should just skip this post, and go back to Monument Valley.
Valley of the Gods is underwhelming.
When compared with towering formations like The Mittens in Monument Valley, the small sandstone buttes found here resemble Tyrion Lannister, if you catch my drift.
Still here? Fine.
The points I’ve just listed above are main the attraction!
There’s nothing here.
- no entrance fees
- no pavement
- no interpretive signs
- no campgrounds
- no hiking trails
- no toilets
- no water
- no snack bar
Take a vacation from your vacation.
With so many “must-do” attractions and Instagram addicts running around, a tour of the desert southwest might start to feel like you’re just checking places off of a to-do list. Maybe it’s not turning out like you expected.
If so, then maybe you can escape that feeling here. Maybe you need a little more nothing.
Just because there’s nothing here doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything!
You can bring food and water.
You can hike without trails.
You can camp without a campground.
You can do just about anything you want here, except have a fire.
You can stare mindlessly at the empty desert without a hundred tourists distracting you, checking if they can get 4G or LTE.
You can wonder about your surroundings without being force-fed information.
Where is it?
Valley of the Gods is a short distance north of the town of Mexican Hat, and isn’t especially traceable on apps like Google Maps (fortunately). Exploring the place is often described as a “loop” drive, but closing the loop involves traveling on public state highways.
The meat of the adventure is a 17-mile dirt road that connects Route 163 and Route 261.
To find the east entrance to the Valley of the Gods, travel on 163 for about 10 miles northeast from the town of Mexican Hat. Look for the dirt road on the left (north) side of the road.
OR travel west from the town of Bluff for about 15 miles.
The west entrance is on Route 261, about 10 miles north of Mexican Hat, at the bottom of the Moki Dugway switchbacks.
Okay, so you can find it on Google Maps.
A good trick is to enter “Valley of the Gods B&B” on Google Maps to find the west entrance. The thin road heading east from it is the main road through Valley of the Gods.
How long does it take?
You can drive the dirt road in as little as an hour.
More time is better, of course.
Or go big for the win, and just camp!
Can my rental car do it?
It’s a dirt and gravel road, but generally okay for passenger vehicles. I drove my old Buick Century out here on two separate occasions with no problems.
Unless it’s wet… rain is good for the desert, but no bueno for driving this road.
Is there anything else noteworthy about this place?
Are you familiar with a 1980s TV show called Airwolf? There’s supposedly an alcove or cave at the north end of the valley that a famous helicopter from the show would fly into.
Some Dr. Who episodes were filmed here, too.
Valley of the Gods B&B is located at the west entrance.
Some websites feature marvelous photos of several hot air balloons floating over the Valley of the Gods. These are part of an annual event called the Bluff International Balloon Festival, held in January. The previous official link doesn’t list specific dates, but it looks like Facebook is on top of things.
Most (if not all) of the formations in Valley of the Gods have been climbed. These are 5th class routes, rated at 5.9, 5.10, and so on. The Mountain Project seems to have some good beta on the routes, primarily posted by Flagstaff climber Trevor Bowman. If I were interested in doing some climbing in this region, I’d seek him out personally for more information.
“Zombie Hand” doesn’t quite cut it. What are these buttes called?
Here’s a few of the official names:
Setting Hen Butte
Balanced Rock / Lady in a Tub
Check out the fancy map in the image below, published by the BLM. I pulled it from their PDF brochure. The brochure is handy for identifying these specific formations when you visit.
When President Barack Obama proclaimed Bears Ears National Monument in December of 2016, the Valley of the Gods was included in its boundaries.
Later in December of 2017, President Donald Trump reduced the size of Bears Ears in a similar proclamation, putting Valley of the Gods back in the hands of the Bureau of Land Mangament.
So this is still BLM land. For now.
Check out the rest of my photos:
I’ve been to the Valley of the Gods twice:
In March of 2009 I drove through here on a long road trip from Pennsylvania to the Grand Canyon.
I also drove through here in August of 2012, visiting friends in Bluff.
On both occasions I simply spent a few hours driving the dirt road and taking photos. I’ve never camped here or explored very far off the road, but it would be fun to do that someday!
You can see Monument Valley in the distance from here.
Have you been here? How did you like The Valley of the Gods?