Four Corners National Parks
Valley of the Gods

A Cameo of the American West

"Is it possible to OD on scenery." my brother Dick asked upon reading my agenda for this trip.  If there is, the Valley of the Gods could certainly help to do it. Like the Valley of Fire in Nevada or Snow Canyon in Utah, the Valley of the Gods is an unforgettable side trip through an incomparable land.  Someone described it as "Monument Valley writ small." But it is more than that. The Valley of the Gods is a cameo of the American West.


Entering the Valley of the Gods

We started out early with the idea of getting to the Valley of the Gods at sun up. We weren't quite sure where the turnoff was or what kind of signs there would be. 

There were, however, two things I was sure about. One was that I wasn't going to drive up the serpentine road to Cedar Mesa. The other was that there was an inn called the Valley of the Gods B&B on the road we wanted.

We found the turnoff for FR 242 about seven miles north of US 263 on UT 261. There weren't any signs so we had to guess. It didn't look like much of a road but when we found the B&B, we knew we were on the right road (click for map)

The Valley of the Gods Road
On FR 242, a few hundred yards from the UT 261 turnoff, is the Valley of the Gods B&B, a tiny 4-room boutique inn, sheltered on the north by high mesas, and with fine views all ways. (Photo by Elizabeth VanderPutten, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

The Valley of the Gods begins with Buttes and Mesas
Mesas and Pinnacles at the western end of the Valley of the Gods (Photo by Elizabeth VanderPutten, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

Smaller and Lonelier than Monument Valley

The Valley of the Gods is an extraordinary place.

It is a smaller scale version of Monument Valley, with huge isolated red sandstone rocks standing above the level desert floor, remnants of an ancient sandstone plateau of sandstone that covered the area 50 million years ago.

The 17-mile dirt road drive begins among buttes and pinnacles, then wends through strange and alien formations, twists through high mesa canyons, and ends up descending to the valley floor and following the dust dry Lime Creek arroyo to route 183..

Valley of the Gods Drive

The road was graded in a few places and washed out in others. It is bumpy, washboard rough for long stretches, with a few steep descents and sharp "V" dips into and out of arroyos.

Stopping often for photos or just to look, the drive took us four hours. 

Pinnacles and Desert Road
A graded stretch of  road through the Valley of the Gods as it winds through strange and alien formations (Photo by Elizabeth VanderPutten, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

This was one of several arroyos we crossed on the drive through the Valley of the Gods. (Photo by Brian Larkin, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

Parking in an Arroyo

I'm glad I didn't know when I started how bad the road was, because I never would have driven it. As it was, I drove maybe a quarter mile to the first steep drop into an arroyo. I quit right there and turned the driving over to Brian.

So we wouldn't block the road should another car come by, we drove down this arroyo for a bit to park. It wasn't exactly rush hour anywhere around there. We didn't pass another vehicle on the road during the entire four hours. 

We did see a few campers off the road a ways in lonely side canyons, and an artist with his easel parked on a low mesa. But we did not pass a single moving vehicle the entire way.

Desert and Mesas

In this picture, the dirt road through the Valley of the Gods winds across the desert, then around and over the low mesas. About half way, the dirt track snakes its way up the high mesa on the left.

There are several canyon turnoffs in the higher mesas. It was there that we saw scattered groups of campers. They were the only other vehicles we saw. 

Those camp vehicles had to have come in from the US 163 because they don't have enough clearance, and would not have been able to make the trek from the FR 242 junction in the west.

After cross the desert valley floor for maybe 10 miles, the dirt track road snakes it way up the high mesas on the left (Photo by Elizabeth VanderPutten, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

The Valley of the Gods a few miles northwest of US 163 (Photo by Elizabeth VanderPutten, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

Back to the Valley Floor

After a few miles twisting through rambling canyons on the high mesas, the trek through the Valley of the Gods eases its way back down to the flat desert.

A Tree

The only trees I saw were a few along the edges of arroyos and a few rare cottonwoods and junipers standing alone among the sage on the desert.

This picture shows me with a tree beside Lime Creek arroyo with a mesa and pinnacle in the distance.

The rock bed arroyo is perhaps 100 yards across. Nothing is growing in it. That gives an idea of the runoff when a rare rain storm occurs. Anything there when rains come is washed away, including plants and campers.

Lime Creek Arroyo (October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

The land flattens out as the road approaches the main highway. (Photo by Elizabeth VanderPutten, October 2000)
(Click on Image for Enlargement)

Approaching Route 163

A few miles before reaching the main highway, the road crosses through flat, open land and follows Lime Creek, which is a seasonal arroyo, to US 163.

LAST  |  TOP  |  MENU  |  NEXT