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UTAH’S VALLEY OF THE GODS

by Ken & Yvonne Rudine
On this day we woke up in Kayenta, AZ and drove Hwy 163 to Monument Valley. Due to a huge dust storm our visit to Monument Valley turned out to be not all we hoped it to be. It was an easy decision to decide to move on to “greener pastures” or as might be said around here - REDder ROCKS. When planning our trip I found a nearby place called Valley of the Gods, an unrestricted Monument Valley, if you will.
Utah - Mexican Hat rock viewed from Hwy 163
Mexican Hat rock viewed from Hwy 163
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Mexican Hat is a wide spot in the road in southeast Utah and the gateway to the Valley of the Gods. After seeing the valley our intention was to go to Hanksville for the night. We entered the Valley of the Gods from Hwy 163 that also gives you a good view of the Mexican Hat rock, a rock that looks like a Sombrero, upside down on top of a mountain.
Utah - Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Utah - Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
The Valley road is gravel and is a left turn, 8 miles north on Hwy 163. Seventeen miles long, it offers spectacular close-up views of cliffs, buttes, pinnacles and other unusually shaped red rocks. Our travel time on this road was 1 hour and 7 minutes. We stopped several times to take photos and we were behind a road maintainer for 5 minutes. You do the math to know how long it would take for your trip.
Utah - Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Utah - Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
A standard vehicle is suitable for this road, but you can kiss your carwash goodbye. Two cars can pass on this road but the smoothness varies causing our speed to alternate from 10 to 40mph. I would not drive it with an RV or pull a trailer of any kind. Large boulders are along each side of the road since a maintainer keeps it graded. We only met 4 cars on the entire length of the road, but our time behind the road grader seemed like forever.

Some rock formations have names. A partial listing from our entrance includes Scotchman Butte (still on 163) then on the gravel road is Sitting Hen Butte, Battleship Rock, Castle Butte, according to a posting on a bulletin board.
Utah - Gravel road climing Cedar Mesa
Gravel road climbing Cedar Mesa
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Upon completing the valley trip we exit on Hwy 261 on the west. Near our exit is a bed and breakfast, appropriately named. Here a left turn takes you back to Mexican Hat whereas a right turn takes you north on Hwy 261, which took us to the top of Cedar Mesa. This is a dangerously exciting gravel road utilizing switchbacks to climb the 1200 foot mesa in 3 miles taking 15minutes. This is called the Moki Dugway. It reminded me of the Caprock around Dickens, Texas.
Utah - Highway 95 scene
Highway 95 scene
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Highway 95 bridge over Colorado River
Highway 95 bridge over Colorado River
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
For hikers (which we are not) Cedar Mesa is known for scenic canyons and Anasazi ruins and rock art. Once on Cedar Mesa, Hwy 261 eventually meets Hwy 95 where we turned in a northwesterly direction and later crossing the joining of the Colorado and Dirty Devil Rivers, which forms Lake Powell to the south. This is a shockingly scenic road that continues on to Hanksville.
Utah - Lake Powell at Highway 95 bridge
Lake Powell at Highway 95 bridge area
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Utah - South of Hanksville on Highway 95
South of Hanksville on Highway 95
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Utah - West of Hanksville on Highway 24
West of Hanksville on Highway 24
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
The problem is Hanksville is shockingly inadequate as a place to eat and spend a night. So we had to continued west on Hwy 24 to Torrey. This highway follows the scenic Fremont River across Capitol Reef. Unintentionally we had traveled 264 miles on this day.
Utah - Crossing Capitol Reef on Highway 24
Crossing Capitol Reef on Highway 24
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
Utah - Crossing Capitol Reef on Highway 24
Crossing Capitol Reef on Highway 24
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine
At Torrey we did find a comfortable motel with a good restaurant and a chance to recharge our body and souls.
Copyright Ken Rudine
November 1, 2009

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