After we drove the Moki Dugway a few years ago we decided to take a side trip into Valley of the Gods. Valley of the Gods is a smaller and more accessible area of Utah than Monument Valley. It is a hidden gem with scenery similar to that of nearby Monument Valley.
Valley of the Gods is a scenic sandstone valley that features stunning geologic formations. This geological masterpiece is a quarter of the size of its celebrated neighbor, Monument Valley, but is just as beautiful. The beautiful rich colors and massive monoliths are unforgettable. Because it is less popular there are fewer visitors and you can enjoy a more leisurely and personal experience.
It has isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. It is located on BLM land and is open for hiking, backpacking, and camping. There are no designated trails or campgrounds, but there is plenty of backcountry where you can wander and explore.
The Valley was formed by sandstone deposits and geologic uplift and then shaped by wind and water over millions of years, into the unique buttes, monoliths (single massive stone or rock), pinnacles and other geological features as seen today. It is home to great sandstone monoliths, delicate spires and long rock fins rising from the valley floor.
The formations have been given names such as Rooster Butte, Setting Hen Butte, and Balanced Rock/Lady in a Tub by locals. It is a photographers paradise.
Balancing Rock, also know as Lady in a Tub, up close.
The statuesque formations are sculpted from Cedar Mesa sandstone dating to the Permian period, around 250 million years ago.
Because of its isolated nature, people exploring Valley of the Gods need to be self-sufficient and carry emergency supplies. There are no facilities, no gas stations, stores or services. You may or may not see other travelers along the road.
At the western end of the Valley of the Gods road, it connects with Hwy 261. If you turn north you can travel the Moki Dugway. Don’t miss the opportunity to travel this road. The Moki Dugway has very tight switchbacks that allow Hwy 261 to climb the cliff face to the top of Cedar Mesa. The views from the top are amazing!
How to Get There
The Valley of the Gods Road runs between Highways 163 and 261. The road forks away from Hwy 163 about 7.5 miles north of Mexican Hat. It winds north and west and then connects with Hwy 261 about 6.5 miles northwest of the point where Hwy 261 forks from Hwy 161.
Valley of the Gods is toured via a 17-mile, unpaved loop but the graded gravel and clay surface road is suitable for cars when the road is dry. The east entrance is accessed off US-163 approximately 15 miles west of Bluff. The west entrance is accessed of US-261. The 17-mile loop is unpaved, The road has a few sharp turns and crosses several washes so large RV access may be limited in some places.
The road is recommended for high clearance vehicles. During dry weather, many people drive the road in family cars – but be advised that it can be rough. When the weather is wet a 4X4 may be needed to get through.