Just a few minutes north of the famous Forest Gump Point and sacred Navajo lands that make up Monument Valley is a lesser-known area that is as majestic and beautiful as the crowded neighbor to the south. Valley of the Gods is a network of intricate and superb rock features that line San Juan County Road 242 below Cedar Mesa.
This 17-mile loop not only takes you along the base of nearly every rock feature, but as the land falls under the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), camping is free in spots along the road.
In all seriousness, don’t skip Monument Valley. It will likely be very crowded. If you visit in the summer, this whole area will be a million degrees. However, Monument Valley is iconic for a reason and you really should get a photo in the middle of the road…we did when we visited in our bus in 2018.
Valley of the Gods is one of the more underrated areas of Canyon Country and is easy to navigate in the most basic of vehicles as long as it isn’t wet. During the monsoon season (July and August) the temperatures are unbearable and flash floods can make the road impassible in the toughest of vehicles.
The 17-mile county road meanders between Highway 261 and Highway 163 and offers a look into monolithic rock structures like Seven Sailors Butte, Lady in the Bathtub, and Setting Hen Butte. Trying to sort out the names and which structure they belong to is part of the fun of exploring this area.
The area surrounding Valley of the Gods is chock-full of interesting things as well and camping in the valley allows you to explore the surrounding area with ease. To the south is the town of Mexican Hat, named for the rock structure along the San Juan River that resembles a big Mexican hat. Nearby is Gooseneck State Park, known for the wild curves in the San Juan River that have created epic canyon walls.
North of Valley of the Gods takes you up the Moki Dugway and onto Cedar Mesa where a host of other attractions await. Natural Bridges National Monument is a truly underrated attraction in the area with many natural bridges and a lot of mild hiking through the valley floor. Cedar Mesa is an expansive 1.9 million acres and is home to over 100,000 archeological sites. Cedar Mesa is a part of the larger Bears Ears National Monument which holds special significance for the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Hopi Nation, and other tribes. You could explore Bears Ears National Monument for years and never see it all!