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Natural Bridges National Monument, and Monument Valley

 

Hole'n the RockThe next day we continued our journey to Monument Valley.  Just 15 miles south of Moab we stopped for an ice cream at this unique 5000 square feet home called Hole'n The Rock. As it turns out Albert Christensen spend 12 years creating this place inside a solid rock using only hand powered drills and dynamite.

Route 191 from Moab would take us straight to Monument Valley but we decided to take a road less traveled, and we were pleased we did! One hour after Moab we approached Blanding.  Here we left route 191 at exit 95 and after about 40 minutes we arrived at Natural Bridges National Monument.

 

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, UtahWe paid $6 entrance fee in the Visitor Center of the park, and drove around 9 mile loop on the paved, scenic road. Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo bridges can be viewed by walking short distances to the overlooks. For closer views you can take trails to the base of each natural bridge. (All are less than 1.5 miles round-trip).

Utah is the state where you can really enjoy star gazing at night, and Natural Bridges is one of the best spots to do so. The International Dark-Sky Association designated Natural Bridges as the world’s first International Dark Sky Park because of its one-of-the-darkest-night-skies in the country.

It was another hot day with over 100F at about 3 pm. We wanted to reach Monument Valley at the border of Utah and Arizona before sundown. After exiting the Natural Bridges Park we took a desolate road 261 south, and drove about 30 miles to unpaved turnoff for Muley Point. After 5 miles of driving on sandy red dirt, speeding 15 to 20 miles per hour and shaking in our Toyota Matrix (not the best choice for these unpaved roads), we arrived at an amazing dead end road. Muley PointThere was nobody there at this time -- a perfect time of solitude. The panorama of San Juan River and Monument Valley was just breathtaking. No picture can really express it. One has to experience it to really appreciate it, and we really did.

We went back to route 261 and headed towards Monument Valley.  The last part of the route 261, called Moki Dugway, is a decent of about 1100 feet, with 3 miles of sharp  switchbacks down a steep gravel road.  Here your really have to drive slowly  (recommended 5 mph) both for your own and others sake, as well as for great vistas.

Moki DugwayBefore arriving at Monument Valley we took a quick peak at yet another great spot – the lookout over the San Juan River (Gooseneck State Park).  Later we stopped to take a picture of the Mexican Hat, 25 miles away from Goulding trading Post, which is located at the entrance to the Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park (heart of Navajo Land). This red land made famous by John Wayne movies may not be missed.

As it was a very hot night (air condition was too loud to keep it on) it wasn't very hard to get up the next day for the sunrise. This early rise really paid off. In just few minutes we were at the visitor center watching spectacular sunrise, but the best part was yet to come.

After paying the entrance fee ($5 per person per day) we took the rough, red road for a 17 mile ride through the park, watching beautiful monuments of rock formations.  The road is difficult for any non-4WD vehicle, but luckily our Toyota Matrix was able to handle it.  It felt wonderful driving through this red, dusty road, watching magnificent red sculptures created by nature with hardly any cars around.
More pictures Natural Bridges, Monument Valley.

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Monument Valley

 

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