Driving the American West: Monument Valley to Canyonlands

Utah's Monument Valley


Continued from
Driving the American West: Mojave Desert to the Grand Canyon

Days three to five of my Great Big American West Road Trip? Simply awesome.

I cruised from the Arizona high desert into Utah’s Monument Valley, a rocky, orange landscape that looked a heck of a lot like the Pixar movie Cars. Probably because it was the inspiration for the Pixar movie Cars.

I spent the night in a quiet, riverside motel on a lonely stretch of highway in Mexican Hat, a town named for a huge rock shaped like a sombrero.

After a couple of gravelly switchbacks beside towering sandstone mesas, I headed into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park to find snow, ponds, rabbits, mountain bluebirds and enormous rocks shaped like everything from arrowheads to tiramisu.

Then I wandered my way through Canyonland’s Island in the Sky, a winding expanse of craters that rival the Grand Canyon, rimmed by the snow-capped La Sal Mountains.

I feel like my eyes have been popping out of my head for a week now…

Just before the Utah state line, a Burger King in Kayenta, AZ hosts the World War II Navajo Code Talkers Display

The display features artifacts, documents, and photos that detail the important Navajo presence in the war

The river view from The San Juan Inn, my home for a night in Mexican Hat, UT

Mexican Hat, the town's namesake, looks like a sombrero

The Garden of the Gods switchback in the Monument Valley

Taking switchbacks in the Monument Valley allow a closer look at sandstone formations like these, in the Garden of the Gods

A winding road down the center of the Needles section of Canyonlands

The La Sal Range seen from a high point in Needles, Canyonlands

They don't call it Needles for nothin'

...though many of the rocks here look more like tiramisu, if you ask me

Hawk perched on a rock in Canyonlands

A wintry pond in Needles, where I saw rabbits and ducks

In early March, some parts of Canyonlands were peppered with snow, while others were very dry and windy

Gnarled tree in the Island of the Sky area

When you see signs in Canyonlands that say "Open Range," believe them

Little furry goats in Island of the Sky wander close to the road, so drive carefully

Some sections of the Island in the Sky reminded me of the mythical kingdom of Mordor from The Lord of the Rings

Buck Canyon in the Island of the Sky is, for my money (an entrance fee of $10), just as grand as the Grand Canyon



Monument Valley
Burger King Navajo Code Talker’s Display
San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, Utah
National Park Service website for Canyonlands National Park


Continued in

Driving the American West: Moab to Arches


  1. Amazing photos!

  2. Some shots like from another world! The magical place.


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