Waking early we headed back to the Monument Valley carpark to enjoy the sunrise view while we had some breakfast. Waiting for the 8am opening of the valley drive, which takes you along a red dirt road right amongst the mesas, we waited until past 8am, then watched several other cars bypass the closed gate which only covered one side of the road. Getting impatient at their tardiness we followed suit and descended to the valley floor.
There’s some pretty spectacular views but we’d been told to get the best views you have to mortgage your house and take a guided tour along some of the ‘private’ roads (ok they’re only around $60+ per person, but still, not on our budget!).
Exiting the park still in the early hours of the morning, we couldn’t find a single person to pay our $20 entry fee to, so feeling a little underwhelmed we kept it and hit the blacktop, saying goodbye to the most underrated state in the USA. Goodbye Utah, it’s been a pleasure.
Approaching Monument Valley from Four Corners you don’t get the full impact of the horizon, so we took a cruise north along the 163 towards Mexican Hat, found a nice pull out and took some great shots sitting in the middle of the road, which stretches ahead of you to the wide open valley below.
Enjoying the approaching mesas we again headed south, taking the US89 towards a less visited, yet just as awesome site, crafted by Mother Nature’s capable hands. A short, hot walk across the sand and stone delivers you to the precarious overlook at Horseshoe Bend.
The photos speak for themselves, but needless to say there was a fair bit of belly crawling and sweaty palms by both of us to get these shots! It’s a pretty spectacular site, and you can’t help but wonder what the views are like for the lucky guys who are hanging out at the small secluded beach at the base of the bend.
Another 1 1/2 hours on the road we turned off towards Tuba City, where we’d read you can visit some dinosaur tracks, not something you can see everyday. Unfortunately we’d also read that although visiting the footprints are free, everybody who’s visited recently had been hassled to within an inch of their life by a local ‘guide’ (or sometimes several!) who insisted on accompanying them then demanding up to $20 for their ‘services’.
We’ve also since read that some of the footprints are fake, and people are being given information such as the meteorite out near Winslow killed the dinosaurs, even though this only hit earth 50,000 years ago. As soon as we turned into the carpark several guys raced towards Porkchop, directing us how to park when there was a huge wide open space, with not a single other car in sight, for us to park in. After a long hot day of driving I challenge anybody to be in the mood to deal with aggressive touts trying to wring $20 out of you to walk by your side across some rocks. Challenge not accepted.
Back on the road we stopped at Cameron to visit the huge Cameron Trading Post. You can buy all kinds of local crafts here, including authentic woven Navajo rugs, jewellery, pottery, as well as all the usual tourist tack made in China. The place is huge with a great variety, but it is slightly expensive so we left empty handed and drove into the night, bound for the big one, The Grand Canyon. Nearing the east entrance of the park, we almost ran into a stray baby deer that was desperately trying to find a way past the barriers and off the highway. Not long afterwards we spotted the biggest bull elk we’ve ever seen just sitting by the side of the road. Straight away we knew this was going to be a special place. Pulling into a small dirt carpark, complete with ensuite (pit toilet), we turned in excited for the views that would greet us in the morning.