Another weekend and another adventure. The car was packed for a Monument Valley guided tour and some southern Utah gems. We were stoked about all the Monument Valley things to do, along with a new adventure into Valley of the Gods.
We got a late start and had to finagle our way through Phoenix rush hour, but in no time, we were cruising north on the I-17 towards the mittens and epic rock formations of Monument Valley. When we arrived, it was already dark, and due to the Navajo’s adherence to MDT instead of MST, it was already past midnight. (They do this because they have tribe locations in Utah and Colorado, so it helps keep everyone on the same time.)
Monument Valley things to do
A Dark Night In Monument Valley
Adam and I decided to ditch the idea of setting up a tent in the dark. Instead, we grabbed our gear and started walking out into the pitch-black valley – with only our headlights guiding us.
We set up at our first of two locations about a mile into Monument Valley on the Wildcat trail. This gave us a view of the two mittens with the milky way directly in front of us. The two of us shot photos here for at least an hour before we moved on to the second spot, a little closer to the left mitten.
Here, I did my first attempt at star trails, where I took nearly 150 photos every three seconds and then combined them into one photo. For it being my inaugural try, I was ecstatic with the result.
Sunrise with the Mittens at Monument Valley
After a while, though, we were starting to get cold (not moving will do that to you), and we began the trek back to the car. We debated setting up the tent here, but we elected to take a quick snooze in the car before sunrise hit Monument Valley. I was absolutely zonked, and the sleep felt terrific.
Less than two hours later, we were up again, watching the sunrise just above the mitten. I’m not sure how we got so lucky, but we’ll take it.
With night and morning photos out of the way, The View Hotel’s all-you-can-eat buffet got two STARVING dudes visiting them, and oh boy, was it glorious. As I walked to the table with a stacked plate, I told Adam, “I’m going to put this place out of business.” I might not have done that, but I sure got my money’s worth.
Monument Valley Guided Tour
After heading into town for snacks and gas, we returned to the Monument Valley scenic drive and got ready for the Dreamcatcher Tour with Simpson’s Trailhandler.
This was a phenomenal experience. The Monument Valley guided tour, which includes untouched areas of Monument Valley, lasted over 2.5 hours. Once the tour was completed, we were given dinner and a Navajo ceremonial dance.
Learning more about Navajo history and spending time in their sacred land was rewarding and educational. I recommend this Monument Valley guided tour when you visit.
Valley of the Gods
Once the tour ended, around 9 pm, Adam and I packed up the tent and headed into Southern Utah and the Valley of the Gods. Neither of us had been here before, so we didn’t really know where to go. Eventually, we decided on a random pull-off that looked good and would be excellent positioning for Milky Way. Instead of setting up the tent, we cowboy camped, and it was fantastic.
Hilariously, though, we didn’t end up shooting the Milky Way.
Adam says he yelled at me twice to wake up. The fact that I don’t remember him doing that tells you all you need to know about how that worked out. I woke up at 5:30, feeling incredibly refreshed, but also confused why there was the beginning of sunrise when I was supposed to have been up 3 hours earlier. Oops.
At that point, we slowly emerged from our toasty sleeping bags and began taking photos and doing #photographer things. I wanted to launch my drone, but my phone wouldn’t charge past 3%. With that idea tossed out, we decided to continue on the 17-mile dirt road through Valley of the Gods.
Eventually, my phone charged enough for me to soar my drone throughout the valley. Being able to look down across the valley from 500+ feet was remarkable.
After that, we headed up Moki Dugway, a three-mile dirt road consisting of steep switchbacks that give you an unparalleled view of Valley of the Gods. With that crossed off the travel list, we began our way home, though we made a quick detour to Goosenecks State Park, a place I’ve had on my never-ending list of places to visit in the southwest.
Goosenecks State Park
We quickly made our way into Goosenecks and checked out the sights. There’s not much there, and my real intention was to launch the drone again to see the aerial view. Luckily, they’re super chill about drones – you have to be standing outside the park boundaries to fly it.
With that behind us, the trip home really began…until we stopped at Forrest Gump point, and I got in a little bit of exercise impersonating Mr. Gump/Tom Hanks. Don’t worry; that truck wasn’t that close to me… I think.
The drive home was an uneventful one. After barely sleeping, both of us were quite exhausted but had had one hell of a weekend. Watching both the Milky Way and sunrise in Monument Valley, experiencing the Navajo culture, and seeing new places in southern Utah continued to give me a greater appreciation for Planet Earth.
Keep adventuring and following your passions as they will lead you to some pretty amazing places!
I leave you with a quick aerial recap of the trip!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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