After our brief visit to Navajo National Monument, we continued our drive through Navajo land to the Goulding Campground in Monument Valley, Utah on the Arizona/Utah border. The views as we approached this area on Highway 163 were spectacular. They were literally "out of a movie." Dozens of motion pictures including many popular westerns were filmed in this area.
Goulding established a trading post in 1924. Today the original trading post is the location of a great museum. Today, nearby modern buildings have been added to the historical structures. There is a large lodge complex, gift shop, and a restaurant. The dining room serves a great local specialty called the Navajo Taco. Goulding convinced John Ford to film the movie "Stagecoach" with John Wayne in Monument Valley. It's success led to many other film crews and television commercials using the beautiful mesas, buttes, and spires as natural backdrops for their productions.
When we arrived at the campground, we were greeted by tall, red mesas and the bright blue sky.
Our campsite was so great that we extended our stay from two to four nights. Our view inspired us to sketch pictures and paint rocks at our picnic table under the awning.
Mexican Hat, Gooseneck, and Moki Dugway
Mexican Hat is a nearby (few miles to the north) small town on the San Juan River. Just north of town is a strange balanced rock know as Mexican Hat.
The highlight of Gooseneck State Park is a view of the meandering San Juan River. The canyon is 1,100 feet deep and curves tightly like a goose's neck. This area is one of the most crooked river patterns in the world.
The Moki Dugway is a three-mile stretch of gravel road that rapidly hairpins over 1000 feet. The views from the top are awesome (Photo below right shows the roadway stretching back to Mexican Hat. The "gooseneck" area of the San Juan River is to the right end of this valley).
Goulding Monument Valley/Mystery Valley Tour
The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park contains these famous features. The mesas, buttes, and spires rise 1000 feet above the desert floor. There are also many arches. Although private vehicles can travel a small portion of the area, a tour is the only way to get the true experience. We took the full-day Goulding tour and enjoyed every moment.
Our guided tour began at the campground followed by a quick stop at the lodge to pick up two other couples. Our next stop was at a hogan where we listened to a talk about the Navajo hogan and its construction. We enjoyed watching a woman preparing wool to weave a rug. She also demonstrated how to tie a traditional Navajo bun in a woman's hair. Then we drove six miles down the highway to the entrance to "Mystery Valley."
The trip through Mystery Valley included ruins, arches, rock art, and beautiful viewpointss. Arches included The Sun's Eye, Honeymoon Bridge (above), and Moccasin Arch. One of the highlights was a well-known sheep petroglyph (below right).
After our guide prepared some great burgers for lunch (below left), we headed north into Monument Valley. We spent some time at the Visitor's Center exploring the store and taking advantage of the indoor plumbing. After leaving the Center the road descends through switchbacks for views of world-famous buttes including the Mitten buttes and Merrick Butte. We continued between Elephant Butte to the southeast and Three Sisters to the south.
We stopped at John Ford's Point and took classic photographs of an Indian on horseback posing in front of the bluffs (above right). Annette bought a glasses holder necklace from one of the many vendors.
We drove along backroads to see more great ruins, arches, and petroglyphs including the famous left and right mitten buttes (above). The stop at Big Hogan was fun. Roselyn, our guide showed us the eye and described the way it looked like an eagle's eye.
We worked our way past the Totem Pole and Yei-Bi-Chei pinnacles, then along red sand dunes before heading back to Gouldings.
We spent most of the rest of our stay working, but we took a couple short trips.
We also spent some time outside. The weather was great so we got out our sketchbooks and paints. In the photograph on the right, Larry is painting a rock. The painted rocks will be shared in in our geocache back in the midwest.
Bob's Arches Page
Discover Navajo Experience
Rock Art of the Southwest
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