Situated high on Cedar Mesa, Natural Bridges National Monument shelters three massive stone bridges carved by nature from white Cedar Mesa sandstone. Intermittent streams have cut two deep canyons and the bridges from stone formed from what was once the shore of an ancient sea. Trails descend from Bridge View Drive to each of the bridges. A longer trail meanders along the canyon bottom through oak an cottonwood groves, connecting the three bridges in one loop hike. The park is powered by the sun and the solar array is a worthwhile stop. The scenic Bridge View Drive circumnavigate the park and is open year-round from sun rise to sunset. Overlooks along the drive allow views of each of the bridges. Natural Bridges National Monument is on Highway 95 which intersects with Higway 261.
This place is the commun border point of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.
Four Corners is not special at all, but as it makes part of the "places to stop", we had to make this little detour on our trip from Colorado to Monument Valley.
In fact we knew this place from one of the episodes of the Simpson's. You know... the whole family on the wooden platform, each one in another state, reaching hands... picture....he he he!
And actually, it was just like that. Nothing but a platform with a view. Still we enjoyed the place because of the many little Navaho stalls with jewels and artefacts.
A little warning: bring enough food and water, cause the Navaho food stalls looked as if they weren't cleaned in months!
Same with the "bathrooms" :-)
I was surprised to see these sheeps and the sheep dog crossing the road.
The Navajo still live in Monument Valley.
History of Monument Valley : Human occupation is severely limited in hot and arid environments such as Monument Valley, but archaelogists have recorded more than 100 ancient Anasazi sites and ruins dating befor A.D.1300. No perennial streams run through the valley today, and the climate is virtually the same now as it was centuries ago.
Like other areas in the region, however, the valley was abandoned by the Anasazis in the 1300's. No one knows when the first Navajo settled in Monument Valley. For generations however, Navajo residents have herded sheep and other livestock and raised small quantities of crops. Monument Valley is a small part of the nearly 16 million acre Navajo Reservation, and its residents are but a small percentage of the Navajo population of more than 300,000.
Although similar to Monument Valley, in this other valley you will likely find yourself alone for the most part. Stop, get out and walk a bit.
Be careful of oncoming traffic.. for us it was one car every 7 miles! So you do tend to forget that it's a two way road..
Only about 30 miles north of Monument Valley you can visit this State Park with its fascinating meandering river. Here, the San Jan river flows for 6 miles yet only covers a distance of one mile. It makes a series of three sharp hairpin turns, resembling goosenecks, I guess.
Entrance to the park is free and is located nine miles north of Mexican Hat off Hwy 261. It is a scenic drive out there but I recommend to visit in the morning. We arrived in late afternoon and were looking directly into the sun, making photography very difficult! It is also impossible to fit all three goosenecks into the same frame unless you have a panoramic camera.
Go North out of Monument Valley on UT261 toward Mexican Hat and follow the signs to Mulvey point (Goosenecks). The ride to Mulvey Point takes you straight up the Cedar Mesa with 180-degree switchback turns. At the top you have a spectacular view of Goosenecks State Park and Garden of the Gods with Monument Valley in the distance. a spectacular view. While there take in Gooseneck State Park and ride through Garden of the Gods (approx. 24 miles).
The best way to see Monument Valley: Go with a Native American Guide. Much of this land is sacred, and private. With a Native American guide, you will see much more, learn much more, and visit land that you can not visit on your own.
You can get a guide at the visitor center. Our guide was knowledgable, informative, and delightful.
If you look at the map above, you´ll find a lot more interesting sites in the vicinity. This, too, is Anasazi country - go and look at their cliff dwellings, for instance at Betatakin, learn about their culture and their traditions. Betatakin is very informative.
Head over to Goosenecks State park for a wonderful view of a the San Juan River meandering through 1000 foot deep canyons
Named after the rock formation, this tiny shanty town boasts a river , a trading post and a motel.
An ice cold beer after the dusty ride thru Valley of the Gods was a godsend!
No real need to slow down when you see these sheep cross the road. I was already driving so slow..... the sheep almost went faster than I did :-)