Being in Texas is a challenge for me. I mean, when it comes to being outdoors, I love all the seasons. Here the seasons are stupidly hot summer, cooler version of summer, will it ever stop raining and it’s cold for Texas. On top of that, I can drive for eight hours and still be in the same state. Now, rumor has it that different parts of Texas have different climates and landscapes. I just haven’t really gotten a chance to go exploring yet and I really miss the variety of landscapes from living in the Four Corners area.
One of my favorite “I need to get out of town but don’t want to spend a lot” places to go used to be Monument Valley Utah. It seems they’ve raised the price to get in since the last time I went, it’s now $20 for four people in one car to enter, but still not bad. If you don’t want to pay to get into a park, you can drive further north and go through the Valley of the Gods and drive by Mexican Hat as well. This area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management so it’s public land rather than Navajo tribal land. There are some little restaurants and quirky little hotels in those areas that are cheaper to stay in if you want to spend some time in this area. I tend to spend the money to go into Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park though.
If you haven’t been, it doesn’t seem like much when you drive up. There’s a large building on a mesa that is a hotel/visitors center/gift shop. Typical gift shop with the overpriced trinkets like license plates with names on them. However, there is are a lot of traditional handmade Navajo crafts that you can buy as well. Beautiful pieces of clothing, knives, bowls, jewelry and more. I always make sure to get a Navajo taco when I’m at the restaurant. Trust me and yes you have to have green chili on it. There’s also a large patio that you can stand on and look out at the buttes that the call the east mitten and the west mitten.
Down below the height of the hotel lies the valley. There is a 17 mile scenic drive that you can take in your own vehicle through the park. You don’t need a high clearance vehicle to do it at all. There are quite a few rock formations that have names and it’s fun to figure out where these are. If you look on the website you can get a little brochure that shows you each of the names and the reasoning behind them. You can pull over wherever you like and take pictures or look around but they prefer you to not wander too far off the road. While driving around there are places that you can park and then get on a horse and trail ride through some of the land as well. Some places you can only get to by guided tour and they do have tours you can take in their jeeps.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can hike Wildcat Trail. It’s a 3.2 mile loop. They use rocks to mark the trail paths and there are little signs along the way as well to make sure that you’re staying within their preferred boundaries. It’s worth the walk if you really want to get some good pictures but make sure you take plenty of water. Also, it can be a little bit more strenuous if you aren’t used to being at 5400 ft.
Red rocks and open desert may not be for everyone but I loved getting away from everything and getting lost out there. I think what always makes me smile is how undisturbed everything is. People that go there seem to actually respect the land. There isn’t a bunch of graffiti on rocks and people leave the little rock piles standing as they are.
For more information about the park you can visit Navajo National Parks. The website also has links to the other parks in the area as well as maps, pictures and facility information.