So, I’ll be flying to Santa Fe in mid-October and was thinking of renting a car and driving out to Monument Valley to take in some of the sights for maybe two days. Though I’ve never been there, I’m sure someone has. What I do know is that it’s a big place and I want to make the most of my two days.
What are your favorite spots? What are the roads like? What general recommendations can you provide?
If at all possible, you must go to both Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park - two of my favourite places on the planet.
Arches dwarfs you in space and time, an amazing sense of vastness. Ancient beauty.
Dead Horse Park provides, by far, the best views of the Grand Canyon including those possible from within the Grand Canyon Park itself. The Grand Canyon is indescribably wonderful.
Both parks have web sites. Worth a look.
There’s lots more in Utah too. Zion, Bryce, Monument Valley … I’m jealous.
There’s only one paved road that traverses MV (163), so if you take it you will see about all there is to see, unless you get permission from the Navaho to take the side roads (and you MUST get permission). I’m not sure the rental car company would be to happy about it either if you don’t have a 4-wheeler. These are rough roads!
Plus you are about 300 miles from Sante Fe just to get there. Plan on at least a couple of days just to round trip through MV, it can’t be done in one day. Accomodations are pretty rugged out here also. If you want to view the other spots mentioned here, you’ll need 5 or 6 days to do it right.
Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend all the parks in Southern UT if you have the time. But it is wide open space out there, and things are always farther away than they seem on the map.
Personally, I’d go to Durango, CO, take the train to Silverton and back. Excellent trip and you see more without having to drive so much.
I’ve never been to Dead Horse Point, but I’ll definitely second Arches NP, and nearby Canyonlands.
There are lots of national parks and monuments in the area, so you can just pick up a map and scan the area for places that sound interesting to you.
Another thing you might want to try checking out is a slot canyon; I’ve never been to one myself, but I’m gearing up to go to one next time I’m out west (which probably won’t be for a couple of years). One thing about slot canyons, however, is they can be time consuming, if not downright difficult, to get to. A popular one is Antelope Canyon (Upper and Lower) near Page, AZ; it’s easy to get to, but kind of expensive since it’s so popular and on Navajo land (~$20 for a 1.5 hour tour). Here’s a webpage describing Antelope Canyon and other slot canyons, a lot of them are in that general area:
By all means, don’t venture into any slot canyon if it’s threatening rain anywhere nearby; Lower Antelope Canyon is where eleven people were killed by a flash flood in August, '97.
As for the roads, check out a map. Some of the unpaved roads you’ll find on a map are passable only by 4WD vehicles, and are impassable even by 4WD after storms. Here is a description of some of the unpaved roads in the Grand Staircase area: