Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Natural Bridges National Monument – Goosenecks State Park

(Blanding, UT) Hi 70 L0 51 – Today was magical! It seems like every RV’er we’ve ever met who has been to Utah has always gushed about the awesome beauty of this state. Today we got our first real taste of what Utah has to offer, and we have to say we agree.

It was still windy today, and it started out very cloudy. But we headed out anyway, hoping the clouds would lift and we’d have a sunny day, which is exactly what happened. We first headed west on Utah Hwy 95 to Natural Bridges National Monument.

Natural Bridges is is very popular with hikers, offering hikes of various lengths and difficulty, and all offering close-up views of the three natural bridges. We stuck to the eight-mile driving loop, stopping at the pullouts to view the bridges from viewing platforms a couple hundred feet from the road. The first natural bridge is Sipapu Bridge. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

Here’s a closer look.

Along with the three natural bridges, there is Horse Collar Ruins.

The second natural bridge is Kachina Bridge.

And the third one is Owachomo Bridge. I think this one is the most impressive looking.

Natural bridges are formed when water gradually erodes through a rock wall. Arches are formed from forms of erosion other than water.

After we finished the loop of Natural Bridges National Monument we headed south on Utah Hwy 261. Our destination was Goosenecks State Park, but we were given a tip by the Ranger at Natural Bridges to take a side trip to Mulie Point. It was about 25 miles south of Natural Bridges, and about five miles off the highway on a gravel road.

Boy, it felt like we were really going out into the middle of nowhere! Finally, the road widened and we could see fabulous scenery off in the distance. We parked the car and walked up to the edge of an overlook that gave us a spectacular view of a canyon below.

And coolest of all was the view of Monument Valley in the distance.

Monument Valley is the area of buttes and mesas made famous as the filming location of many Hollywood westerns, especially those directed by John Ford.
This is a very rustic location, and you’re on your own as far as safety is concerned. No safety rails here!

We left Mulie Point and continued on Hwy 261. It’s a good thing we studied up on this route because what came next would have been pretty scary if we didn’t know what to expect. It’s called Moki Dugway. It’s a three-mile stretch of Hwy 261 that’s unpaved, and has more switchbacks and drops more in elevation than any road we’ve ever been on! This is a photo of the beginning of Moki Dugway, and to the right in the photo you can see Hwy 261 where we’re headed. That’s a loooong way down, and we got down there in only three miles!

Here’s a closer look at the highway below.

It was weird to look down and see cars way below us, knowing we were headed down there.

And when we looked up, there were cars waaaay up there. There’s a car in the middle of this photo. Can you spot it?

Here’s a cropped image, showing a closer view of the car. See it now?

We finally reached the valley floor and went another eight miles or so to Goosenecks State Park. The San Juan River has cut through a canyon in a meandering path, with the rock formations and canyon walls resembling horseshoes. The State Park consists of a viewing area where you can look down on the river a thousand feet below.

Pretty cool! And also pretty cool was the scenery all along the almost 150-mile loop we drove today. I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

This is the Valley of the Gods. Some say it rivals Monument Valley in beauty. We would have liked to drive through it, but we were told the road is in pretty bad shape, so we admired it from afar.

That should do it for today. We haven’t decided what to do tomorrow yet. Check back then to find out. Oh yeah, it’s still blowing like a hurricane around here!


Al and Karen said...

I agree Utah has been awesome! And yes we're getting tired of the wind as well.

Laurel Owen said...

I think Utah has the best landscape!

Donna W. said...

love the header picture. what a great blog. pics are awesome, never realized utah was this gorgeous. view looking down on highway though made my stomach flip flop, I had mountains

Bill and Nancy said...

WOW...what an amazing drive!! Great photos and those steep roads were awesome. Can you post a map that shows where you drove?? Would love to add it to our TODOS list:o))

Phyllis said...

I never knew the difference between bridges and arches. I learned something new today. Thanks!

Jim and Judy said...

The 150 mile loop drive looked well worth it! We are looking forward to getting the chance.

Bob and Jo said...

Great tour, added to our list.

Bill and Nancy said...

Thanks for the map!!

Mike and Terri said...

Totally awesome!!!
We'll definitely be going there someday!

Joe and Carolyn said...

The road through Valley of the Gods is in pretty good shape. In the back there are some fairly sharp turns, but you are just going slow and there are no problems.