While trying to make the most of living in Southwest Colorado, I often look at google maps and pick a new place to hike and photograph that is within a few hours drive. The current weather plays a big role in this too, as in winter it becomes difficult to travel into the mountains.
While looking over potential desert locations, I discovered an area called "Valley of the Gods" that lies in Utah, out towards the famous Monument Valley. (See the image below? That's Monument Valley. It's appeared in many movies and other still images, so I grabbed a quick shot since we were passing through.)
Online sources indicated that Valley of the Gods was BLM Land, and it has completely open access to hiking, camping and climbing. In addition to that, you don't have to pay to get access like you do just to drive around Monument Valley. On a free weekend, I drove out with Jen and the dog Cortez to hike and take some pictures.
The area was very open and desolate. We only saw 3 other cars the entire time we were there, as we drove through the 17-mile winding road that cuts between red rock monoliths. Not having a map or specific destination in mind, we followed our noses and tracked a streambed around for a short hike.
I was very surprised that I had never heard of this area before– it had the kind of features national parks are made of, only it had no paved roads or facilities. What a gem of a find.
There are climbing routes for the adventurous, and perhaps one day I'll make a few ascents out here, but for this trip, hiking was fine for my first taste of the Valley of the Gods.