The Valley of the Gods offers a magnificent display of natural rock formations and is often compared to Monument Valley. Once part of the former Bears Ears National Monument, the area’s no longer protected under that designation but is still managed as BLM public land.
This valley sees far fewer visitors than its famous southern sibling and is accessible via an unassuming, 17-mile dirt and gravel road. It is also free to enter and camp overnight without permits. Every January, hot air balloons take flight over the valley (read more below).
Like similar areas across the Southwest, Valley of the Gods was once a relatively flat basin. Over 250 million years, the elements wore away most of the rock into what can be seen today – naturally carved monuments to an ancient landscape.
Please keep in mind that this environment is both physically fragile and sacred. For the Navajo, spirits of ancient warriors reside in the formations of this valley. In whatever you do, tread lightly!
Starting from the southeast, here are a few of the prominent named rock formations (or jump to overview map):
Driving through the Valley
Before you turn onto Valley of the Gods Road, know that a high clearance vehicle is recommended but may not be required during dry conditions. Passenger cars usually have no problems, but you should anticipate some uncomfortable situations and potential scraping along the way. Getting stuck is always possible on any backcountry road, so have a full tank of gas and carry extra supplies.
The 17-mile drive can take 1-2 hours, depending on conditions and your pace. You will get up close to many of the rock formations near the road, making even a vehicle-only trip well worth it.
Left: the turn off US-163 near mile marker 29; Middle: typical road conditions; Right: be wary of any wet conditions!
Exploring the valley on foot can be an incredible experience, if you have the time. The journey is whatever you make it; there are no established trails and you are free to respectfully wander and climb amongst these impressive formations. Be sure to carry extra supplies and know your own limits.
Being BLM land, free dispersed camping is allowed at previously utilized locations. Campfires are not allowed, however! Driving off the road is also not permitted, but there are plenty of spots along the road for vehicles. Never camp in or near a wash, as they can flood without warning.
While not an area as dense with popular and established climbing routes as other places in Utah, climbing is permitted on this BLM land. Some layers of rock can be loose, but experienced climbers will find a huge variety of potential routes to pick from.
Hot Air Ballooning
The annual Bluff International Balloon Festival takes place in Bluff, UT, and includes a flight over the Valley of the Gods. The flight takes place on January 14th, weather permitting. Check for any updates on both their Facebook page and official site.
If you’re in the neighborhood, there are several other places worth stopping at on the way to or from Valley of the Gods:
- Offline Maps
- 100+ Activities and 45,000+ Presets (Plants, Animals, …)