Exploring Mexican Hat, UT Area

After an enjoyable few days in Canyon de Chelly, I left on Sunday, May 19. Having spent the last six months in Arizona, I am bound for southeastern Utah around the town of Mexican Hat.

View Slideshow on Flickr


Mexican Hat Rock

This is my first visit to the area. After making the 120 mile drive, I found a camp on BLM land just off Hwy 163. The rock and sandstone formations in the area are phenomenal.


These walls have fascinating erosion patterns

The landscape in this area was stunning. The desert and much of the sandstone formations are orange. Mixed in are pastel bands of yellow, white, and red, then the blue of the sky. And with all the rain this spring, the desert plants are very green and the wildflowers are blooming. Pictures just don’t do it justice.


Early morning light on Cedar Mesa

There were Horned Larks around my camp and I was able to get this photo that shows how they came by the name.


Horned Lark


Late evening glow


Moki Dugway and Muley Point

The section of Hwy 261 that climbs up Cedar Mesa is called the Moki Dugway. It is a dirt/gravel road that switchbacks steeply up the side of the mesa. Right at the top of the mesa a dirt road to the left leads out to Muley Point at the southern tip of Cedar Mesa.


Starting up the Moki Dugway


Looking back down on switchbacks


There are a few overlooks along the road to Muley Point.


Looking south to Monument Valley


The dirt road that is visible below the mesa is Johns Canyon Road.


Looking down into the San Juan River canyon



From Muley Point, a little bit of the San Juan River is visible in the center of photo


Looking north along the western side of Cedar Mesa, Johns Canyon Road continues along the mesa. It is a tiny speck, but there is a grader on the road in about the center of the photo. I was thinking of driving out the road. After seeing the grader out there, I figured if he could make it then I can too!


Looking north along the west side of Cedar Mesa


Monument Valley

A visit to Monument Valley was high on my to do list while here. The valley straddles the Utah/Arizona state line and is a part of the Navajo Nation. Visitors may drive the 17-mile road around the valley, or there are guided tours available. Access to some areas is only open to the guided tours.

As one approaches the valley from the north along Hwy 163, there are numerous scenic pull offs. One of the first is at the place where the scene in Forrest Gump was filmed when he ended his cross country run, as the sign says…


Sign at a scenic overlook approaching Monument Valley


This scene is in the Forrest Gump movie.


The buttes and mesas of the valley are the iconic western landscape. John Ford was the first to shoot a movie here in 1939 – Stagecoach starring John Wayne. He filmed several more westerns here.


Along the drive around the valley


Large areas of the valley were covered with purple phacelia


The flowers were gorgeous!


The Three Sisters


Perhaps the best known formations are the West and East Mitten Buttes.


West and East Mitten Buttes


More to come on the rest of my stay here in Utah.

7 Comments on “Exploring Mexican Hat, UT Area

  1. Wonderful photos Debra. We have been to Monument Valley and Mexican Hat area, but have not spent nearly enough time in southern Utah. When we went through late April it was raining and cold except for a few days in Kanab.

    Also loved your accounting if Canyon de Chelly. I just read a book, Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert by Erica Elliot…a kindle book. A memoir about her time as a school teacher at the Chinle boarding school in early 70s. Some amazing stories. She also became a sheep herder for two elderly Navahos for a summer before joining the peace Corp and going to the Andes for two years before eventually becoming a doctor. An interesting woman!


    • Thanks Martha! Yes, the rain has been something this spring. The consolation is the desert is beautiful and it should be a great year for wildflowers. There is so much to see in southern Utah, I’m looking forward to returning.

      The memoir sounds very interesting, I’ll have to see about getting it. Hope your travels are going well.


  2. I love this area in southern Utah. We’ve camped a few times at Goosenecks SP and have driven the loop through Valley of the Gods and up the Moki Dugway. Thanks for taking me back!


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