Friday, September 13, 2019

16 Room Cliff House Travel Guide.

16 Room House, aka 15 or 17 Room House (disagreement among archaeologists on the correct number of rooms in the pueblo), is an Anasazi cliff dwelling stretching across a massive alcove.  Windows within the rooms look down upon land that may have been used for farming, and the San Juan River.  Pictographs on the walls contain a large number of hand prints.

·         Location from Monticello is 107 miles using CR 441 route, or 111.1 miles using CR 438 route. Travel 58.1 miles along Hwy 191 (make a left turn at the junction of Hwy 191/163 to continue on Hwy 191).  This area is Navajo Reservation land, please remember to stay on designated roads and do not trespass onto private lands. There are two ways to get to 16 Room House, County Road 441 (maintained dirt/gravel road) for 6.9 miles to the junction of County Road 438, then 4.8 miles along CR 438 (maintained dirt/gravel road this section only) to the ruin site.  Or continue down Hwy 191 for three (3) additional miles to County Road 438 which is paved for eight (8) miles before the junction with CR 441, then continue the 4.8 miles to the ruin site.

This altered map is from an original from

·         Admission: Free

·         Difficulty: Trail up to ruin site is extremely steep and narrow before a narrow ledge to enter the various rooms along the alcove.

·         Camping: Not Allowed

·         Pets: Not Allowed

·         Facilities: None, nearest town (Bluff) is 25.1 miles.

We spent several hours exploring the ruins and taking the short trail down to the San Juan River.

Mary Cokenour 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Monument Valley At Any Time.

Monument Valley , for the majority of residents, and visitors to the area, is an awe inspiring destination; one of those "must experience" places.  It's span is over two states: Arizona and Utah; in Utah, it is part of the largest county in the state, San Juan.

During the spring and fall equinox, the shadow of one Mitten forms atop the second Mitten.  It's a big deal and hundreds flock to the Valley to witness the event.  Yes, even Roy and I have done it; along with a couple of friends, and it's really like a party atmosphere.  Then we ride over to Goulding's Lodge, and the Stagecoach Dining Room, for a great meal.

The photos I'll be sharing were taken during the day and at sunset; sunny sky to cloudy.  One photo of Eagle Rock-Eagle Mesa even has the hint of a rainbow after a short rain storm.  While many of the monuments can be seen from Hwy. 163, I do advise to not be cheap.  Either go into the Tribal Park itself and find a tour guide; or go to Goulding's Lodge and sign up for one of their 3 hour, or all day, tours.  This way you will see monuments up close and personal that are not seen from the highway, ruins, rock art, and the way the Navajo people live in this area.

Sort of funny story time:  I was working at the local visitor center and a woman from Belgium came in.  She had visited Monument Valley and was quite disappointed.  Why, you wonder?  She had seen the Johnny Depp movie, The Lone Ranger, which had much of it filmed within Monument Valley.  Here she was, on vacation, and nowhere could she see, "Where the Indians really lived".  She complained that there were "real houses" down in the Valley, "Where were the teepees!?!"  The people wore clothing like any other person, "Why weren't they in real Indian clothes; the men wearing loin cloths!?!"

I explained that the film was geared towards the late 19th century (1880s) to early 20th century.  The Native Americans were just like anyone else...people.  They lived in houses like anyone else; wore clothing like anyone else; they were like...anyone else.  Unfortunately this didn't make her any happier as now she felt that she had watched a movie that, sort of, lied to her about the southwest.  So there you have it folks, the USA, or parts of it, is perceived dependent on the film created by Hollywood.

When you go to Monument Valley, visit the museum at the Tribal Park's visitor center to get a true history lesson.  Better yet, go on one of the tours led by residents of Monument Valley; get an up close and personal history lesson about the Navajo culture.

Oh, speaking of films, I am including a film that I took as we traveled to and through the Valley.  Originally it was 13 minutes long, but hubby, who owns Desert Stone Studio , was able to cut it down to a more manageable length of time for viewing pleasure.  Basically you'll get a gist of what you'll be seeing as you make the drive along Highway 163.

Enjoy the journey!

Mary Cokenour

Monument Valley Photographs

Eagle Rock - Eagle Mesa, rainbow after rain storm

Eagle Rock - Eagle Mesa

The Mittens and Merrick Butte - As Sunset Progresses Over a 10 Minute Span

Sentinel Mesa and Big Indian Butte
 View from Goulding's Lodge

Agathla Peak - Arizona side of Monument Valley, along Hwy. 163
Video - Monument Valley Via Hwy. 163

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Recapture Pocket, or San Juan County's Hoodoo Park, Travel Guide.

Recapture Pocket is an area of badlands near Bluff, Utah; like Goblin Valley, it is a sand filled landscape with hoodoos of all shapes and sizes.

·        Location is 54.1 miles from Monticello; travel 45.9 miles along Hwy 191 to the junction of Hwy 162 in Bluff (Cow Canyon Trading Post on SE corner).  Start at the Trading Post to be able to get to the 4.9 mile mark, not at the sign that says “Mile 0”.  The road to make a left on has 2 names when looking at an area map (CR 2401 and CR 217), there will be a yellow “cow sign” with a “cattle crossing” sign underneath it, make the immediate left.  If a 2nd cow and cattle crossing sign are passed, you have gone too far.  After the initial left turn, there will be a split 9/10ths of a mile in, take the left hand split and go 4/10ths of a mile.  Make a right turn onto CR 249 (Bluff Bench); another split will be reached at 7/10ths of a mile, go left again.  Hoodoos (unusual sandstone formations) will be seen, but it will be 1.3 miles before Recapture Pocket itself is reached.

·         Admission: Free

·         Difficulty: Hiking – Easy; Vehicle: This area is completely desert terrain; 4-wheel drive vehicles will need high clearance due to deep dips on sandy trails and some travel over rocky ground.

·         Camping: Yes; pack out what is packed in.

·         Facilities: None; nearest town (Bluff) is 8.2 miles.

·         Pets: Allowed, owners are expected to clean up after pet (s).

·         Caution: Flash flooding will occur over roads during long and/or torrential rainstorms; once water recedes, sandy trails will be extremely muddy.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, September 9, 2019

Pioneer's Travel Guide to River House Ruin.

River House Ruin/Rincone Trading Post/San Juan Hill Via the Pioneer Trail

River House Ruin is located near the San Juan River on the west side of Comb Ridge. The ruin has multiple one and two story rooms, granaries, a kiva, petroglyphs and pictographs.  

Location from Monticello is 58.6 miles; travel 50.7 miles south along Hwy 191, continue on Hwy 163 for 3.1 miles which goes through the Comb Ridge pass.  ¼ of a mile, make the first left onto County Road 2351.

CR 2351 is part of the Hole in the Rock Pioneer Trail and the attempt to find a way over the Comb Ridge.  The entire trail is mainly sand, crossing into and out of several dry washes, and climbing several steep hills for almost four miles.  There are green wooden posts with a covered wagon painted on to mark the trail.

The first informational board is a short history of this section of the pioneer trail; the second will tell which way to go when encountering the first fork in the road; go left and follow the curve around the bushes.  4/10ths of a mile down is Navajo Spring; the pioneers sent out scouts to see if this was a viable way up and over Comb Ridge.  

4 miles is another divide in the trail; the one to the right leads down to the San Juan River and ends.  The trail left turns into pure stone; a series of uneven "steps" upward that leads to the San Juan Hill, Rincone Trading Post and River House Ruins trails.

Total Mileage: 4 miles to the trailheads for River House Ruin, Rincone Trading Post and San Juan Hill.

Total Mileage to River House Ruin is 4 miles.   

Difficulty: Easy for Hiking; Vehicle: 4-wheel drive with high clearance is a must; independent 4-wheel suspension is suggested for the uneven “steps” leading to the trailheads. 

Admission: Free

Camping: Allowed; pack out what has been packed in.

Pets: Allowed; owners are expected to clean up after pet (s).

Facilities: None; nearest town (Bluff) is 12.4 miles.

Rincone Trading Post was established in 1880 by William Hyde, he later partnered up with the Bartons.  Read the interesting history pertaining to the Rincone in the book, Comb Ridge and its People, by Robert S. McPherson.

Location is two (2) miles along the trail to River House Ruin.

San Juan Hill is the location the pioneers finally chose to move their wagon train upward and over the Comb Ridge.  Wagon wheel tracks and chiseled foot holds for animals can still be seen on this very steep, rocky trail.

Location of trailhead is 1.5 miles along trail to River House Ruin.

Bring lots of water, snacks and a picnic; this is an all day excursion and worth every moment.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Natural Bridges National Monument Travel Guide.

Declared a National Monument in 1908, there are three (3) naturally made bridges (often referred to as arches) & a ruin site. The bridges are named "Kachina," "Owachomo" and "Sipapu" in honor of the Native Americans that once made this area their home.  Horse Collar Ruin is one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan sites in the area and was named after two structures with doorways that resemble horse collars.




·        Location is 24.6 miles south from Monticello & through Blanding (make left at traffic signal to continue on Hwy 191), 30.2 miles west along State Hwy 95 to UT-275 turn off for Natural Bridges; 6.7 miles to monument entrance. (total mileage = 61.5 miles from Monticello).

·        All bridges and the ruin site have overlooks via a concrete pathway, minimum time is one (1) hour to see all from the overlooks.  Visitors can hike to Horse Collar Ruin, but should respect heritage and policy by not touching or entering the ruins. 

Horse Collar Ruin

·        The Monument is open 24/7, year round; the Visitor Center is open year round, Mon – Sun, 9am-5pm (except Thanksgiving Day, December 25th & January 1st); restrooms & drinking fountain at Visitor Center only.

·        Admission: Yes (credit card preferred). Admission to Natural Bridges National Monument is  valid for seven days. Annual & Lifetime passes can be purchased & used.

·         Camping – 13 sites; first come/first serve only; no water available.

·        Pets only allowed in parking areas, paved roadway, and camp sites.  They must be leashed and are not allowed on trails or in the visitor center.  Owners are expected to pick up after their pet(s).

·      Website:

·        Phone: (435) 692-1234 Ext. 16

Those with walking restrictions, or using a wheelchair, can still enjoy this National Monument.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Monument Valley Travel Guide.

 Monument Valley 

Monument Valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 ft., framed by scenic clouds casting shadows that graciously roam the desert floor. The angle of the sun accents these graceful formations, providing scenery that is simply spellbinding.  The landscape overwhelms, not just by its beauty but also by its size. Miles of mesas and buttes, shrubs, trees, and windblown sand, all comprising the magnificent colors of the valley, surround the fragile pinnacles of rock. All of this harmoniously combines to make Monument Valley a truly wondrous experience.

·        Location from Monticello is 91.6 miles along Hwy 191 which changes to Hwy 163 after leaving the Bluff area.  At the crossroads within Monument Valley, make a left to access the Tribal Park; it is 5.8 miles to the Visitor Center.  

Gouldings Lodge is a right hand turn at the crossroads; featuring lodging, campground, John Wayne Museum, Gouldings Home/Trading Post Museum/Stagecoach Dining Room/Tours and much more.

Monument Valley Tribal Park


Per Vehicle Pass: $20 per non-commercial vehicle up to 4 people ($6 each additional passenger)

Per Individual Pass: $10 per walk-in, bicycle, or motorcycle

Commercial Pass: (based on capacity of vehicle)
1-4 Passengers: $35 (additional $6 each)
5-15 Passengers: $100
15-25 Passengers: $125
26+ Passengers: $300

*General Admission Passes do not include Backcountry Permits. If you wish to hike and/or camp beyond the park, you must purchase a permit before entering. Backcountry Permits are for hiking and camping on designated trails and campgrounds. If you are caught hiking or camping without a Backcountry Permit, or in unauthorized territory, additional fees will apply.

Visitor Center Hours of Operation

April 1 – September 30 (Peak Season): 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., 7 days a week
October 1 – March 30 (Off Season): 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days a week
CLOSED: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

*Navajo Nation honors Daylight Savings Time, DST

Please abide by all Navajo Nation Laws

All areas on the Navajo Nation are closed to non-Navajos unless you have a valid pass or permit issued by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department or other delegated tribal authority. Failure to have a permit is considered trespassing on a Federal Indian Reservation.

DO NOT desecrate Navajo lands and violate the trust of the Navajo people by discarding cremated human remains on tribal lands. Please respect our tribal beliefs.

NO ROCK CLIMBING on Navajo Land. Please abide by the humble religious requests of the Navajo people and do not climb the Monuments. “Navajo law will be strictly enforced on this issue,” Parks Department Manager. 


Our Mission is to protect, preserve and manage tribal parks, monuments and recreation areas for the perpetual enjoyment and benefit of the Navajo Nation – the spectacular landscapes, buttes, canyons, clean air, diversity of plants and wildlife, and areas of beauty and solitude.

Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation

Land Department/Parks & Recreation
48 West Taylor Rd., Bldg. #8966, Hwy 264
St. Michaels, Arizona 86515

Phone: (928) 871-6647

Monument Valley is the mecca for Hollywood films, commercials, television series scenes.  Once you experience this wondrous area of the 4 Corners region, you will never forget it.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, September 6, 2019

Valley of the Gods Travel Guide.

Valley of the Gods is often referred to as a “miniature version of Monument Valley”, this area has a collection of formations, arches & ruin sites

          Location is 68.1 miles from Monticello; travel 50.7 miles along Hwy 191 until it changes to Hwy 163 west of Bluff, travel for 12.4 miles and make a right onto Valley of the Gods Rd (there will be an indication sign), travel 1.3 miles and turn left to continue.

          The road through Valley of the Gods is a 17 mile graded gravel & clay road; accessible to any type of passenger vehicle; it is best for car travel only during dry conditions. 

          Open year round.  Estimated time to visit: 2-4 hours.

          Admission: Free

          Camping: several camp sites along route, free, first come/first serve, NO campfires allowed.

          The Valley of the Gods Bed & Breakfast is located near the Route 261 access/exit.

          Pets - must be leashed at all times, owners are expected to pick up after their pet(s).

          Website:  BLM – Monticello Field Office is located at 365 North Main (Hwy 191), Monticello

          Phone: (435) 587-1500

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Pair of Ears to an Upside Down Sombrero.

One of the most popular routes to travel in San Juan County is Route 261.  It can easily be accessed from State Highway 95, and you'll be on it for various reasons.  There are all the ruin sites at Butler Wash and Mule Canyon, Comb Ridge, Natural Bridges National Monument.  The one that everyone wants to see nowadays is Bears Ears which has been getting a lot of hoopla for the past few years.

Have to admit, at first I was for the proposed National Monument; I wanted to see more businesses develop, more housing, employment opportunities for all.  However, I sort of went against it due to those, who didn't even live in San Juan County, trying to establish rules and regulations for the local residents.  All the verbal fighting, busing in of protestors for and against, and they didn't even know what it was they were protesting about.

What really put a sour taste in my mouth is, being an informational guide, being challenged on my opinion of the National Monument.  At that point I developed the "I don't care" stance.  Asked whether I was for or against, my response was "I don't care", and stopped the conversation right then and there!  Having polite discussion is one thing; attacking someone immediately on their opinion, before it's even stated, and the attacker doesn't even know why they're doing it...yeah, not polite at all.

So, if you're needing to see the Bears Ears themselves, here is how to find them.  Once on SH 95, keep on driving west until you see the sign that says, "Natural Bridges/Bears Ears", make a right onto the roadway.  It splits, left will take you to Natural Bridges; keep on going straight and up the side of the mesa you will go.  Yes, left hand is paved.  No, up the mesa way is unpaved; and if it's wet, especially after heavy rain and/or snow, chances are you will get stuck.  This way will take you up to the Ears themselves, drive through them, and into the Manti-Lasal National Forest you will go.  Now, do they look like ears when you're this close to them, nope, nada, nyet, nein; just two buttes with no similarity in shape.

Now back to where I first started this write up, Route 261.  Once you see the sign for it, make a left hand turn, and this roadway is paved until you reach the junction for Muley Point or the Moki Dugway.  But wait, don't keep driving all the way yet!  Once you're on 261, go about 3 miles, pull over, stop the vehicle and get out; be careful of any other vehicles on the road.  Now look back from where you came from, yes, I need to add this, look towards SH 95.  Now you will see and understand why the Bears Ears are called the Bears Ears; imagination is a plus.

The Bears Ears, looking northward from Route 261.
 No imagination?  Outlined in photo, do you see it now?
The Bears Ears, outlined ears, eyes and nose of the bear.
In the book, Utah's Canyon Country Place Names, Vol. 1, by Steve Allen, page 43 has references to the origins of the Bears Ears name.  Shasha'a is Navajo and dates back to around 1620; Kwiya-gat Nügavat is Ute (no date listed), and in the 1700s, the Spanish explorers called them Las Orejas del Oso.  While all mean, in some form, Bears Ears, there was no story listed behind the name; let's presume then it's due to the ears and face seen from Route 261.

Back in the vehicle, start driving again; you'll be going through the Grand Gluch/Cedar Mesa area which allows camping and hiking.  Stop at the BLM office in Monticello to get information and permits, or at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station located on Route 261 itself.

Eventually you'll see, on the right, a sign for Muley Point; 3.4 mile gravel, yes gravel, road (7.4 miles round trip) which ends at slickrock ledges overlooking the walls of the Goosenecks, a trail into Johns Canyon, and a view of Monument Valley in the distance.

Once you're back to 261, head on down the Moki Dugway and have a most awesome ride down the side of the Cedar Mesa.

My hubby, Roy, doing some videography work of the Moki Dugway.

Just taking a break, watching hubby do his video thing.  Many times I have been asked to be an actual tour guide, but wherever I was working at the time wouldn't let me...liability insurance thing.  I may not be with you in person, but I know my travel guide will get you to where you want to go.
 (Disclaimer needed:  Yes, I own this travel guide.  No agency, business or any other person owns it.)

Enough boring stuff.  We always enjoy riding down the Moki, as both of us can see the views of the Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley.  Riding upward is kind of lame, well for us, as the passenger is usually staring at the red rock walls, while the driver is too busy looking upwards at the road.  Hey, but at least we tried both ways to see which we enjoyed most; so please do that as well.

Once down, you can take the 17 mile, one way, dirt/gravel (no, it's not paved) road through the Valley of the Gods, or continue onto pavement to Goosenecks State Park

Valley of the Gods
Once off 261, you'll be on Hwy. 163; left will take you up to Bluff, right will take you past Mexican Hat Rock, into the tiny town of Mexican Hat, across the San Juan River and towards Monument Valley.

By the way, I'm often asked the best time of day to be in a certain place.  Answer is, anytime!  Sunrise, morning, midday, sunset, even during the night when the stars are shining brightly (hopefully you're camping or outside somewhere to enjoy them).  Alright, darkness of night might not be the best time for sightseeing, but what I'm trying to get clear is, "Don't limit yourself!"

Here is Mexican Hat Rock at sunset and it's so intense!

The Great Serpent

Toad Stools along a ridge.

Continuing on towards Monument Valley, you'll pass by Alhambra Rock.  

Alhambra Rock
Oh, and now let's get calm here; yes, Monument Valley is an exciting, scenic place.  Yes, it was featured in the movie Forrest Gump, but you're on a major thoroughfare going through, it's a highway!  Pull over in designated parking areas, there is a ton of them all along the highway.  Don't stand, or lay down, in the center of the highway....this makes you a speed bump!  The speed limit is between 55 to 65 miles/hour; you are a traffic hazard if you suddenly stop and jump out of your vehicle to take photos.  

*sigh*  I can only give a warning, but can't make anyone heed it, if they wish not to.  Please don't leave your brains at the state border line, be smart and be careful on your journey.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Moki Dugway Travel Guide

"Moki" is a local term for the ancient Puebloan people who inhabited the Colorado Plateau hundreds of years ago. "Dugway" is a term used to describe a roadway carved from a hillside.  The Moki Dugway is a 3-mile road of switchbacks and pull-off areas, carved from the cliff face and talus slope on the edge of Cedar Mesa. This route was originally constructed for trucks hauling uranium from the Happy Jack Mine on Utah Highway 95, to connect with US Highway 163 and continue on to the Millsite in Monument Valley.  Descending the Dugway at an 11% grade, Valley of the Gods is revealed below and Monument Valley seen in the distance.

  •  Location #1: The entrance is 69.1 miles southwest of Monticello. Travel 24.6 miles south on Hwy 191, through Blanding, to State Hwy 95, make a right onto 95; travel 28.4 miles to the start of UT Hwy 261-S. Make a left onto 261, travel 16.1 miles to the downward start of the Moki Dugway.
  •  Location #2: The entrance is 83.8 miles south of Monticello.  Travel 50.7 miles south on Hwy 191, through Blanding and Bluff; continue south on US Hwy 163 for 16.6 miles.  Make a right turn onto UT Hwy 261, travel 16.6 miles to the upward start of the Moki Dugway.

  • Travel Time: 1 hour for the entire length of Utah Highway 261.

  • Difficulty: Easy, this is a maintained dirt/gravel roadway accessible by passenger car/van/4-wheel drive/mountain bikes/motorcycles/dirt bikes.

  • Hiking: Caution recommended due to vehicular travelers.

  • RVs/Large Trucks and Semis/Towing of Trailers NOT allowed due to overhangs, sharp turns, switchbacks and blind corners

  •  Admission: Free

  •  Facilities – None; nearest town is Mexican Hat (10.6 miles south) or Bluff (27.6 miles north).

  • Camping – Not Allowed

  •  Pets – Must remain in vehicles

Personally, we enjoy going down the Moki Dugway as both driver and passengers can get access to the views.  Coming up, passengers tend to get a view of the rock walls, while the driver is constantly looking upward at the roadway.  

Mary Cokenour 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Muley Point Travel Guide.

Muley Point is at the southern edge of Cedar Mesa; the name Muley means "hornless" in reference to cattle or deer.  Monument Valley is visible in the distance (south) while the San Juan River cuts into the canyon below.  Johns Canyon Road is accessible from Muley Point; the trail can be seen curving around a mesa to the right of the San Juan River.  This mesa is part of The Cutler; a rock unit that is spread across the U.S. states of Arizona, northwest New Mexico, southeast Utah and southwest Colorado. In Arizona and Utah, it is called the Cutler Group; however, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) name is Cutler Formation; Cedar Mesa (Utah) and Canyon de Chelly (Arizona) are part of this unit as well.  Muley Point is considered part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and overseen by the National Park Service.

·         Location is 79.8 miles from Monticello; travel 24.6 miles south along Hwy 191, through Blanding, to the junction of State Hwy 95.  Make a right onto 95, travel 28.4 miles to UT Hwy 261 south; make a left onto 261.  Travel 23.1 miles, a sign on the right will indicate the road to Muley Point; 3.7 miles ends at slickrock ledge area.

·         Admission: Free

·         Difficulty: Hiking – Easy, ledges are slickrock, so will be slippery w/rain & snowfall.

·         Facilities: None; pick up all necessities and gasoline before leaving Blanding.

·         Camping: Allowed; all trash and waste must be packed out.

·         Fires: Allowed, but do NOT create a fire ring, instead use a self-contained fire pan. Dead and downed wood is scarce, so bring your own wood. Cutting living trees, and other plants, for firewood is not permitted.

·         Pets: Allowed; KEEP leashes on, no longer than six feet. All pet waste must be carried out, and disposed of properly.

·         Do not build rock cairns. They can mislead other visitors and cause resource damage to build. Rely on map and compass to know your route. There are NO maintained trails.

·         Do not feed wildlife. Food and trash should be stored in a manner impervious to entry by birds and other wildlife. Pack out all trash.

·         Preserve the Soundscape: Sound carries farther than you think in canyon country. Respect other visitors by keeping your group quiet and not playing amplified music. If you must have music in the backcountry, wear headphones.

·         No Drones: The use of drone aircraft in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and every National Park Service site is illegal. Check website for more details about this law.

 We have sat on the slickrock ledges, eaten a picnic lunch, and simply enjoyed the scenery.  Try it, you might just be amazed at how easily the stress of the world melts away.

Mary Cokenour