Many visitors come to Utah with the express purpose of seeing only the National and State Parks; and that's a great thing. However, don't limit yourself; give yourself time to drive leisurely throughout the state and prepare to be blown away quicker than standing in front of a wind machine at any concert.
My version of "Utah Rocks", for this post, will be focusing on the southern end of Route 191 and Route 163 through Monument Valley. Looking at the map, follow the green highlighted road.
As you can see from the above map, there is loads to see in this lower section of San Juan County. Route 191 and Route 163 do a bit of a "twist and shout" dance about 10 miles outside of Bluff, heading south. The first area you'll drive through as you leave Bluff is Comb Ridge.
Comb Ridge extends north to south for 80 miles; the northern tip merging with the Abajo Mountains, over the San Juan River, and into Arizona. It was designated a National Monument in 1976; is named due to the indentations of the walls resemble the teeth of a comb; and is home to ruins of the ancient Puebloans. Route 163 was created by blasting out a portion of the Ridge, making travel easier to and from Monument Valley. We've hiked a small portion and can't seem to get tired of any of it...the walking nor the sites.
You've got a choice here, you can keep on heading down Route 163 through Mexican Hat and finally into Monument Valley; or make the turn onto Route 191, down to Arizona, go towards Kayenta and back up to Monument Valley. It's a "rock" star loop whichever way you decide to take; for this post, it's down Route 191 to get a better viewing of Boundary Butte.
Boundary Butte is a volcanic plug, similar to Agathla Peak in Monument Valley or Shiprock in New Mexico. It was formed when magma hardened inside the vent of an active volcano; further weathering helped to form its "fin" like structure.
At the end of Route 191, and you've been in Arizona for a bit now, make a left onto Route 160 West towards Kayenta and then a right onto Route 163 North. In about twenty minutes, Monument Valley will be coming into view; a huge hint is Agathla Peak and directly across from it is The Owl.
Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park; they charge their own fees, so National Park Passes are not accepted; going on a guided tour is HIGHLY recommended. Now every once in a while I get asked, "Hey, do know of any back roads I can use to sneak into Monument Valley, and not pay the fee?" My answer to that is, "You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you?" The fee was increased April 2014 to $10 per person, or $20 per car load; the price on tours is dependent on which tour group you use. Pay the fee! Don't sneak onto the land and get shot! Driving along Route 163, you will see much of Monument Valley's spectacular formations, including The Mittens and Merrick Butte.
Coming up from the south (Arizona) towards Utah.
|The Mittens, viewed from Arizona Route 163.
|Castle Rock, King on His Throne, Brigham's Tomb
|Setting Hen and Sleeping Bear
|Three Sisters seen in the distance