Valley of the Gods: the secret gem

Valley of the Gods: the secret gem

This the third and last post of the series about three valleys in Utah. Read my previous posts about Monument Valley and Mystery Valley.

While you most likely have heard of or even been to Monument Valley, there is a pretty decent chance that you do not know anything about the Valley of the Gods. I only learned about the valley a few days before leaving on my trip to the Southwest and I quickly added it to our itinerary.

The best way to describe the Valley of the Gods it as a smaller, quieter, more remote Monument Valley. It is not a park, it is maintained by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and as such it does not figure on many guides or maps. There is no entrance fee.

Setting Hen | Setting Hen Butte - Valley of the Gods, UT

Setting Hen Butte – Valley of the Gods, UT

The Valley has rock formations similar to Monument Valley, but at a more advanced stage, meaning that they are smaller and often thinner. It is therefore a little less majestic, and a lot less crowded. We visited in the morning, but not so early, and we saw less than 5 cars along the road.


There is a single unpaved road going around the valley. The road is in much better condition than the one in Monument Valley, so you do not have to worry about your car at all. The road was built to go around most of the interesting features of the Valley of the Gods, so it is very easy to see everything.

Valley of the Gods is in Utah, about 30 miles (50 km) north of Monument Valley. There are two entrances to the Valley: the eastern entrance is on U.S. route 163, about 12.4 miles (20 km) west of highway 191 (Bluff). The western entrance is on Highway 261, about 6.4 miles north of U.S. route 163. Have a look at the map below to see all the features and the entrances.

Seven Sailors | Seven Sailors Butte - Valley of the Gods, UT

Seven Sailors Butte – Valley of the Gods, UT

A few tips

I would strongly recommend to be there for sunrise, to take advantage of the golden light on the red rocks. Sunset would also be very interesting, but some formations may already be in the shade.

As surprising as it might be, there are trees in some parts of the valley, along a little stream. In the fall they take beautiful yellow colors and they provide a great foreground to the rock formations. Plants and small rocks can provide interesting foreground as well.

A polarizer is pretty handy in the middle of the day to capture the washed out colors of the rocks. Just mind the effect it can have on the sky!

These buttes are rather big but it does not always show well in pictures. Including other elements will help define the scale for the viewer.

Vertical compositions work well in the Valley of the Gods, but try to vary a little. Include a nearby butte and one further away to add depth to your composition.

Castle I | Castle Butte - Valley of the Gods, UT

Castle Butte – Valley of the Gods, UT

Moki Dugway

I included the Moki Dugway in this post because it is right next to the Valley of the Gods. When you drive north on Highway 261, you will encounter some interesting switchbacks right after passing the western entrance to the Valley. They are called the Moki Dugway and allow the road to climb a series of cliffs to reach the plateau. For some reason, the road stops being paved at the bottom of the switchbacks and the pavement reappears at the top. Fortunately the road is well maintained so your car will be fine.

The American Exception | Moki Dugway - State Route 261, UT

The American Exception | Moki Dugway – State Route 261, UT

I honestly had a better time in Valley of the Gods than Monument Valley, because it is a lot less commercial. It was a surprise to me and I wish I had better planned my trip to spend more time in Valley of the Gods.

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