As Rob and I got in late the night before, we didn’t get to check out the amazing view from Goosenecks State Park until the morning. You drive in and it looks like nothing, but once you enter the park, there’s a great view of two river bends, goosenecks, that the San Juan River makes. There are a number of unofficial campsites beyond the designated eight if you keep driving along the rim road.
Leaving the park, the next stop was Mexican Hat to check out the rock formation and the free BLM land camping we had passed up. The rock was neat but the free camping was pretty much just a parking lot off a dirt road with no privacy – not great for tent camping.
Monument Valley was our major destination for the day followed by Natural Bridges National Monument. We drove south and crossed into Arizona onto Navajo land to go the the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
When we drove up to pay the fee, it turned out the park was closed for two days. It seemed like everyone was going in anyway, so we followed the crowd and drove through the park. Everything was actually open except the fee collection and the restaurant- the souvenir shop, the people at the pull offs selling things and tours, all open.
Our next Utah experience was surprisingly the drive to Natural Bridges National Monument. I had seen a sign the day before the mentioned RVs and trailers not recommended on a section of the road. After looking at the map zoomed in, it became clear why.
We drove toward a steep wall and then the road became gravel, under construction, steep and narrow for 6 miles as we switch-backed up a rock face. Later, I found out this section of road is known as the Moki Dugway.
At Natural Bridges National Monument, there are three noteworthy natural bridges, which differ from arches as they are formed when a river erodes the neck of the gooseneck bypassing the bend and creating a natural bridge. Arches are formed by freeze thaw linked erosion. We hiked to all three natural bridges then headed on to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.
The free camping at Newspaper Rock was closed and amazingly all of the BLM designated free campsites were full on this random Thursday night. Luckily we were able to fall back to a nice boondocking site along a road to a cheap (but not free) BLM campground called Hamburger Rock.
The next morning we got up ready to do some actual hiking. We were limited on starting points by not having a 4×4 but we were still able to get to the trailhead for the Joint Trail and Druid Arch. Our goal was to combine them into one long day hike, which we did by doing the Joint trail segment out and back to save distance/time. Both the Joint Trail and Druid Arch are amazing and shouldn’t be missed on a visit.
After hiking, we cooked up some curry ramen at the Ranger Station while we waited for the Night Sky Program to begin. Canyonlands is a designated dark sky park and ranger had a fancy telescope to look at some different star clusters and nebula. He also showed us how to find a teapot who’s “steam” is the milky way. Camping was again off the same road but a different site as the one we had used was already taken.