Up and over, through and around: the 17-mile unpaved road (County Rd 242) that leads through Valley of the Gods is like a do-it-yourself roller coaster amid some mind-blowing scenery. In other states, this incredible butte-filled valley would be a national park, but such are the riches of Utah that here it is merely a BLM-administered area. Locals call it 'mini–Monument Valley.'
The field office in Monticello puts out a BLM pamphlet, available online, identifying a few of the sandstone monoliths and pinnacles, including Seven Sailors, Lady on a Tub and Rooster Butte.
Free, dispersed camping among the rock giants is a dramatic – if shadeless – prospect. In such an isolated, uninhabited place, the night sky is incredible. Or stay in a secluded refuge at Valley of the Gods B&B, a 1930s homestead with giant beam-and-post ceilings, stone showers and off-the-grid charm. Homemade breakfasts are monumental and the owners are happy to share hiking and travel tips. It's 6.5 miles north of Hwy 163. Water is trucked in, biofuels are used and solar power is harnessed out of necessity (leave your hair dryer at home).
A high-clearance vehicle is advised for driving the Valley of the Gods. A rental car can make it on a very dry day, but don't go without a 4WD if it has rained recently. Allow an hour for the 17-mile loop connecting Hwys 261 and 163. The nearest services are in Mexican Hat, 7 miles southwest of the Hwy 163 turnoff.