Continental US, USA

Utah 2018 Day 2 – Monument Valley

Day 2 in Utah, it became a daily routine of wake up, quick breakfast, then to the BLM Kanab Visitor Center for The Wave walk-in lottery. What was different today was that we checked out of the hotel since we’ll be heading straight to Monument Valley right after the lottery. On our 3rd entry, we were assigned #2 out of a total of 48 apps (123 people). There were a total of 3 draws and one of the numbers called was #22 which was our number yesterday OMGGGGG WHYYYYY didn’t you call that yesterday instead? No luck 🙁

As soon as the lottery was over, we drove the 3 hours straight to Monument Valley. I have been wanting to visit Monument Valley since the last time we went to the Antelope Canyons in Page, Arizona but we didn’t have time to make it up there so I was super happy that we were able to make it there this time. As we were approaching Monument Valley on Route 163, this section of the road is so scenic!

We didn’t make a right turn into the Main Monument Valley Road but instead continued on Route 163 to the Forrest Gump Point. I read that the best timing to photograph Forrest Gump Point is at sunrise when the sun light up the rocks and completed covered in shadows in the afternoon. We got there at around 1 pm and it’s already covered in shadows 🙁

The infamous photo spot that is all over the internet, you’ll need to be there in the morning otherwise would look like this in right after noon!

The photo did not look as great so we decided to go back to the other direction where the other side of the rocks are lit up, even though, not the “going up” angle straight to the rocks, at least the red rocks instead of shadows.

With 4 of us: 2 road watchers of each traffic direction, 1 photographer, and 1 model and we rotate so the photos came out like this:

After some quick pics, we drove into the Main Monument Valley Road, paid our park fee of $20 per vehicle and then down to the Valley Road for the scenic 17-miles loop. It is a dirt and gravel road with many pot holes so you have to drive slow and carefully; the speed limit is 15 mph. There’s really no way to drive fast given the road condition. A word of caution…..many rental companies restricted driving on “off roads” or “unsurfaced” roads and this question has been asked and argued many times in forums on rather the Valley Road is considered “off roads” or not. The consequence of driving on “off roads” is that if you get into a car accident or damage to the rental car, driving “off roads” will void the contract. I couldn’t tell you the answer since fortunately, we made it fine with our SUV.

We also seen a lot of regular sedans on Valley Road so we were surprised as there were definitely some big pot holes and not the most comfortable ride. If you don’t want to take the chance, there are tours available that the local tour companies will drive you down there but make sure you have something to cover your nose and mouth…will show you what I mean later on this post.

You can’t get off the marked road except when you are on a local guided tour but there are some viewpoints that you can stop and get out to take beautiful photos. The map that you will be receiving at the entrance after paying the fee has all the viewpoints so make sure to plan enough time to visit them.

The first stop was the The Mittens and Merrick Butte where it has a big parking lot to park the car and walk out just a little bit to enjoy the view.

Amazing landscape and the contrast of the colors orange and blue.

Passing Elephant Butte but it was covered in shadow so we didn’t make a stop. We also skipped the Three Sisters since it was also covered in shadow.

Probably the most famous view point in Valley Road: John Ford’s Point. There were locals there selling handcrafts.

At John Ford’s Point, this is where the famous “The Man on the Horse” looking out the valley photo taken from. This guy was well prepared for the photos with his 70-200 mm lens. He made me felt lazy that I never bother to carry that giant on a trip hehe.

So with our 24-70 mm lens, this is at max zoom xD but it gave the perspective of how massive those rocks are! Look at that car traveling on the road!!!

You can also see the Three Sisters (those three peaks) and they were in shadows.

The horse was there but no “Man”. You can pay to get that photo or better yet, you on the horse 😉

Continued on our loop drive….

Next viewpoint was the Artist’s Point where it’s one of my favorites but too bad they put rails there. The vast plain with massive rocks strike up here and there, mother nature’s creations are incredible.

The last viewpoint before completing the loop and back on the road where we came from was the North Window.

I guess those two rocks created a “window” to see the rocks behind it??

The tours that I mentioned earlier, look at the open top vehicle….lots of dust flying around especially when a car from the opposite direction pass by, make sure you are not wearing white and have something to cover your nose and mouth!

We made the loop with stops in around 3 to 3.5 hours. We were there middle of November so the daylight was short and it was almost sunset. We got back up to the main road and stopped at the Wildcat Trail to get this photo:

Afterwards, we drove to The View Hotel reception to check in for our cabin and found out that the cabin check-ins are actually at The View Campground area right in front of where we were at – Wildcat Trail. We snapped some photos at the visitor’s center area before driving back to the campground area.

The check-in was quick and we drove to our cabin #4. The cabin is spacious with a sofa, a dining table, a kitchen, a bunk bed, private bathroom, and a bedroom that comfortably fit the 4 of us. The interior is very cozy. Those cabins can only be booked via their website and they do sell out! I booked our cabin on July 1st for our trip on Nov. 10th, remember we were there at the low season and it was $204 for the night.

The photo in the bedroom made me jealous of the clouds…I hardly have luck with the clouds but it would be a very clear sky for stargazing tonight!

The bunk beds right next to the bathroom, they really utilize the space of the cabin well.

The bathroom was clean and descent sized. It has a note on the wall to ask the guests to limit their shower time to 10? minutes? I don’t remember the exact minutes but it was enough time for me since I don’t take long showers anyways. For the boys though….it was tough for them LOL. They didn’t time us or anything, it was a respect to the environment since water is very precious in that area. Just be mindful of the water usage 🙂

The view from inside our cabin’s living room, awesome isn’t it?

The guys were all out snapping photos with their phone waiting for sunset at around 5:15 PM. Due to the angle of the sun at this time of the year and no clouds, the sunset was very harsh lighting. However right after the sun has set, the colors turned into this palettes of blue and pink hues! It was beautiful! It got very cold when the sun has set, it wasn’t that warm earlier but I was braving the cold for the photos…took off my jacket for a few seconds for photos haha.

I changed back to my sweater 😉

Our cabin’s deck…the cabins out there are the premium ones #18-29. I think cabins #1-9 has no cabins in front like ours so the front view is unobstructed.

Enjoying the sunset…

The colors after the sun has set were amazing.

It was hard to leave our cabin but we need to get dinner and then stargazing. The view of the Valley Road and the Mittens from the visitor’s center. The Valley Road closed at 4:30 PM during off season so the cars down there are probably locals.

We had our dinner at The View Restaurant and it was surprisingly reasonable priced and pretty good. Our main entree dish came with a free round to the salad and soup bar as well.

For appetizers, we ordered chips and wings; the chips were this huge plate that 4 of us couldn’t even finish so we took the leftovers back to our room as snacks later on.

The wings were just normal, nothing impressive or anything.

I ordered the “World Famous Green Chile Stew”, it was interesting and I like the spiced taste.

Jason ordered the Navajo Sampler which consisted a smaller cup of the
World Famous Green Chile Stew, two cups of other stews and a Navajo taco. Peter and Jeffrey both ordered fried chicken and not as crispy as they like.

The dinner for 4 of us with leftovers cost only $109 including tips, can’t believe it inside the park monopoly but still reasonably priced! After dinner, it was completely dark outside already and the sky was covered with stars, woah! We were super excited to get back to our cabin, dressed in layers, grabbed the tripod, and back out for night photos.

I checked the SkyView Free app for the location of the Milky Way and it was right above our cabin. We walked out of our cabin onto that empty dirt area to set up the tripod and took a photo. After a few minutes of being out at the dark, we can see the Milky Way with our naked eyes (not as obvious if you don’t know where to look so the app helps).

Not as bright as we were in New Zealand due to the light pollution from the cabins. Also the end of the year, only the tail-end of the Milky Way is visible during the night time hours since we are in the Northern Hemisphere. We did some fun photos looking up at it and trying to freeze our pose for 30 seconds…it was hard!

The Milky Way was actually facing the opposite side of the valley so my plan of the rocks underneath being the foreground subject was shattered. There were some smaller rocks outside the park but the direction was facing Route 163 and there were some traffic.

There are two big “disc” like rocks next to the parking lot of the visitor’s center where it is perfect to sit there to look at the stars….however not at the Milky Way direction. There were plenty of stars twinkling and it was magical. We tried more fun photos of holding our pose sitting on that rock, the rock was super cold and it was windier there…I tried not to shake. The lights from the parking lot made it extra challenging as with the 30 seconds exposure, the rock and the person would be overexposed. I had to go with the compose technique where one photo exposed to the sky and another photo exposed to the rock/person. Then, post-process to combine those two photos.

When I was postprocessing the photos, I was thinking I had to combine the sky anyways, why don’t I use the Milky Way photo of the opposite side to combine with? I tried and it came out really cool:

Peter had a cooler pose:

I finally visited Monument Valley and it lived up to its fame! Those rock formations are so incredible and the bright orange colors of the landscape contrasted with the bluest sky make beautiful photos. It was totally worth it for an overnight stay.

6 thoughts on “Utah 2018 Day 2 – Monument Valley

  1. 20 per car that is a big increase.

    I did the mystery valley off road tour in a 4wheel drive car .30usd off were great lots of arches and some indian ruins..The indians had a bit of a monopoly scam on the tours my last visit.

    Some nice colors at sunset.

    Nice to see some blue skies in your pics.

  2. Rainbow mountains in Zhangye china is quite impressive.Access by bullet train now.

    Looks like a heavy rainfall followed by a clear sunny day is needed for bettter photos.

  3. I have not been there.I am waiting for some more bullet trains to provide better access to some China areas.

    Chengdu area -south .Dunhuang,Majishan.Possibly the avatar location..Yangshuo area and Rainbow mountains are on the list.

    I would not do rainbow mountains as a day trip.Chech out some pics and videos.

    1. I think the avatar location is pretty accessible, you can fly to Tongren then you can visit both the ancient town of Feng Huang and to Zhangjiajie 🙂

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