Utah's Monument Corner Region
The southeast corner of Utah is canyon country, but it's pinnacle, butte and mesa country too. If you don't know the difference between those landforms, it's time for a field trip. Monument Valley is world-famous for it’s De Chelly sandstone buttes that refuse to erode. The pinnacles of Valley of the Gods are holding tall and steady. Canyonlands National Park is just a mess of mesas that God never cleaned up. All this sits on the Colorado Plateau, a swath of land known as red rock country.
The Colorado River, Green River and the San Juan River all converge here. The ancient Ancestral Puebloan people (aka Anasazi) figured out how to grow maize in the fertile river bottoms. Stone granaries were built to hold this precious corn, and now ancient dwellings with pot shards and corn cobs are strewn across the land. Dwellings can be seen wedged into alcoves in Bears Ears National Monument and freestanding at Hovenweep National Monument. The Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum has a gorgeous collection of artifacts from the area. A little later, Latter-day Saint pioneers carved the Hole in the Rock trail and settled the towns of Monticello, Blanding and Bluff.
We aren't done yet. Goosenecks State Park overlooks the meandering San Juan. Natural Bridges National Monument has three white sandstone bridges in one canyon. Glen Canyon Recreation Area, aka Lake Powell, is the home of Rainbow Bridge National Monument. And let’s not forget Four Corners Monument. Whew! Now you can see why we named it Monument Corner.
Utah's Monument Corner Region Overview
Planning your Trip to Utah’s Monument Corner
Driving Directions to Blanding
The general idea is to head to the southeast corner of Utah. Almost like you want to stand in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico at the same time.
FROM THE NORTH
It’s a 5-hour drive (308 miles) from Salt Lake City. Head south on I-15, take Highway 6 to US-191. Follow US-191 to Monticello, then Blanding then Bluff.
Map & Directions To BlandingDirections
Things to Do
First thing on your list: don’t get overwhelmed by all the things to do. You might not make it to every park and see every cliff dwelling. But the concentration of hiking trails, museums and rivers in this area makes it easy to do a lot in a short time. Booking a river trip on the Colorado River or San Juan knocks out hiking, kayaking and archeological site exploration. Or head off road to that secluded campsite in Canyonlands National Park for International Dark Sky Park stargazing. Even a scenic drive through Bears Ears has convenient roadside Ancestral Puebloan dwellings like Butler Wash Ruin.
Anyway, the full list:
● Whitewater rafting
● Rock climbing
● Museum touring
● Archaeological site exploration
● Mountain biking
● Scenic driving
Make it easy on yourself — hire a guide or an outfitter.
Where to Camp
Monument Corner is about three quarters public land, all run by various government agencies. Land south of the San Juan River is part of the Navajo Nation which has its own system of tribal parks and permits. Some sites in Monument Corner can be reserved online and some require a cash deposit at a fee station. The good news is: they’re all beautiful.
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
CNP is divided into four districts: the Maze, the Needles, the Island in the Sky and the Green and Colorado Rivers. It’s a big place, but short on developed campgrounds. The National Park Service campgrounds tend to be short on amenities like flushing toilets, but long on scenery. Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) is in the northern section of the park and has 12 sites. The Needles Campground is in the Needles District and has 29 sites total. Visit recreation.gov to reserve. CNP backcountry camping requires a permit, and a promise to “leave no trace.” Please visit https://canypermits.nps.gov/ for backcountry reservations.
BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT AREA
BENM is run by a coalition of Native American tribes, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The boundaries are currently the subject of a lawsuit so this section includes sites in the monument and general area. The BLM-run sites in the northern section include Indian Creek Falls Campground, Hamburger Rock Campground, Creek Pasture Campground and Superbowl Campground. They are first come, first served and do not require a fee. Indian Creek Falls Group Site can be reserved at recreation.gov.
Head south and into the Abajo Mountains to find Nizhoni Campground, Buckboard Campground, Dalton Springs Campground and Devils Canyon Campground. All are run by the U.S. Forest Service and can be reserved at recreation.gov.
Backcountry camping in the monument requires a permit and a fee. Give the BLM permit desk a call at 435-587-1510 to make reservations.
Camp next to the San Juan River at Sand Island Campground, a BLM site primarily used by river runners. Bring cash for the fee station. First come, first served, except for a group site that can be reserved at recreation.gov.
The NPS runs 13 sites at Natural Bridges Campground in Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s a perfect way to see the stars at the first designated International Dark Sky Park in the world. First come, first served. Check-in with the visitors center for availability.
VALLEY OF THE GODS
Valley of the Gods has dispersed car-camping along a dirt road. Bring everything with you as there are no amenities whatsoever. On the flip side, camping is free. Thanks, BLM!
Fall asleep to the distant sound of the San Juan River at Goosenecks State Park. The campground is set on a rim and has few amenities. Check-in with a ranger or pay at the self-serve fee station.
HOVENWEEP NATIONAL MONUMENT
To the east, almost to the border of Colorado is Hovenweep National Monument. It’s very remote, which makes it a great International Dark Sky Park. Square Tower Ruins Campground is run by the NPS and is first come, first served. Bring cash or check for the fee station.
MONUMENT VALLEY AREA
Monument Valley Tribal Park is operated by the Navajo Nation. There are no Tribal Park-run campgrounds but there are plenty of places to set up that tent or RV. Privately owned campgrounds like Goulding's Monument Valley RV and Campground are well maintained and have full amenities. Upgrade to a king-size bed in their lodge if you need a break from sleeping on the ground. The View Campground is part of The View Hotel and offers primitive RV sites and campsites. If this is out of your budget, backtrack to Goosenecks State Park or Valley of the Gods.
**Please Note** Backcountry camping and hiking permits are required for designated places on the Navajo Nation. Please respect their rules of use and note that rock climbing is not allowed anywhere on tribal lands.
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