Southwest Road Trip: Monument Valley, Hovenweep National Monument & Dolores Colorado

Monument Valley, Utah
We headed through Monument Valley; the ride was desolate and picturesque. I highly recommend renting a four wheel drive if you are doing any traveling in the Southwest.  There are so many opportunities to take random dirt roads, you'll regret it if you can't drive down them and explore. We stopped at a small cafe in the Navajo Nation Reservation for a Navajo Taco; fried bread with beans, lettuce, cheese, meat and hot sauce on top. The food was tasty and folks were friendly but I couldn't help but feel an overall sense of sadness because poverty is so widespread and evident on the reservation. I would like to return to spend some time touring the reservation and talking to those who live there.  For this trip we were just driving through, so we only got to stop for a couple of hours.

Monument Valley in Utah, United States
Mexican Hat, Utah, United States

Hovenweep National Monument, Utah/Colorado Border

We continued our drive to Hovenweep National Monument, a collection of prehistoric Puebloan-era villages spread across twenty miles. Hovenweep is truly a unique place.  The area was calm and serene with only a couple of other individuals at the site. There is a self-guided walking tour through Little Ruin Canyon that lasts about an hour, a must see. I could sense the calm and piece in the area and it felt like a step back in time. I was amazed that I had never heard of this place before.

Be sure to bring a hat and water as the sun is unforgiving and it can get much hotter then you think. We were fortunate enough to have a four-wheel drive vehicle we rented so we coild take advantage of the off road trails that take you to various secluded sites at the monument. The day ended with being completely alone next to ancient ruins, watching an amazing Southwest sunset with an orange red amber sky, sipping a glass of wine. Perfection.

Little Ruin Canyon at Hovenweep National Monument.

Sunset at Hovenweep National Monument.

Dolores, Colorado
Upon recommendation from a friendly ranger at Hovenweep National Monument we made our way to a small town named Dolores, Colorado to stay for the night. Dolores was an unexpected bright spot in the trip.  There is only one town square and everyone in the town seemed to be heading to Dolores River Brewery for dinner (the population is under 1000 people) and then across the street to the Hollywood Bar for Karaoke night.
River in Dolores, Colorado
Sitting at the Dolores River Brewery was a great opportunity to mingle with residents, who were all friendly and inviting. We got to know several of them as we drank beer and ate thin crust artisan style pizza (which was delicious by the way). 

We stayed at The Rio Grande Southern Hotel Bed and Breakfast across the town square from the brewery and bar. This place felt more like a shared home-stay. While the owners were very friendly and the home cooked breakfast was hearty, it wasn’t the cleanest establishment.  Although I still appreciated it for its history and local feel, if you are looking for a well-kept, clean modern hotel, this is not the place. On the other hand if a quirky experience in an inexpensive place is your style, you can probably hang. The town of Dolores has several other lodging options listed on the the Dolores Chamber of Commerce website.

One day I’m hoping to make my way back for the high-end wilderness/cabin experience at Dunton Hot Springs…so hopefully I’ll have a future review to share with you on that.  

The Brewery

The Rio Grande Southern Hotel B & B


Southwest Road Trip Day: Climb to The Top of a Sand Dune

On my way to the top of the sand dune.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park 

This park was one of those places we had no plans to go to and had never heard of.  For some reason I always had a dream of climbing to the top of a giant sand dune, so when I saw a sign for the Coral Pink Sand Dunes randomly, we flipped a U-turn and went down the long road, hoping what we found at the end would be good.  The road didn’t look too well traveled so we were a little concerned at first, but boy was I glad when we arrived. 

It was an abyss of sand mountains just waiting to be explored.  I jumped right in and started to walk across the sand to make my way to the top of the most prominent sand dune. The sand was so fine I actually had to get down on my hands and knees to dig into the sand to reach the final peak. I was a little concerned I might not make it even though I was only three feet away from the top.  I did make it and it was worth it. Now I can check climbing to the top of a sand dune off of my bucket list.

If you are in the Kanub, Utah area (near the northern entrance of the Grand Canyon) I recommend stopping in at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for an afternoon. They allow a variety of off road vehicles including dune buggies to play around in the sand for the day or you can just climb and explore the dunes like I did.  I was happy enough with reaching the top of the sand dune and amused myself by taking note of all of the lizard and snake tracks throughout the sand. I know I’m a nerd. 


Southwest Road Trip

As we approach fall my favorite time of year, I'm going to spend some time reminiscing on one of my favorite fall road trips. Here on the west coast September and October are the perfect times to travel, gorgeous weather and shoulder season, so crowds are limited. A couple of years back I took a Southwest Road trip, I'm going to highlight some stops along that fabulous fall journey. Enjoy.

Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion National Park
Spent a day hiking in Zion National Park, taking in the gorgeous views, cliche but it was breathtaking.  Finished the evening in Springdale, UT at Oscar's Cafe eating green chile enchiladas on the patio, enjoying the dramatic southwest sunset. Absolutely amazing.

Road tripping to Bryce Canyon from Zion

Bryce Canyon National Park

The scenery here is as dramatic as ever, it's a must see. We finished the day at the Bryce Canyon Lodge for an afternoon glass of wine. We didn't stay the night because the rooms were sold out. Either way I'm a sucker for National Park Lodges and I make sure to stop in and see the lodge at each National Park I visit. I just love the old rustic feeling, it can't be beat.

It's a much farther drop then it looks here.
Loving It