A Guide for Visiting Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah

Large buttes with very tall and sheer rock formations of the side of the road.

Visiting Valley of the Gods in southern Utah is like stepping into another world, where towering sandstone formations stand tall against the clear, blue sky.

Valley of the Gods is part of the Cedar Mesa region and is made up of sandstone monoliths, pinnacles, buttes, and other geological features. A visit involves driving the curving dirt road that winds through the park, taking you past these incredible rock formations.

In many ways, it’s very similar to the much more famous and popular Monument Valley, which is just 1 hour away.

Valley of the Gods, while generally considered not as dramatic as Monument Valley, is certainly more isolated and off the beaten path. This only adds to the charm, making you feel like you’re on an adventure exploring the Wild West.

I’ve explored so much of southern Utah, and yet I was still in awe of the mind-boggling rock formations that we drove through in Valley of the Gods, features that were formed from erosion by water, wind, and ice over 250 million years. I almost felt like a happy golden retriever, with my head out the window of the car, grinning at all the crazy cool rocks that we passed.

In this guide, I’m going over everything you need to know about visiting Valley of the Gods.

Quick Tip: If you’re planning a Southwest US road trip, I recommend reserving a rental car ASAP for the best prices and availability. I always book my car with this rental car aggregate site to find the best deals.

Where is Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is located in the very southeastern corner of Utah. It is wedged into a corner created by intersecting highways – Highway 261 (which runs north-south) and Highway 163 (which runs east-west).

You can enter Valley of the Gods via either highway, and there is only one road in the park: Country Road B242, also referred to simply as Valley of the Gods road. Country Road B242 runs directly from Highway 261 to Highway 163.

Hours and Entrance Fees

Valley of the Gods is open any time, day and night. This is a great dark sky area, so star gazing is amazing here.

There are no entrance fees for Valley of the Gods

Camping in Valley of the Gods

Large rock formations and mountains in the background of the large green field with a  dirt road leading around Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is part of BLM land (Bureau of Land Management). In southern Utah, you can often camp anywhere you want on BLM land.

In Valley of the Gods, there are a lot of unmarked and unpaved pullout spots along the road to admire the views, and you can also do wild (dispersed) camping here. We saw quite a few people in campers or campervans parked and clearly there to stay the night.

Since it is dispersed camping, there are, of course, no bathroom or water facilities, and you need to pack out toilet paper. No campfires are allowed anywhere in Valley of the Gods.

Alternatively, you can stay at the Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast/Lee’s Ranch located on the western edge of Valley of the Gods, near the Highway 261 entrance. 

When to Visit

A silhouette of a tall rock butte with a bright blue sky behind it.

If you can swing it, visiting at sunrise or sunset is absolutely breathtaking. The sun glows on the rock formations, making them a vibrant orange color, and as the sun sets (or right before it rises), the backlighting on the buttes creates a memorable silhouette.

We visited right before sunset, and the views were just enchanting. 

Road Conditions + Distance

The road through Valley of the Gods is unpaved and gravel, but any type of car should be able to drive through it when the road is dry. We did this drive in our minivan without a problem. However, the road can be impassable when it’s wet, even for a 4WD vehicle. I’d exercise extreme caution if it has rained recently, and consider skipping it altogether if the road is wet.

The road is 17 miles long, and it took us almost exactly 1 hour to do the drive, with many short stops for pictures or to admire the view.

Because the road is unpaved and bumpy in sections, we were usually driving around 15-20 mph, sometimes going 10, and occasionally going 25 or 30. Going 25 mph felt like we were flying down the road, honestly.

You can drive OHVs in Valley of the Gods (such as ATVs and motorcycles), but you must stay on the designated roads and trails. No off-roading is permitted.

Downloading Offline Maps

You will DEFINITELY want to have offline maps downloaded on your phone – it’s free, really easy, and only takes a minute, but is absolutely necessary when road tripping through the Southwest.

There is zero cell service here, and you’ll want to be able to access the map of the park, since some of the named rock formations are tagged on the map. 

What You’ll See and Experience in Valley of the Gods

The Highway 261 side (the northwest entrance) has some buttes and pillars by the entrance, but the entrance in general is farther from the iconic rock formations of Valley of the Gods. You’ll have to drive probably 15-20 minutes before you really get to the good views.

On the other hand, if you enter on the Highway 163 side, you’ll immediately be driving by the cool, named rock formations. 

If you start from Highway 163, here are some of the named and noteworthy rock formations that you’ll see, in order. Most of these are noted on the map of Valley of the Gods, above.

Seven Sailors

A large red rock formation that looks like a sailors hat

With seven small peaks with flat tops, that resemble sailor’s hats

Rooster Butte

Two large rock formations with one being small and skinny with the other short and wide looking like a hen. This is located in the middle of the Valley of the Gods.

A large monolith with a spire that is right next to Setting Hen Butte. Rooster Butte is on the left (above), and Setting Hen Butte is on the right.

A large skinny red rock formation  with lots of broken rocks at the base and brush covering the field. There is a pastel blue sky covering Valley of the Gods.

Setting Hen Butte

A large pyramid like red rock formation in the middle of the field with a large road right next to the rock formation.

At a specific angle, it does look like a small hen sitting on top of the butte!

Battleship Rock

A large, square, flat, orange, butte in the middle of a field with the sun setting in the back.

Very, very large and long and the road circles almost all the way around this one. On the map above, this one is called Franklin Butte.

Castle Butte

A large rock formation with different layers and at the top lots of pillars stacked next to each other.

This butte is shaped almost like a perfect rectangle, definitely hearkening to a symmetrical medieval-style castle.

Plus Many More!

A large orange rock formation with four different spires.

Besides the named buttes, there are many, many other very cool monoliths, pinnacles, spires, and buttes throughout the park. In particular, the northern section of the park has a high concentration of fantastic rock formations!

What to See and Do Nearby

A woman stands in front of a large tan and black natural bridge.
Natural Bridges

The southeast is really a special corner of Utah – it’s wild and remote and doesn’t see as many visitors, as say, Moab or St. George, but there are still insane landscapes and natural features everywhere. Here are a few other spots you should consider visiting in the area:

  • Goosenecks State Park: This state park is really just a viewpoint of 3 dramatic gooseneck turns in the San Juan River. You can admire from the viewpoint, or hike down a little bit lower to get a closer-up view. This is 30 minutes from Valley of the Gods.
  • Mexican Hat: A uniquely shaped rock formation off the side of the road that looks like a sombrero perched up on a rock pillar. 30 minutes away.
  • Monument Valley: The bigger, fancier version of Valley of the Gods, located on Navajo land. 1 hour away.
  • Forrest Gump Viewpoint: An incredible view of some of the pillars of Monument Valley framing in the straight highway, and was featured in the movie Forrest Gump. 1 hour away.
  • Natural Bridges National Monument: This site has 3 enormous natural bridges, that you can admire from overlooks or hike down and stand underneath. A definite hidden gem in the southwest. 1 hour 15 minutes away.

Nearby But Farther Out

A large stone dwelling with lots of individual rectangular and circular buildings located in between the lips of the rock wall.
Mesa Verde
  • Four Corners: It’s a quick stop, but fun to say that you’ve stood in four states at the same time. 1.5 hours away.
  • Mesa Verde: This national park features incredible cliff dwellings, like the famed Cliff Palace and Balcony House, made by the Ancestral Pueblan Native Americans over 700 years ago. 2 hours away.
  • Lake Powell: Sitting on the edge of Arizona and Utah, this lake has hundreds of little inlets and side canyons, and is surrounded by tall red walls. 2 hours 45 minutes away.

Guide to Visiting Valley of the Gods – The Wrap Up

Valley of the Gods is a special place in southern Utah, away from the crowds and in a remote and gorgeous location. It’s definitely worth adding to your Southwest itinerary!

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