Camping: Goosenecks State Park

Southern Utah is a huge tract of wilderness that you could spend years exploring and still not see it all. With 5 National Parks, 43 State Parks, and over 70% of Utah being federally protected land, it has the third most publicly owned land of any US state (after Alaska and Nevada). Last time I traveled to Utah, I was traveling North on US 163 through the iconic Monument Valley and the town/rock of Mexican Hat. Not wanting to pay $20 to camp at the nearly full Monument Valley campsites with a million other tourists, I discovered Goosenecks State Park. Leaving from Monument Valley it is a short 30 minute drive North on US 163 and then a left on Utah 261 just after Mexican Hat, then one last turn on the dirt Utah 316 which dead ends at the small state park. Despite being small, Goosenecks has views that stretch as far as the eye can see. To the South is the winding canyon formed by the San Juan river, in the distance behind the canyon you see the monoliths of Monument Valley.

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Our tent next to the Gooseneck Canyon.

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Our campsite at night after dinner.

To the North is empty desert and wide open skies that the stars fill perfectly at night. East and West of you, the canyon continues to slither through the desert floor. To camp here it is only $10 (that includes the entrance fee). There are 8 first come-first serve campsites along the rim of the canyon, in early August we were the only campers there. The “road” through the park is very rock and not maintained at all so you will want to be careful driving on it (With that said we were driving a Honda Accord and were fine). There is no water or firewood to collect but there is a bathroom (pretty far from the good campsites) so make sure you are prepared to camp here. Goosenecks State Park is one of my favorite places I have ever camped and would recommend it to anyone looking to stray away from the crowds at Monument Valley and experience more of the beauty that Southern Utah has to offer.

Thanks! -Josh

Here is an amazing hike right near Goosenecks State Park: Honaker Trail

Sunday Hikes: Honaker Trail

If you drive north from Mexican Hat, Utah and turn left on highway 261 and then take another left towards Goosenecks State Park and then turn right on the first dirt road and then keep left at the dilapidated water tower thing and then park at the top of the big hill and walk about a mile down the rocky road to were some resemblance of a hiking trail takes you to the edge of the canyon where the number 147 is painted onto the rock then you know you are at the Honaker Trail. At least that’s how I hoped I knew as I descended into a canyon on what might be a trail.



This trail was built during the Utah’s gold rush with the idea of bringing water up from the canyon for the hardworking miners. Unfortunately Utah’s gold rush came and went quickly and the trail was left unused for sixty years until geologists decided to take a look at the earth exposed by the San Juan River. Today it is used by hikers to explore the wild west! Not too long after hopping down some large rocks the trail seemed much more traily and made us feel better that we weren’t just following where a bighorn slid down the canyon. This hike is rocky and has long and winding switchbacks that give you many gorgeous views of the goosenecks of the canyon. 


Somewhere around what I would guess is halfway there is a large flat rocky rectangle that stretches out from the canyon wall and gives some more nice views. In the middle of the rock is a two foot wide gap that drops down maybe twenty feet. Despite being such a short hop we were too scared to make the leap (I’m a chicken).



So we moved on down a sketchy rock staircase to the next set of long switchbacks. This trail is on only five miles round trip but the hot Utah sun blazing down on you adds a couple miles I think. Once reaching the canyon floor you will find it very sandy with plenty of bugs living down by the only water for miles. You might be tempted to hop in the cool San Juan river after your 85F degree hike but it’s striking resemblance to chocolate milk with water spiders in it will deter that thought. I climbed on a big rock where a lizard was sitting while Erin took pictures of stuff and the lizard glared at me for taking its spot. After some time chilling at the bottom we had to make the hike back up before the sun set too fast on us. The hike back up is steep and rocky but went by quickly. We stopped to take pictures often and made sure we drank plenty of water. I kept an eye out for bighorn sheep but didn’t see any sadly. From the top of the canyon you can spot Monument Valley in the distance despite it being maybe thirty miles away!


We finished up our hike and got back to camp just in time for the sun to set on us and the stars to come out and fill the sky. This hike is one of my favorites for many reasons, it isn’t too long but takes some effort, it is in the middle of nowhere desert, and it is beautiful! If you decide to hike the Honaker Trail make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks as well!
Thanks! – Josh

Mexican Hat

About twenty miles north of famous Monument Valley is the town of Mexican Hat. Named after a rock formation that looks like an upside down stereotypical sombrero (like the one Speedy Gonzales wears). On a recent road trip we got to stop by and take some pics in the Utah heat! 




Sunday Hikes: Wildcat Trail

The Wildcat Trail is a 3.2 mile loop in Monument Valley Tribal Park on the Utah-Arizona state line. I have wanted to visit Monument Valley for a while now and finally got the chance on a recent road trip! 


We started on the trail around 11am despite it technically being closed in the middle of the day due to “heat waves”. The trail is very sandy in the beginning and will fill your shoes if you don’t have boots on (or high top converse might do the job as well). The trail is marked pretty well with little arrow signs pointing you towards the trail when it gets lost in one of the many arroyos. Within 30 minutes of starting we were sweating to death but still enjoying the iconic views. 


The hike takes you around and in-between the buttes and lets you feel like John Wayne (if John Wayne payed $20 to park his horse for a couple hours). Despite the sun beating down on us and being probably one water bottle short of what we needed, this hike was great and there were few people on the trail (probably because it was 100 degrees). I love a good desert hike and Utah definitely showed off its best weather with scrawling blue skies to compliment the red dirt. 


The last 50 feet of the trail is a steady incline of loose sand that felt easy to walk down but going up was a struggle for sure. We walked back into the parking lot from the trail and to our car for a sandwich lunch. The Wildcat is easy to pass over because of the desert heat but is well worth it and gives you views that you can’t get from your car! 

“Monument Valley is where God put the West” – John Wayne 


Thanks! – Josh

“Hey Boo Boo, let’s go get us a pic-a-nic basket”

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near Dragoon Arizona

Pictures like the one above make me think of some of the classic cartoons of my youth and the beautiful backdrops of the American West used by the cartoonists drawing my Saturday morning entertainment.   I thought it would be interesting to try and identify the exact inspiration for some of my cartoon favorites.

Yogi Bear –  Yellowstone National Park.   That is obviously way too easy to identify.   Jellystone = Yellowstone NP.   Not to mention, what a great place to have a picnic.

Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner –  Monument Valley.   That beautiful background scenery must be Monument Valley in southern Utah.   Interesting side note, Monument Valley is not part of the National Park system.   It is actually a Navajo Tribal Park.

Speedy Gonzalez – Saguaro National Park.   Every time you see Speedy you see those Saguaro cactus in the background.   The Saguaro only grows from Tucson up to the Phoenix area.

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Saguaro Cactus in Saguaro National Park

Scooby Doo, Where are You – California.   The original hipster detectives must be from California.   That whole first season in 1968-1969 was set in California including notable episodes like the Miner 49er,  Foulplay in Funland, and the one with the ghost of Captain Cutler in that glowing  deep sea dive suit.

Quick Draw McGraw – Southwest Texas.   Probably near some abandoned ghost town between Big Bend and Guadalupe National Parks.

Honorable Mention:   Bugs Bunny – Albuquerque NM.   How can you forget Bugs making that wrong turn in Albuquerque.

Honorable Mention #2:   Not a cartoon, but who hasn’t ridden Thunder Mountain at Disneyland or Disneyworld and not seen the resemblance to Bryce Canyon in Utah?

Honorable Mention #3:   Not a cartoon of my youth, but the Disney made Cars movie with Lightning McQueen is set on old Hwy 66 somewhere in Arizona.   Have you seen Cars Land at California Adventure?  Wow!

rk