Mexican Hat, Utah

Written by on August 7, 2009 in UT Cities, Dining, Lodging - Comments Off on Mexican Hat, Utah

Just north of Monument Valley is the little community of Mexican Hat. It gets its name from a curious banded rock formation — a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill — basically in the shape of a Mexican hat or sombrero. But that simple description doesn’t do this area justice. In fact, the scenery is simply stunning and not many people know about it!

The San Juan River flows slowly in this area carving deep canyons through layers of rock banded in pink, grey, soft tan and brown, giving the rocks a painted appearance. In shocking contract to the bare rock of the steep canyons are ribbons of bright green trees and brush along the river banks, and because the river meanders and twists and turns back on itself frequently, the views are extraordinary. The best place to get a good view on the switchbacks on the river is Gooseneck State Park.

The 1,200 foot sandstone cliffs of nearby Cedar Mesa hide dozens of Native American pueblo ruins, well off the beaten path, untouched and virtually unknown. Atop Cedar Mesa is Muley Point, which has sweeping views of the San Juan River gorges, as well as a sweeping panorama of Monument Valley nearly 20 miles away.

Valley of the Gods is also near Mexican Hat — it is a small-scale version of Monument Valley — with tall, red, isolated sandstone mesas and cliffs standing above the level valley floor, remnants of an ancient landscape. The most prominent spires, peaks and features in the valley have some rather unusual names — Rudolph and Santa Claus, Setting Hen Butte, Rooster Butte, De Gaulle and His Troops, and Lady in the Bathtub.

Mexican Hat doesn’t offer much in the way of amenities — there is a gas station, a gift shop, a campground, several restaurants, and four motels, one of which (the San Juan Inn) sits right beside the river. What the town might lack in tourist attractions, it more than makes up for in character, charm and friendliness. Except for Gooseneck State Park, Cedar Mesa, Valley of the Gods and surrounding areas are on BLM Land, which means it is completely undeveloped and that is great news, because it also means there are no restrictions on hiking or camping. You can go wherever the view draws you, so long as you have a sturdy vehicle to get you there, or your legs hold out on long hikes!

Other attractions in the area include:
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Bluff, Utah
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park

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