Time this right and you’ll the be the only ones for miles
By Brandon Mathis
Winter rocks but sometimes a little desert solitaire is good for the soul. These days, it’s getting harder to find some rejuvenating peace and quiet, but if you head in the direction of one of these locations, plan things right, get up early, maybe stay up late, we think you’ll have some quiet desert getaways and find what you’re looking for.
Mexican Hat, Utah
Many are surprised to learn this roost is indeed part of the 1.25 million-acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that spans endless miles of desert from Utah into Arizona. From this vista are striking bird’s eye views of the San Juan River as it winds through Goosenecks State Park, plus Navajo Mountain and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in the distance.
Don’t miss: Moki Dugway
This section of Utah Route 261 is every bit mountain pass – in the desert. Twisting 1,200 feet up from the edge of the Valley of the Gods at an 11 percent grade with dizzying views and spinning switchback turns for 3 miles, the Moki Dugway was originally constructed in 1957 to haul ore from a mine on Cedar Mesa to be processed in Mexican Hat. Today it’s a great shortcut from Mexican Hat to Natural Bridges National Monument across Cedar Mesa.
McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area
Grand Junction, Colorado
Just outside Grand Junction, the largest city on Colorado’s Western Slope, is more than 123,000 acres of desert wilderness called McInnis Canyon. Spilling into Utah, McInnis Canyon is home to bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and eagles, plus the second largest collection of natural arches in North America. Twenty-Five miles of the Colorado River also flow through it. The Black Ridge Canyon Wilderness sits within McInnis Canyon: Seventy-five thousand acres of remote and rugged untamed landscape.
Don’t miss: Colorado National Monument
The park’s Rim Rock Drive is considered one of America’s most picturesque and impressive roads. You can use the route as a scenic alternate between Grand Junction and Fruita.
Monitor and Merrimac
Named for an undeniable likeness of two civil war ironclad warships that clashed in Virginia waters in perhaps the most significant naval battle of the war: the battle of Hampton Roads, aka The Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack, these two sandstone buttes dominate the skyline for miles of Utah Highway 313. While the nearby Navajo Rocks Trail system sees endless traffic, Monitor and Merrimac can be biked, hiked and roamed around via gentle sand and dirt roads where keen visitors can spot petrified wood – and even dinosaur fossils.
Don’t miss: Hidden Valley Trail
This trail has a nice way of keeping down the crowds by climbing 600 feet in just over half a mile. Once you’re through the ascent, you enter a scenic and wide grassy valley floor with sandstone walls towering around it.