Monument Valley (Epic Motorbike Loop!)

July 5, 2017

Merrick Butte glows in the final light of day in Monument Valley, Utah.

I spent the last eight days on an epic motorbike loop (3035 miles) through Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Along the way to my ultimate destination, Monument Valley, I visited my friends Alan and Carol Bell at their cabin in the mountains of Dillon, Colorado, navigated the mountain passes from Dillon to Durango, immersed myself in culture at Mesa Verde National Park, and experienced New Mexico’s scenic Highway 64 across the entire northern half of the state. It was such a fantastic trip, I really don’t know where to start, so I suppose a few images from Monument Valley itself would be appropriate for this first post about my adventure.

I’ve always wanted to visit Monument Valley, even before I knew where it was. I had seen so many movies featuring the area, including oldies like “The Searchers” and “Easy Rider,” as well as newer films like “Thelma and Louise” and “Forrest Gump.” Every time I saw the long stretches of desolate highway and the huge spires and buttes, I thought, “Man I’d like to go there.” Well, finally I sat down and planned a trip to this dreamy place and decided that it should best be made on my motorcycle. It would be a heck of a ride, even though I came close to the valley two years ago when I rode my bike out to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Loading my bike with gear for the trip to such an isolated area was part of the fun. I’d need clothing for temperatures varying from 35 to 100 degrees because I’d be traveling through mountain passes as well as the desert. I needed all of my camera gear, except for my oversized 500/4 lens, and all my camping gear. I also had to think about the possibility of a flat tire so I packed a portable compressor and plug kit. It wasn’t long before my Beemer was fully loaded and ready to roll. I didn’t get much sleep the night before my departure. I’ll highlight some of the events of the actual trip in a future edition.

When I eventually arrived at Monument Valley, I stayed at The View Hotel which has 90 rooms, each with a stunning, balcony view of the Mittens and Merrick Butte. When I entered my room and dropped my gear, I looked out the sliding doors and was floored by the scene of the desert icons. Wow! After a shower to clean the day’s ride off my tired body, I checked my camera gear for the sunset show. First, I had dinner at the hotel restaurant, feasting on a Navajo dish featuring a huge piece of freshly made fry bread covered with beans, onions, tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa. Later, I headed out to the desert to claim the perfect spot to set up my tripod. My first image came at 90 minutes before sunset and my final image was well after dark. The sky could have been more interesting, but I was satisfied with my captures.

Afternoon shadows approach “The Mittens” and Merrick Butte outside The View Hotel and Visitor’s center.

After my evening photography session at the hotel, I set my alarm clock for 4:00 AM so I could ride 13 miles north on Highway 163 to get the classic, desert road image, the image I’d seen in some of those movies. When I arrived where I thought I should be, it was still so dark, I couldn’t even tell where the buttes were. As I walked around the edge of the desert, waiting for some light, the Mittens slowly came into view south of me, the direction from which I came, and the picture I yearned for began to materialize.

One thing I didn’t have to worry about was crowds out there on the Utah highway in the desert on a Sunday morning. I was able to set my tripod up right in the middle of the road, framing the scene patiently as the sun worked its magic. Every 5 minutes or so, a car would come by but I could hear it from miles away, leaving plenty of time to get off the road.

Sunrise on Utah Highway 163 looking south toward the Mittens.

As the morning progressed and the sun lit up the buttes, people began to stop for photos. I met an Indian couple from New York and watched as the beautiful, young woman posed in the middle of the highway in a flowing dress with a monarch butterfly print. I could see that her boyfriend was an experienced photographer as he framed shots of her with the buttes in the background. Next, I met a native American named Victor from Las Vegas. I showed him the best spot I had found for a picture and he simply fired a couple shots without a tripod and said that was all he needed. We spent about 15 minutes after that talking about all of the sites in the area such as Antelope Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Another couple pulled up and I offered to take their picture with their iPhone. They had driven all the way from West Virginia to see the beautiful, desert valley. It was such a great experience for us all!

The iconic image of Highway 163 through the desert of Monument Valley. This is the exact spot where Forrest Gump said, “I’m tired; I think I’ll go home now.”

My last image, above, was my best effort at capturing the vision I had in my head from all those movies from Monument Valley and the surrounding desert. It was my favorite image from my visit to this beautiful landscape. As the morning advanced and the buttes lost their color, I headed back to the hotel, had a wonderful breakfast, and repacked my Beemer for New Mexico. By late-afternoon I was in Taos, but the memory of Monument Valley was still buzzing in my head.

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images and Print Information (Ask me about a metal print):





9 comments on “Monument Valley (Epic Motorbike Loop!)”

  1. Thanks for sharing another beautiful and amazing trip with us Danny. These photos are killer.

  2. Great post….what stunning views!

  3. Sounds like an amazing trip!

  4. Danny,

    Your images are always stunning and I hear you speaking when reading your words. I have intended to mention this to you for some time, this post motivated me to do so. Thank you and all the best to you and Joyce.

    Chris Gerli

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