Custom San Juan County Map Project

Custom San Juan County Map by Fell

Our office has recently been working on what I think we all agree to be one of our most exciting projects to date- a custom San Juan County map made by Salt Lake City artists and husband and wife duo, Tiera & Jorrien Peterson, better known in the art world as Fell.

We had so much fun working with Fell and picking out everything we wanted to include on the map.  San Juan County is a huge county (larger than Rhode Island, Delaware, or Connecticut!) and we have so many parks, monuments, formations & features, archaeological sites, museums, activities, and such a rich history and mix of cultures, it was actually really difficult to narrow it down and decide what to include on the map, but we are extremely happy with the final product!

Custom San Juan County Map by Fell

How many places on the map can you name?  Any favorites?  Anything you think we left off that should have been included?  We’d love to hear your feedback!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at:

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Biannual Monument Valley Mitten Shadow Event

Monument Valley Mitten Shadow

In the past several years it seems that popularity and awareness of the biannual Monument Valley Mitten Shadow event has been steadily increasing.  I can’t remember when I first heard of it, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I lived in San Juan County, UT over 9 years before I finally made it down to witness it for myself last September!

The Monument Valley Mitten Shadow happens twice each year, first in late March peaking around the 30th, then again in September peaking around the 13th.  On these days, and for a day or two before and after, West Mitten Butte casts a perfect shadow upon East Mitten Butte at sunset creating what’s come to be known as the ‘Monument Valley Mitten Shadow’.  Adding to the short window that the shadow is visible each year, is the fact that the sky must be clear enough for direct sunlight to be hitting the mittens.  If it’s overcast at sunset, the shadow doesn’t happen, so plan accordingly if you’re traveling to the area specifically to witness this event!

When I finally made it down to see the mitten shadow last September, it was only because I had a childhood friend visiting me from Seattle for about 5 days, and her visit just happened to coincide with the event.  When I realized this, I knew I had to take her down to see it, so we planned our schedule for the week around it making sure to go the day before the peak, so that if the weather wasn’t good and the shadow wasn’t visible, we’d still be able to try again the next night if we were feeling up to doing the the 3 hr 20 minute round trip drive from Monticello again!

Monument Valley Mitten Shadow Crowd

Monument Valley Mitten Shadow Crowd

Although Monument Valley is busy pretty much year-round, and there are always quite a few people at the main viewpoint next to the Visitor Center, when we arrived it was obvious that it wasn’t just a normal day in Monument Valley.  There were probably 20-30 photographers (not just people with cameras, but professional/semi-professional photographers with lots of equipment!) with their cameras set up on tripods, many of which had multiple cameras to catch a time lapse, as well as other shots of the shadow.  I spoke to one of the photographers and he told me that he was part of a photography tour group that was traveling around the Utah & Arizona, and we also saw that Goulding’s Lodge had a special Mitten Shadow photography tour there.

I’m happy to report that the mitten shadow did not disappoint!  It was pretty amazing to watch the shadow of West Mitten Butte creep across the valley floor and climb up the side of East Mitten Butte as the sun got lower and lower in the sky.

Monument Valley is already amazing any day and in any weather, so to witness the mitten shadow in person is nothing short of an absolutely spectacular sight to see!

Navajo Taco at Goulding’s Stagecoach Restaurant- Monument Valley

After all that Mitten Shadow viewing, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite!  Do yourself a favor and stop by the Stagecoach Restaurant at Goulding’s Lodge and get yourself one of THE BEST Navajo Tacos around!  I promise, you’ll be glad you did!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at:

Distance from Monument Valley to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

Posted in Dog-friendly, Events, Fall, Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Parks, Spring, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Five Places to Visit Instead of Canyonlands During the Government Shutdown

Chesler Park- Canyonlands National Park- Needles District

The partial government shutdown may have spoiled a few plans to visit Canyonlands National Park, but Utah’s Canyon Country has plenty of other awe-inspiring sites to make sure your trip isn’t ruined.

While the gates remain open unlike during the government shutdown of October 2013, the absence of personnel to provide snow removal may render the park inaccessible.  In case you aren’t able to visit due to weather, here are some alternatives to try.

John Ford’s Point- Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

If you want to experience the iconic American West of Canyonlands then you will love Monument Valley.

Featured as the location in numerous classic westerns and Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, Monument Valley is more than a symbol of the Wild Wild West. It is stunningly beautiful and evocative. Actor John Wayne mused, “So this is where God put the West” when he witnessed the area for the first time.

Newspaper Rock, Indian Creek Unit of Bears Ears National Monument

If you wanted to go back in time at Horseshoe Canyon, then head to Newspaper Rock.

The original “all the news that is fit to print” is Newspaper Rock. The living museum is located in the Indian Creek Unit of Bears Ears National Monument, just a short distance from the Needles District of Canyonlands.  The sandstone panel is covered with hundreds of petroglyphs. Find the recurring headline of snakes and broad-shouldered, animal-headed men to guess what the ancient people were communicating.

Hot air balloons take to the skies in Valley of the Gods at the Bluff International Balloon Festival               Photo: David Allen

If you wanted the visually stunning landscape of the Maze, don’t miss the Bluff Balloon Festival over Valley of the Gods.

What started over two decades ago as a one-balloon show has grown to a southern Utah event that sees balloonists come from all over the country to participate. An epic sense of giddy fascination may wash over you when you view multiple hot air balloons fly over the Valley of the Gods desert landscape.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument Photo: Aramark

If you like the majestic Mesa Arch, then consider Rainbow Bridge, the tallest natural bridge in the world.

The Navajo people considered the bridge a symbol of life in the desert. Located on Lake Powell, visitors can visit by boat or obtain a permit from Navajo Parks and Recreation to take the two-day hike from the small community of Navajo Mountain.

Moki Dugway- San Juan County, UT

If you wanted the far-reaching views of Island in the Sky, then the Moki Dugway overlook will amaze.

The Moki Dugway is literally carved from the cliff face and talus slope on the edge of Cedar Mesa. The route connects Utah Highway 95 with US Highway 163 by crossing Cedar Mesa and plunging down the dugway at an 11% grade, revealing sweeping views of Valley of the Gods, stripes of color in the rocks of the San Juan River Canyon known as the Navajo Tapestry, and distant Monument Valley.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at:

Posted in Bears Ears National Monument, Dog-friendly, Events, Monument Valley, National Monuments, National Parks, National Parks & Monuments, Navajo Tribal Parks, Rock Art, Scenic Drives, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Dancing Bears Sculpture

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Dancing Bears Sculpture

After missing the past two Solstice Celebrations in Bluff, my husband, 5 yr-old son, and I braved the 17 degree weather and several inches of fresh snow in Monticello, and made our way down to Bluff for one of the most unique events in southeast Utah!

After the snow we received last Wednesday night and during the day on Thursday, it took some convincing to get my husband to agree to go, but we were glad we did- by the time we arrived in Bluff the temperature was up to 29 degrees, and the ground was dry- perfect conditions to celebrate the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year!

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Dancing Bears Sculpture

With the snowy roads leaving Monticello, we ended up getting to Bluff a little later than we’d planned, and barely had time to get a photo of the sculpture before the celebration began.

As always, the celebration started with a few words from Joe Pachak- the artist who oversaw the creation of the sculpture with help from volunteers.  While I couldn’t hear everything he was saying due to the size of the crowd gathered around the sculpture, I also read a Salt Lake Tribune article that came out the day before the Solstice Celebration where Joe discussed his reasoning for sculpting the two dancing bears this year.

While I’m sure many people immediately assumed it had to do with the designation, and subsequent shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument, that wasn’t the only reason he chose bears for his annual sculpture.

If you live in the area, you know that we had a very late frost this year, which resulted in our fruit trees in Monticello producing absolutely no fruit this summer.  So if we had no fruit in town, you can imagine that the berries, acorns, and other regular foods that bears eat in the Abajos, were also affected.  Here in Monticello we had bears wandering into town and ending up in trees in people’s front yards, and on the San Juan River there were reports of bear sightings at camps along the banks of the river.  The bears definitely had a hard year, so the sculpture was constructed partially to acknowledge that.

So if this sculpture was constructed to acknowledge the bears’ hard summer, why the ‘dancing’ bears, you ask?   Pachak said that he consulted local Ute flute maker, Aldean Ketchum and his wife, and they persuaded him to to change his bear sculpture into a dancing pair in a posture from the Ute Bear Dance.  Pachak liked the idea, feeling that this would make the celebration much more meaningful, and went with it!

If you’ve been to previous Solstice Celebrations in Bluff, you may remember flaming atlatls being thrown at the sculpture to light it on fire.  To light the sculpture this year, a basket of nuts and berries was placed on hot coals at the bears’ feet, symbolically feeding them and hoping that 2018 will be a better year for bears in the area.

After Joe spoke about the making of the sculpture and the meaning behind it, Aldean Ketchum played a song on his flute, followed by a couple dance performances, then it was time to light the sculpture!

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Lighting the Sculpture

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration- The sparks were the best part!

2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration

As always, it’s quite a sight to see a 15 foot sculpture go up in flames!  And while it’s an awesome thing to get to experience, it also makes me a little bit sad to see these beautiful sculptures burn.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good bonfire!  But knowing how much time and work is put into these sculptures does weigh on my mind as I’m watching them burn.

We stayed about an hour until the flames and the nice, warm, heat of the fire started to die down a little and we remembered how cold it was out there!  Another great Bluff Solstice Celebration is in the books and winter is officially here!  (Although you’d never know it with the dry and unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having!)

Mark your calendars for the 2018 Bluff Solstice Celebration!  (It’s on a Friday- yay!) Can’t wait to see what they’ll construct next year!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at:


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Annual Bluff Solstice Celebration

Dancing Bears Sculpture by Joe Pachak- 2017 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Bluff’s Annual Solstice Celebration is only a day away, so we thought we’d take a look back at some of the previous solstice sculptures from one of southeast Utah’s most unique events!

This year, local artist Joe Pachak has constructed two 15 foot- tall dancing bears in a posture from the Ute Bear Dance with guidance from local Ute flute musician, Aldean Ketchum.  As always, Joe’s solstice sculpture is impermanent, and is scheduled to be set on fire on the night of Thursday, December 21st in celebration of the Winter Solstice.  Anyone who has been to one of Bluff’s previous Solstice Celebrations can tell you that it’s an event unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and is definitely worth the drive!

Mammoth Sculpture- 2012 Bluff Solstice Celebration- photo: Wayne Ranney

Mammoth Sculpture- 2012 Bluff Solstice Celebration- photo: Wayne Ranney

Mammoth Sculpture- 2012 Bluff Solstice Celebration- photo: Wayne Ranney

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

My favorite solstice sculpture was definitely the Paleo Bison constructed in 2014.  Look at the detail in the bison’s face!  These sculptures are works of art, and as much as I love the Solstice Celebrations, it does make me a little sad to see them go up in flames!

2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

Paleo Bison Sculpture – 2014 Bluff Solstice Celebration

2016 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Herons

2016 Bluff Solstice Celebration- Herons

If you’re considering making the drive to Bluff for the Solstice Celebration tomorrow night- DO IT!  It’s sure to be the most memorable Winter Solstice you’ll ever experience!

Bluff Solstice Celebration- Thursday, December 21st @ 7:00pm- On Hwy 191 across the street from Recapture Lodge

Posted in Bluff, Events, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment