Highway 191: National Parks and Navajos… The Backroad Series

Our first stop on Highway 191 was only a few miles south of I-70; Arches National Park. I’ve already posted on our visit, but here’s a photo from the park.

There are some backroads in America that we immediately recognize. Route 66 is one. Highway 1 along the California coast is another.  Last summer, Peggy and I went on a road trip in our van exploring several other America’s backroads which aren’t quite so familiar, at least to me. 

Highway 191 was one. This highway starts at the Canadian Border in Montana and ends in Arizona on the Mexican Border. I’ve driven much of it over the years. I’ve even bicycled several hundred miles on the highway. But I confess that if someone had asked me what I knew about Highway 191 before our trip last summer, I would have asked where it was. 

Highway 191 travels from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico.

Peggy and I picked it up off of I-70 in Utah and followed it south into Arizona where we cut off on Highway 180 crossing the southern Rockies toward Silver City in New Mexico. Along the way we visited Arches National Park, made our way through Navajo country, passed by Canyon de Chelly and spent a delightful night at Lyman State Park in Arizona. I’ll feature some pictures that Peggy and I took along the road but will save Lyman Lake for next week’s post.

One more Arches photo. Peggy caught this photo of me checking out Balanced Rock.
There are, of course, impressive arches outside of Arches National Park. Wilson Arch is found along Highway 191 south of the National Park.
Further south along Highway 191, Peggy and I came on this interesting sandstone monument known as Church Rock. BTW, the road into Canyonlands National Park is near here.
Views along 191 included badlands…
These trees…
And the San Juan River.
As we entered the Navajo nation, the concern over Covid 19 was immediately apparent. This dinosaur was wearing a mask at a service station.
I love this sign that shows a sense of humor in the Navajo Nation about social distancing. Very few people were out and about in comparison to 9 months earlier when we had visited Canyon de Chelly. We saw perhaps a half dozen outside of Chinle, gateway to the National Monument.
Two Navajo Sheep. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
A view looking down into Canyon de Chelly from our previous visit. Tourism and tourist dollars came to a dramatic halt with Covid-19 ravaging the Navajo Nation.
People like Alan Ba, from whom we bought this artwork, would have an important source of income eliminated.
As we neared I-40 on Highway 191, there was one more grim reminder of the problems facing the world, a massive forest fire brought on partially by global warming.
Traveling south of I-40 we found more badlands, not all that far from the Painted Desert.
Shortly after arriving at Arizona’s Lyman State Park, we were treated to a sunset over the lake. It had been a long day.


Blog-a-book Monday: Just when I thought we were out of trouble, the Sheriff pays the Sierra Trek a visit and dynamite threatens to rain rocks down on us.

Blog-a-book Wednesday: I start the book on my African Peace Corps adventure with asking the question: Why?

Travel Blog Friday: We explore the unique early American rock art of Lyman Lake, discover some birds that are more mouth than body, and appreciate the beauty of the area.

36 thoughts on “Highway 191: National Parks and Navajos… The Backroad Series

  1. I have always wanted to drive one of these border to border roads. I don’t think there are any east-west that make it the entire way although 50 and 6 come close. US 1 on the east coast goes from Canada to Key West but much of it has stop lights every few blocks. 41 goes from the tip of Michigan to near Miami. But I think 191 is the only one that goes from Canada to Mexico.

    • I’ve always wanted to drive 50 all of the way across, Ray and touched on eastern and western sections in our trip last summer. I’ve picked up various other sections from time to time. Being raised a mile off of 50 added to its appeal. Highway 101 goes from the Canadian border all of the way to LA. Much of it is freeway now. I’ve driven all of it. –Curt

    • Tons of options out there, G. Peggy and I have spent many years wandering back and forth across the US and have barely touched on what there is to see. Still, we always enjoy traveling overseas as well. –Curt

  2. Wow, these are stunning pics Curt! Wow, being up close and personal to balance rock sends shivers up mhy spine watching you from afar. Glad the dinosaur had a mask. Surprise you didn’t mask the sheep! You must be busy plannning your next trip.
    Can’t wait till next post. Happy weekend! ❤️

  3. Love your photos!
    Canyon de Chelly – we loved being able to look down and see the activity taking place on the canyon floor. A bonus – it had just rained, so there were flash water falls!

    • Two very different perspectives from looking down and being inside the canyon, Margy. Both very worth while. We didn’t get to see the falls but we did get to see beautiful fall colors. 🙂

  4. I’ve taken parts of the 191 before, it is a pretty amazing road! Love the masked dinosaur and “two sheep apart” sign 🙂 I hope someday we can get ahead of this old pandemic 😦 😦

    • Once I pulled out my atlas, I was surprised at how much of it I’ve covered, MB.
      I too have appreciated whenever people have used humor in relating to the pandemic.
      Peggy and I got our first shots of the vaccine last week. Now we will be waiting for the booster. We were lucky in that our age and the fact the community had extra shots it needed to use provided the opportunity. It still looks like a long road ahead for the nation and world. –Curt

    • It’s beautiful, Jenny. Anyone can drive around the rim, but to get inside you have to hire a Navajo guide, which I highly recommend. While you are at it, you might want to drive up the road to Monument Valley. You can drive into it with a permit but Peggy and I also chose a Navajo guided tour there. Many of the early westerns were filmed there. –Curt

      • That sounds wonderful. We wanted to do that on our trip down that way but we ran out of time. It takes a long time to get from one place to another down there. Good excuse for another trip. And boy would I love to photograph both of those places and spend some time with a Navajo guide. Great advice. Thank you. Maybe I’ll do that with my son…

      • I suspect you would love the photography, Jenny. And it is an experience your son would remember all of his life. Admittedly, being retired, Peggy and I aren’t faced with time restraints. –Curt

    • There were tales originally that it got its name from a nearby cult that wanted to carve it out for a church. There’s a cave leading into the rock. Fake news. A local rancher was responsible for creating the cave, apparently for his cattle if I remember the story correctly. It would have been the Church of Good Moos. –Curt

  5. Oh, how exciting to learn of a new border-to-border route I can try someday! Hoping to get in some good western miles this summer, so maybe I can link up with 191 at some point! Thanks, Curt. Very fun and interesting post.

  6. Looks like you like to travel the way we do… looking for roads less traveled to follow. Finding and exploring parks along the way is a bonus. Nothing more frustrating than having some folks in a hurry pushing us along… or trying to run us off the road!

    • Life, it seems to me, Gunta, is much more enjoyable when you slow down and appreciate it. The road less travelled can have its challenges, but the rewards are much more. –Curt

      • So true! Besides the interstates get pretty boring.

        BTW… I truly enjoyed getting to meet Crazy Flumo last night! Honestly enjoying your book! 😀

      • Glad you are having fun with the book, Gunta. Checked both of your Emails. We missed the storm since we were still hanging out at Pt. Reyes. That tree looked like serious chainsaw time.
        We did get to drive through the slide are south of Crescent City. Reminded me of your slide last year.
        Thanks on the check. Appreciated. I was serious on the free bit. 🙂 –Curt

      • The storm was a doozy… it was one that made me envision trees falling on the house as I drifted off to sleep. As for the tree… the county crew had it pushed off the road and cleaned up before I crawled out of bed. Luckily Eric took pics. I’m learning that slides along the Coast Highway are a never ending event. You could say it keeps life interesting.

        The book… good laughs and learning lots. Not sure I ever came across mention of Liberia’s crazy history before. I could easily think of some folks who might think a fool thing like that might work even today! Them what don’t remember any history!
        And what fun… following in your footsteps with a few years to separate us. I got to Berkeley in ’68 when Ronny was doing his best to tell us about the welfare queen. You were long gone by then. I didn’t get too close to the Bezerkley riots in that day. Then I didn’t get to Hangtown until the mid 70s… and now it’s the edge of the Pacific. It’s the best location yet!!! That puts me about halfway round the globe. 🇱🇻

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