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The (not so) rough guide to Roadrunner Country

Where to seek out the classic and quintessential heart of Roadrunner Country

The (not so) rough guide to Roadrunner Country
Monument Valley, Roadrunner Country, USA. Image: Getty

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Everyone of a certain age will have a clear mental image of Roadrunner Country — those vast tracts of orangey-red desert through which Wile E Coyote vainly pursued his elusive feathery nemesis. Animated though they may have been, these memorable backdrops — with their castle-like sandstone rock formations, classically shaped cacti and long, ruler-straight roads — closely resemble the deserts of the Southwestern US, specifically those found in the Four Corners, the arid region that incorporates the touching corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

If you want to see Roadrunner Country for yourself, a good starting point is Monument Valley, a stunning Wild West landscape within the Navajo Reservation on the Arizona-Utah state line. The valley is known for its striking sandstone buttes, the most famous of which are the iconic Mittens. Meanwhile, just 20 miles north west is the tiny village of Mexican Hat, named after a curious nearby rock formation comprising a large, flat 60ft-wide rock perched precariously on a much smaller rock at the top of a hill — in fact, it’s just the type of rock one can imagine flattening a certain luckless cartoon coyote!

Roadrunners & coyotes
Arizona’s state bird, the greater roadrunner can be found throughout many of the Southern US states, and, true to its name, can run — at up to 20mph, the fastest running speed recorded for a flying bird. It generally shares its habitat with the coyote — although coyotes can actually run much faster, meaning a real-life Wile E would have no need to resort to ingenious ACME mail order devices in order to make a meal of his feathered nemesis.

Published in the May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)