#TravelTuesday: See What’s Dwelling in Bluff, Utah

by Brian & Dana Maass on August 10, 2021 in Travel,
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Head southeast in Utah’s Four Corners region and you’ll discover a not-to-missed hidden gem dramatically perching among the sandstone cliffs.

Four Corners is where the state meets Colorado and New Mexico to the East, and Arizona to the South. Utah’s peaceful town of Bluff is perfectly located for exploring the treasured Bears Ears National Monument land of San Juan County. Retreat to Bluff to immerse yourself in the history and life of the ancient Puebloan, Navajo and Ute tribes which once inhabited this area. This Native American culture remains alive and well through descendants and local residents who continue to celebrate life in the ancient way while sharing their culture with all who visit. 

Enjoy the setting at the Pueblo-inspired resort of Bluff Dwellings. Relaxing in the pool, or lounging in front of a fire under the dark, starry night is a perfect way to end a day of adventure. Courtesy photo

Premium Lodging at Bluff Dwellings

Driving down scenic Highway 191 roughly two hours south of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Bluff Dwellings Resort & Spa emerges from the towering cliffs. 

This luxurious resort resembles an adobe village and rests at the foot of an impressive 200-foot wall of red rock. Choose between a more intimate “king dwelling,” in one of several multi-story units, a “family dwelling,” which have two levels, or opt to stay in a free-standing pueblo with suites sleeping up to six guests. 

Gas-powered fire pits light up the evening, welcoming guests to gather and connect, while shared patios on each dwelling’s second floor provide the perfect backdrop for coffee at sunrise or late night stargazing. 

Custom luxury headboards, native wood valances, and vibrant Southwestern decor bring together elements of style and comfort in every dwelling.
Photo courtesy Bluff Dwellings

The natural environment is reflected inside with elements of river stones, wooden valances, and vibrant Native American textiles. Four glamping teepees provide a more rustic experience without having to sacrifice a comfortable bed. The Bluff Dwellings pool is a most refreshing amenity, so don’t forget to pack a bathing suit. And consider a visit to their HozHo spa. (HozHo is a Navajo word describing the concept of balance and beauty.) The relaxing facials, massages, or other relaxing treatments renew your body, mind and spirit. At day’s end, the Bluff Dwellings Pavilion often hosts special events featuring local performances for low-key entertainment on cool desert nights.

On property at Bluff Dwellings, fuel up with a hearty breakfast, coffee, fresh smoothie, sandwich, or pizza at the casual Cedar Shack Cafe. Courtesy photo

Local Dining

On property at Bluff Dwellings, you can fuel up with a hearty breakfast, coffee, fresh smoothie, sandwich, or pizza at the casual Cedar Shack Cafe. For a town with only about 200 permanent residents, Bluff does not fall short on pleasurable patio dining, topped with attention to safety and exceptional service. Sit around a cluster of shady native Cottonwood trees in the courtyard of the appropriately named Cottonwood Steakhouse, open for over 25 years and serving guests from April through October. Hang out with the hummingbirds and try the savory Pepper Panini at Comb Ridge Eat + Drink, but don’t forget to peruse the gallery of items made by local artisans before grabbing a table. 

Take a tour of Mule Canyon with Ancient Wayves, and see the famous House on Fire. While there, look around and you will see hand prints from the past painted on the rocks. Photo Brian Maass

Adventure Calls. . . Bluff Answers

Bluff Dwellings is home to premium lodging in addition to adventure tours through Wild Expeditions, in operation since 1957. No matter your land or water exploration goals, Wild Expeditions and indigenous-owned Ancient Wayves River and Hiking Adventures both offer something for everyone. 

Gazing on the Ancients

Ancient Wayves features Puebloan sites including Cedar Mesa, House on Fire and Cave Towers. Filled with impressive scenic overlooks gazing down into canyons from the cliff’s edge, Cave Towers is accessed by light to moderate hiking. Here you will see a partially constructed Puebloan tower with a myriad of other archeological remains of this ancient civilization. House on Fire is a former native American worksite constructed beneath a giant rock that resembles flames. Along the trails, Ancient Wayves guides provide an education on the many practical uses of plants on the landscape, while leading you to petroglyphs created by those whose handprints are still clearly marked on the rocks where time stands still. 

After touring the Mule Canyon and Cedar Mesa, take a short drive on the Moki Dugway. The path through the mountains may get a little narrow, but you can pull over, and get fantastic views of the Valley of the Gods from Muley Point. Photo Brian Maass

Scenic Drive

The Moki Dugway is a nearby scenic switchback road that takes you three miles down the side of a mountain. Created in 1951 to transport uranium, Moki is part of scenic Hwy 261 affording aerial views of the Cedar Mesa and a collection of monolith rocks known as Valley of the Gods.  Muley Point on the Moki Dugway is known for spectacular sunsets for an unforgettable finale to your day. All-wheel drive is helpful (yet not required) to see this rugged Navajo tapestry. 

Wonders of Nature

Two other “must-see” stops in this vicinity are Natural Bridges National Monument and Goosenecks State Park. Known as the very first International Dark Sky Park in the world, Natural Bridges may be your destination for unparalleled night photography after watching the sunset at Muley Point. Be sure to visit the wonder of nature known as The Goosenecks. Resembling the necks of geese when viewed from 1,000 feet above, these 300-million-year-old mega limestone and shale rock formations (known as  entrenched river meanders) were carved out by the San Juan River below.  Hike down to the river via The Honaker Trail, for an opposing vantage point. 

Just after leaving the Moki Dugway, you will enter the Valley of the Gods. Get your permit from the Navajo Nation, and explore the wide open spaces.
Photo Brian Maass

Museum Must

Between Monticello and Bluff along Highway 191 at Blanding, visit the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum before closing time for a full tour. A large collection of Native pottery and artifacts can be viewed here. Outside, walk into ancient Puebloan ruins, including a Sun Marker which indicated optimal times to plant various crops through casting animal shadows. 

Mexican Hat

South of Bluff, take a cruise through the town of Mexican Hat, named for the corresponding rock formation you will see on your way down to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Here, you can stand at mile marker 13, where Forrest Gump stopped running in the iconic 1994 film. At the time of writing, the visitor center was closed due to the pandemic. However, the drive remains accessible to Monument Valley’s panoramic rock line, with views for miles. Returning to Bluff, take time to reflect on the fascinating tapestry of geology and culture surrounding this small yet significant Utah town. 

Stand over the San Juan River, and look down onto the Goosenecks the river carved out over thousands of years. The park here also offers a primitive campground and trails to hike. Photo Brian Maass

This is the final in a four-part series on Utah. Check out the previous articles here when planning your own trip.

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Cover photo courtesy Brian Maass

Brian and Dana Maass are married and live with their dog Chester in Round Rock, Texas. When not working their day jobs, they can be found traveling, writing, capturing scenic photos, exploring the Hill Country, and serving the community. Follow them on Instagram at @Dana_Maass_Adventures and @Brian_Maass_Adventures.