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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.