Tucked between sandstone cliffs and the San Juan River, the small town of Bluff hosts a vibrant cultural history all its own. It’s also close to many of the state’s outdoor destinations, like Bear Ears National Monument and Monument Valley.
In the far southeastern corner of Utah, you’ll find the small town of Bluff tucked between dramatic sandstone cliffs and the mighty San Juan River. Rich in human and natural history, Bluff is a central point along the Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway, serving as a gateway to quintessential Southeast destinations such as Monument Valley, Bears Ears National Monument, Valley of the Gods, and Hovenweep National Monument.
Ancestral Puebloans were the first to settle the area, leaving behind an impressive array of rock art, abandoned dwellings, and other artifacts as clues to their lives in this harsh desert landscape. Nomadic Paiute, Ute, and Navajo tribes also traveled through the Bluff region, leaving their own archeological marks as well as modern-day influences on the local culture. Mormon pioneers hoping to establish a farming community along the San Juan River founded historic Bluff City during the famous “Hole in the Rock” expedition of 1880.
Boutique lodges, inns, and guesthouses offer unique accommodation options for visitors, along with several campgrounds and RV parks. Dining in Bluff is marked by distinctly local, unfussy bistros and cafes serving up comfort food in cozy settings.
Bluff is two hours south of Moab on Highway 191, and about 330 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Situated near the Four Corners, Bluff is a 2-hour drive from Durango, Colorado and Farmington, New Mexico.
The Bluff Fort Historic Site gives visitors a glimpse of pioneer life in this rugged valley. A rebuilt and restored version of the original fort, the site tells the story of the Mormon settlers who traveled the formidable Hole-in-the-Rock Trail to establish the township. What was originally planned to be a 6-week wagon trip, the grueling expeditions lasted six months through harsh winter conditions, showcasing one of the greatest examples of American pioneer spirit.
Twin Rocks Trading Post
Showcasing an impressive collection of authentic Native American jewelry and art, this unique trading post is situated directly beneath the Navajo Twin Rocks geologic formation. The handcrafted baskets, rugs, sculptures, and turquoise and silver jewelry reveal the traditions of Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni cultures.
Bluff Arts Festival
This four-day, community-based affair started in 2005 and offers a different experience each year. The gallery walks, film festival, storytelling events, and workshops put the local artist community and regional culture front and center.
Utah Navajo Fair and Rodeo
For one weekend every September, the Utah Navajo Fair and Rodeo brings the town to life with a parade, classic rodeo, and Native American pow-wow—which features drum groups and traditional dances from various tribes.
Bears Ears National Monument
Bluff prides itself on being the gateway to Bears Ears, a national monument designated in 2016 to protect the abundant cultural treasures and striking desert landscape of this region. Characterized by dramatic canyons, sandstone mesas, and juniper forests, the land is home to ancient rock art, cliff dwellings, and sites for modern-day Native American cultural activities.
Goosenecks of the San Juan
Twenty-five miles west of Bluff, Goosenecks State Park wows visitors with views of 1,000-foot gorges cut by tight bends in the San Juan River. The main vantage point is easily accessible via the park’s paved road and makes for the perfect spot to observe several of the river’s striking goosenecks, along with impressive stargazing thanks to the area’s Dark Sky Park designation.
Valley of the Gods
Driving the 17-mile loop through Valley of the Gods brings adventurers face to face with the otherworldly pinnacles, monoliths, and buttes that give this place its celestial name. The eastern end of this graded gravel and sand road is accessible via Highway 163, just 15 miles west of Bluff.
Famously featured in Hollywood films since the 1930s, images of Monument Valley have shaped the perception of the American West. These quintessential red rock formations—primarily spires, buttes, and monoliths—are situated 50 miles southwest of Bluff within the Navajo Nation on the Utah-Arizona border. The 17-mile scenic drive is open to private vehicles, while guided jeep tours allow access to remote backroads in the region.
Hovenweep National Monument
Forty miles east of Bluff lies Hovenweep National Monument, where six prehistoric villages have stood the test of time. Built by Ancestral Puebloans between 1200 and 1300 CE, these multistory buildings and towers were once home to more than 2,500 people. Today, visitors can explore the ruins on a network of hiking trails and enjoy unparalleled stargazing in this Dark Sky Park.
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