Bluff, Utah is a charming little Southwest U.S. town on the banks of the San Juan River. The first thing that will surprise you about Bluff is the setting. Nestled in a canyon, the rock bluffs, for which the town is named, surround this quaint little town and are quite striking. The weather red rocks with their white caps look an awful lot like red velvet cupcakes dripping with white frosting.
Historic Bluff City was founded in 1880 by the famous “Hole in the Rock” expedition of Mormon (Latter-Day Saint) pioneers. The original fort and historic village of log homes was surrounded by fields and orchards. However, farming was difficult because the San Juan River either flooded or went dry too often for dependable irrigation. In the 1900s, Bluff was a mining town. Its fortune was based on the rise and fall of mining ventures in coal, oil and uranium; as well as on the successes and failures of the cattle ranchers and farmers along the erratic San Juan River. Today, Bluff is active center for craftsman and artists, as well as a center for mine exploration and ranching.
Much of the Bluff Historic District and the original 1880 town site remains today, including cemetery hill and 42 buildings spread out over several blocks. Visit the old mill, school, jail and library as well as the homes and cabins of several of the early settlers.
There are several quaint inns, lodges and bed & breakfasts that make fine launching points for you to explore the surrounding area. Nearby mesas and bluffs, like Cedar Mesa, have some of the most beautiful canyons to be found anywhere. Reached by dirt roads, the hiking trailheads often require four-wheel drive to get there. But once there, you’ll experience some of the best hiking and mountain biking spots in the world. The spectacular scenery is only surpassed by your chance to view dozens of ruins left behind by the Anasazi people and relatively undisturbed over the years. Abandoned dwellings, farms, roads, burial sites, petroglyphs and pottery remain behind today, telling the stories of ancient inhabitants who were well adapted to the country many centuries ago. One of Bluff’s most popular spots is the Sand Island Camping Area. The rock art of the Anasazi people covers the walls and it is also the put-in for many river trips in the region.
The nearby attractions of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, Natural Bridges, Mesa Verde, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Canyon de Chelly, Navajo National Monument and Hovenweep are within an hour or two driving distance of Bluff.
Because Bluff is a small, charming little town, there are only a couple good restaurants to choose from when hunger strikes. Smaller trading posts and shops offer samples of native arts and crafts, home furnishings and jewelry. Several festivals also spice things up during the year including the Balloon Festival, the Navajo Fair & Rodeo and the Bluff Arts Festival.