Here in our little corner of southeast Utah, we seem to be central to everything! From the scenic views of Monument Valley, the dizzying bends of Goosenecks State Park to the majestic bridges of Natural Bridges National Monument, Bluff boasts an expansive backyard. If you’re looking for a fun day or multi-day road trips from Bluff for anytime of the year, here are a few recommendations.
Starting from Bluff, you can head west on Highway 191 a short four miles and visit the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel. The prehistoric rock art ranges from 800 to 2500 years old. Can you spot Kokopelli, the humpbacked flute player?
Continuing west of Bluff on Highway 163, you can’t help but notice the giant formations sculpted from Cedar Mesa sandstone. Painted with the territory’s famous red dirt, these monoliths boast a royalty of rich colors and fantastic formations. The formations have been given names such as Rooster Butte, Setting Hen Butte, Balanced Rock/Lady in a Tub by locals. As you drive through Valley of the Gods, think about the names you would give these formations.
More information on the 17-mile loop through Valley of the Gods can be found here. Camping beneath these stately towers is a fun option, too!
The Goosenecks of the San Juan River are a series of tight loops– or “goosenecks”—made by the river as it flows towards the Colorado River. Geologists refer to these loops as entrenched or incised meanders. This state park has an easily accessible viewpoint above the river offering spectacular views of the goosenecks below.
To reach the Goosenecks, drive west from Bluff on US 163 for 20 miles, then turn north on UT-261. Turn left at the sign for Goosenecks State Park (UT-316).
The famous Monument Valley. Say, didn’t John Wayne poke his head around these parts? Monument Valley is all about the view of magnificent buttes, spires, mesas, and pinnacles. You can tour the park via a 17 mile, unpaved loop that can be quite bumpy in some areas.
Monument Valley is about an hour drive southwest of Bluff on Highway 191 and 163. For more information on its history and geology, click here.
After you’ve had your fill of towering sandstone spires, buttes and mesas (but can you really tire of such beautiful views?), circle back towards Bluff but head north on Highway 261 to climb the famous Moki Dugway. These three winding miles of climbing will take you to the top of Cedar Mesa. A detour “left” at the top of the Moki Dugway will take you to the Cedar Point and Muley Point Overlooks. Best time to experience these scenic lookouts? Sunset.
Continue north on 261 for 32 miles, then take a left on Highway 95 to follow signs to Natural Bridges. This National Monument is famous for its long, natural sandstone bridges and Ancestral Puebloan ruins. For more information about Natural Bridges, visit here.
Continuing on our road trip, we can start to loop back to Bluff by heading east on Highway 95 towards the town of Blanding. On the way, you’ll pass the Arch Canyon Overlook. This slight detour requires high clearance vehicles but is well worth the effort. Stunning views of Arch Canyon give you a taste of how grand all the canyons on Cedar Mesa are. We suggest reading Utah’s Canyon Country blog for great directions on getting to the overlook.
The name “Hovenweep” is a Ute word for “deserted valley,” a suiting description of the landscape of southeastern Utah. Once home to more than 2,500 indigenous people, the Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Hovenweep are believed by archaeologists to have been part of an agricultural community in 900 A.D. To reach this National Monument, continue east on Highway 95 towards Blanding. When you hit Highway 191, turn right to head south for 10 miles, then turn left on Highway 262 towards Hovenweep. More details about Hovenweep can be found here.
After some fun stops and a couple of days on the road, time to head back to Bluff. If you are looking to add more stops to your road trip, we recommend checking out our full list of recommendations here. Have fun- and safe travels!