Beauty 45 miles in any direction

It’s time again for Rick Bell’s annual year in review, a photographer’s look at life in and around Bluff. Some folks say Bluff is the middle of nowhere, at Twin Rocks Trading Post we think it is the center of the universe.
We are in the bull’s eye of an amazing array of fascinating places. All these photos were taken within a 45-mile radius of Bluff. Each of these locations are worth visiting, and collectively they form a unique tourist experience.
Twin Rocks Trading Post
While visiting Twin Rocks Trading Post you won’t need to travel far to see some stunning sights. When you walk out our front door, look to the right and see the towering formation known as the Navajo Twins, representing the heroic pair who saved the Navajo people from destruction.
Look to the left and you will see Sunbonnet Rock, a charming sandstone hoo-doo. Immediately behind the Post is a towering bluff which serves as the southern border of the Bears Ears National Monument.
Comb Ridge
Comb Ridge lies about eight miles west of Bluff. It is an 80-mile monocline which stretches from Kayenta, Arizona, all the way north to the Abajo Mountains of Utah.
The remarkable geological feature contains countless Anasazi sites, including ruins, granaries and rock art. In Navajo stories, Comb Ridge is where the winds go to sleep.
In 1976 Comb Ridge was named a National Natural Landmark. Its name comes from its resemblance to a rooster’s comb.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
America’s most iconic landscape, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park has appeared in countless movies, commercials, and advertisements.
It became internationally famous in 1939 when John Ford shot the classic Western Stagecoach, which made John Wayne a star. Commercial tours are available with Navajo guides, or a 16-mile self-guided driving tour is available.
At the post we have welcomed visitors as far away as Tasmania and Norway, all with a life-long desire to visit Monument Valley. Monument Valley straddles the Utah and Arizona state lines and lies 44 miles west of Bluff.
Bluff Fort
Bluff Fort, located only four blocks from Twin Rocks, is a skillful reproduction of the original 1880 settlement of Bluff by Mormon missionaries.
The 250 men, women and children are known as the “Hole-in-the-Rock” expedition and survived one of the most arduous wagon train experiences in Western history.
While they expected their journey to the banks of the San Juan River to take six weeks, it required six months of trial, labor and faith to reach Bluff.
Admission to Bluff Fort is free all year round and is manned by volunteers performing their Senior Missions on behalf of the LDS church.
San Juan River at Sand Island
The 383-mile-long San Juan River is the major tributary of Colorado and drains the annual snowmelt of the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado.
The river marks the northern border of the Navajo Reservation and is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Just five miles west of Bluff is the Sand Island campground, known for its remarkable and very accessible rock art panel. Raft and canoe trips launch from the Sand Island site, and limited camping and RV parking is available.                     
Muley Point
Twenty-two miles west of Bluff on Highway 163 is the intersection of Highway 261 which takes you past Gooseneck State Park and up the spectacular Moki Dugway, a hair-pin gravel road of 2.5 miles to the top of Cedar Mesa.
At the top, a five-mile dirt road to the west leads visitors to an area called Muley Point, one of the most dramatic vistas in the American Southwest. A small primitive campground provides unmatched views of distant Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain.
The site is 1,000 feet above the canyon and 2,000 feet above the San Juan River. It’s an adventure to reach Muley Point, but well worth the effort.
Mexican Hat
About 22 miles west of Bluff is the amazing geological feature known as Mexican Hat, for its resemblance to an upside-down sombrero. Over 250 million years old, the formation is caused by a capstone of Cedar Mesa Sandstone on a bed of shale and siltstone. It is clearly visible from Highway 163 and can be visited up close by a short dirt road. The nearby community of Mexican Hat, Utah, features a bridge over the San Juan and serves as the entrance to the Navajo Nation.
Hovenweep National Monument
Just 41 miles to the northeast of Bluff is the late period Anasazi site Hovenweep National Monument, which straddles the Utah and Colorado border. Named as a National Monument in 1923, a small interpretive center leads to a comfortable pathway around Square Tower Canyon.
There you will see several unparalleled towers and large buildings known as “castles.” The purpose of the towers is unknown, but many served as astrological observatories.
Several smaller villages, called outliers, are located within hiking distance, or can be reached by very rough roads. Hovenweep is believed to be one of the last settlements of the Ancient Ones prior to their evacuation of the Four Corners region.
Goosenecks State Park
West of Bluff and adjacent to the Valley of the Gods and Mexican Hat is the unmatched geological formation called the Goosenecks of the San Juan. Classified as an entrenched meander, it is considered one of the largest in the world.
In prehistoric times, the San Juan River cut through soft sandstone in a series of tight curves, resembling the neck of a goose. In one linear mile, the river travels 6.5 miles. A Utah small state park, with a parking lot with a small campground, serves as the overview of the twisting river which is more than 1,000 feet below.
Procession Panel
All around Bluff, examples of rock art called petroglyphs can be seen and enjoyed.
Few are as dramatic and graphic as the prehistoric art gallery known as the Procession Panel. Along with animals, Kokopelli and other petroglyph standards, a remarkable illustration is presented.
A large round circle is the destination for three columns of 187 marching figures lined up to enter the circle. The site is seven miles west of Bluff on Highway 163 and then 6.6 miles north. An uphill walk to the top of Comb Ridge of 1,200 feet is necessary to reach the Procession Panel, but nobody who arrives at the site is disappointed by the experience.
Edge of the Cedars Museum
Located in our neighboring town, Blanding, just 25 miles to the north, is the Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum. It is a museum and archaeological repository for artifacts found in this region, illustrating life in this area from 825 to 1125 AD.
It contains several extremely rare examples of Anasazi life, including a turkey feather blanket and ceremonial sash made of Macaw features. A small pueblo, complete with accessible kiva, is located adjacent to the museum.
Valley of the Gods
The Valley of the Gods, a part of the Bears Ears National Monument, is a 17-mile gravel road winding through a landscape of towering monuments, spires, and geological wonders. The road is gravel but maintained in good condition.
It leads from Hwy. 163 to Hwy. 261 and is central to all the natural wonders of the Mexican Hat region. During our annual Bluff International Balloon Festival in January, when weather conditions are just right, 25 balloons launch from the Valley’s floor, making an unforgettable sight as they drift above the desert monuments.
These twelve attractions are less than a one-hour drive from Bluff. In addition to the geological and archaeological wonders, one only needs to go outside most nights and enjoy endless starry marvels in the dark sky.
Discover Bluff and you just might discover things about yourself as well. Bluff is considered the “Epic Center of the Southwest.”

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday