Saturday, November 9, 2019

Bluff, UT

Cottonwood RV Park
Bluff, UT
October 25-30, 2019

Bluff has always been an overnight stop for us when we leave Tucson heading to Moab.  A few years ago, friends John and Pam ( ) stopped in Bluff and instantly made a connection there.  They have returned several more times and rarely repeated any of their activities.    They have written many blog posts about all the area has to offer...including hikes to some pretty cool ruins and petroglyphs.  John and Pam’s blog, along with Sue and Dave’s blog   ( ), were just the spark we needed to motivate us to see for ourselves some gorgeous hikes...both walking hikes and auto some pretty cool destinations.

When planning our trip to warmer weather this year, we made our first reservation at Cottonwood RV Park in Bluff  which is only 100 miles south of Moab.  As the time neared for departure, the weather forecast was NOT looking good for Bluff or Moab with lows predicted in the single digits...not just one night but several nights...and with highs only in the  30s to low 40s.  To say Joe and I are not cold weather people would be an understatement...we REALLY DO NOT like cold weather.  We cut our week long stay in Bluff 2 days short giving us just a snippet of what the area has to offer.  We barely scratched the surface and totally agree with John and Pam and Sue and Dave that Bluff is worth the time !

We loved our spot at Cottonwood RV Park.  It’s right on Main Street, easy to find and easy to pull in to.  

And if that is not enough, Nancy, the owner, is awesome.   She was born and raised in Bluff and has notebook upon notebook filled with her beautiful photography (a lifetime of places she calls home).  Her "guide books" are stacked in the corner of her desk complete with directions and pictures. These books along with her descriptions offer so much to see and do. 

We loved our view...

and the puppies loved their space !

In our short stay we did manage to check off a few boxes on the to do list.
1. Hovenweep National Monument (Oct 26 with an afternoon high of 61 degrees)
Archeological findings indicate that the Pueblo population increased in the canyon and mesa country north of the San Juan River (the Four Corners area) in the early 1200s.  Larger villages were built around canyon heads that contained water sources.  Many dwellings stood right on the canyon rim

 while some were built on top of  isolated boulders down in the canyon.    

The ruins are amazing.  Round, square, and horseshoe buildings tell stories of a once thriving communities. 
Together, Twin Towers had 16 rooms. One tower is oval and the other is D-shaped. Original wooden lintels (used where wood is readily available) are still in place. These two towers are considered to be among the most carefully constructed buildings in the entire Southwest.

This rectangular shaped building stands two stories high.  Many tiny openings were placed in the walls ...maybe for peepholes.  

Hovenweep Castle consists of two D-shaped structures. A residence was associated with the castle.  

 Dover joined us on our visit to Hovenweep.  She had staples from a cyst removal removed a couple of days early before we left Moab.  We took her along to keep an eye on her and  to make sure she didn't disturb the scab that was there. 

There are out-lier trails at Hovenweep we had hoped to do including the Holly Trail.  We didn't get to do time !

 2. Double Stack Ruins Hike (Oct. 27 with an afternoon high of 67 degrees)
Double Stack ruins is one of many historical sites located in Butler Wash area just outside Bluff.  Butler Wash is famous for its concentration of ruins, petroglyphs and caves.  We had planned on visiting several sites (as most of the hikes are short and easy), but got a very late start waiting for the temps to rise from a chilly 25 degrees.  

Just waiting...

We are early morning people and sitting around waiting to go on a hike is a new experience for us.  When it finally warmed up to the mid-50s, it was mid-afternoon.  Needless to say, Double Stack was our only adventure in Butler Wash that day.  And there was no lunch or dinner with a view except from inside Belle. 

The hikes in Butler Wash are unmarked and we were told at the Bears Ears Visitor Center that when we see cars we should stop.  John said go 3.9 miles down Butler Wash Road...we liked his directions better !  There is parking with a a visible trail that dips down into a wash and climbs out the other side.  We made our way to some slickrock and thank goodness someone had made cairns to show  the way.

After the slickrock, the trail dips down into the mouth of the canyon.
From here, the trail is well used and easy to follow.
And I should mention, it is gorgeous.  Of course, I do love canyon hikes and am always thrilled to be amongst the tall canyon walls. 
The upper level ruin is not accessible because of its hight.

The upper level ruin gives this hike its name...    
The lower level ruin was on ground level and sort of accessible.  It was evident by all the footprints inside the fence, that the fence is not a deterrent.  

Pottery shards, materials left over from tool making, and grinding stones were nowhere to be seen.  I am hoping the BLM has them for safe keeping.

 It is so amazing that these and any dwellings built by the Anasazi over 800 years ago are still standing...what a story these walls could and do tell !

A hike had been planned for the next day as well, but what a surprise it was to wake up to a dusting of snow.  

After checking the weather, it was quickly and  unanimously decided that an auto-hike was in order.  No way are we ever hiking when the high is 39 degrees and the doesn't account for a chilly wind factor.

3. Sand Island Petroglyphs, Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway, Muley Point, Natural Bridges NM (Oct. 28 with an afternoon high of 39 degrees)
All the destinations on the auto hike were places we wanted to visit.  I would have rather hiked to ruins, but it was good to check these off the list too.  

Sand Island Petroglyph Panel is over 100 yards of Anasazi rock art that spans all of the time that humans were known to inhabit the area.  From the early Basketmaker (500 AD- 1500 AD) period through the Pueblo III (1150-1350) the sheer amount of art along with the time range it represents indicates that this area must have held special significance.  In more recent times, Utes and Navajo also left a records of their time there.

It is very unfortunate that people do not respect these archeological treasures. A fence has been installed so we all have to look through the fence and at a distance that makes photos hard to get.

Valley of the Gods is a scenic sandstone valley that features some impressive rock formations.  Although a quarter of the size of Monument Valley, the 18 mile dirt road meanders around some unique pinnacles, buttes, and monoliths with names like Seven Sailors Butte, Setting Hen Butte, Battleship Rock and Lady in a Tub.  The shapes and colors grab your attention at every turn.  

Moki (a local term for the ancient Puebloan people who inhabited the Colorado Plateau hundreds of years ago) Dugway (a term used to describe a roadway carved from a hillside)  is a route that connects Utah Hwy 95 with US Hwy 163 by climbing up or plunging down (depending on where you begin) the Dugway at a 10% grade.   The route,  constructed in the 1950s to transport uranium ore, is about 3 miles of narrow hairpin switchbacks and it is all carved into the cliff wall of Cedar Mesa. kind of road !  The views of Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley in the distance were amazing as we steadily climbed 1200 feet. 

After enjoying the drive and the view up Moki Dugway, we reached the top of Cedar Mesa.  There is a dirt road on the left...turn here to get to Muley Point.  It is a five mile gravel/dirt road on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land...

that leads to an overlook.  Not just any overlook...this is totally amazing !  The sweeping views of twisting, long eroded canyons of the San Juan River and the desert beyond are breathtaking.  It was freezing cold and windy and the sun wasn't in the right spot for pictures (They were way to dark so now I guess we need to return!) but I stood there jaw dropped at the scene before me. 
The San Juan River is in the center of the picture and the background is Monument Valley...and yes, I was way too close to the edge!

Joe finally grabbed my hand and said it was time to go. 

The final destination on our auto-hike was Natural Bridges National Monument.  The first time we saw NGNM was in June of 2015 when we flew over it on a RedTail Aviation adventure for Dee's 55th birthday.  That was a day we will never forget.  I took the photo below of Sipapu Bridge that day.  It is the largest of the three bridges in the park and the second largest natural bridge in the U.S. 
Photo taken June 9, 2015 from a fly over while on a RedTail Aviation adventure. Sipapu is a Hopi term for "the opening between worlds". 

 Anyhow, I have wanted to return for a long time to experience the bridges up close.  I took this photo from the overlook as we drove through the park...not exactly up close so you know what that means !  The hike to Sipapu takes about 2 hours and is rather steep on the return, and I can hardly wait. 
Photo taken on Oct. 28, 2019 from the Viewpoint while driving thru the park. Squint your eyes to see the bridge in the center of the picture.

We did stop at the Visitor Center and then took the 9 mile one-way, one-lane loop road thru the park.  Natural Bridges, established in 1908, is Utah's first national Monument.  It certainly deserves more time than a drive thru.
Kachina refers to dancers or masked members of the Hopi tribe.  The bridge was named Kachina because petroglyphs depicting dancing figures are carved on the base of the bridge.  
The last bridge on the one-way road is Owachomo Bridge.  Owachomo means round mound in Hopi and refers to a rock formation on top of the east end of the bridge.   It is the smallest and thinnest of the three bridges and thought to be the oldest. 
To finish the loop, we headed to Blanding after NBNM for a stop at the grocery store.  If you are planning a visit to Bluff, plan ahead as there are no grocery stores in Bluff.  Thanks for that info Sue.  

Up next, a stop in Winslow, AZ.  Yep, I did stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona and have the photo to prove it !

Until next time,
The Moki Dugway


  1. Glad you enjoyed Bluff as much as we do. The road running below Muley Point (shown in your second Muley Point picture) is the one we told you about. It squeezes between the high bluffs you were on and the River far below.....lots of fun!
    We didn't spend enough time at Natural Bridges either, it was a "cold weather autohike" day for us but I'd like to return.

  2. So sorry to hear the weather wasn't the best for your Bluff visit. But glad you got a little taste for the area. Many return trip will be necessary to really get a full taste. The hiking to the ruins is endless.

  3. We too enjoy Bluff! we've always had good weather, but never enough time. Great suggestions for outings in the area.

  4. One of our all time favorite places we've been. We aren't hikers but have actually done a bit of hiking in that area. I too always think when walking around those ruins--if these walls could only talk.