Bluff, Utah the second time around – Part 1

Bluff, Utah is an unassuming, sparsely populated little town in the southeastern corner of Utah.  Although seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it’s surrounded by opportunities for adventure.  Along with John and Pam, and Dave and Sue, we totally agree this is a place worthy of repeat visits.  Not that we wouldn’t happily meet up with these fine folks anywhere in the U.S., or beyond!

John and Pam’s coach on the left, then Beluga and finally Betsy lined up at Cadillac Ranch RV Park

San Juan Hill

When we arrived in Bluff, our friends were waiting and ready to take us, the “jeepless travelers” for a ride along a narrow, sandy and rocky road to the San Juan Hills.  They had been on this trip before, but because they are such thoughtful and nice friends they offered to share this fun trek with us – or perhaps it was another not-so-subtle hint that we simply must get ourselves a Jeep?

Upon our arrival we were reminded how incredibly tough and determined the Mormon pioneers who passed through this area were.  Hole in the Rock tells the story of their crossing of the Colorado River, and this, the last obstacle as they climbed over what they called San Juan Hill.  It’s a tale of faith and tenacity, all in answer to God’s calling.

San Juan Hill
We retraced the amazing path the pioneers traveled in 1879 – with wagons full of belongings!
Lewis was our leader and very proficient at “herding humans”
When the pioneers finally reached the top, they carved their thanks to God into the rock, as pointed our by our red-shirted historian
San Juan Hill
“Here’s a wagon track,” says Dave.  “There’s one over here, too,” says John.  “Help me find a track, Lewis,” says Steve.  And Lewis asks “What are my crazy friends doing on top of this cliff?”
San Juan Hill
The wagon wheel ruts remain on the rocks almost 140 years later – incredible!
Can you spot Sue exploring near the trailhead way down there?
Lewis searches for mom as some cowboys ride through the area
From below the route taken by the pioneers’ wagons is clearly visible

Remains of the Barton Trading Post

The Rincone

The Rincon
Steve and John contemplate the remains of a waterwheel platform, circa 1880
140 year old logs

River House Ruins

Just half a mile or so further down the “road” we stopped to check out a stabilized ruin by the San Juan River, appropriately called River House Ruins.  It was occupied by Ancestral Puebloans between AD900 and the late 1200’s.

Ancient ruins under assault by modern machines
River House Ruins
These ruins are inaccessible to most people, therefore in pretty good condition
Soot marks indicate a kitchen area
River House Ruin
The River House Ruin is also known as The Snake House, due to a huge snake pictograph on the back wall
Pottery fragments were everywhere
Three men and a dog having a serious discussion

The scenery in the area

Multi-hued rocks
San Juan River
Do you see the feathered cliff dweller I spotted?
Another way of visiting the ruins – bring your own horse!
Homeward bound after yet another awesome trek
If not for our friends, we could not have enjoyed this wonderful place – thank you!




  1. We love Bluff, too, and even after two visits will return! There’s so much to discover there. And even better to share the adventure with good friends.
    The road to the River House Ruins was impassable when we were there, so it’s wonderful to see it through your beautiful photos. Is that a Canada Goose in the rocks??

    • Canada Goose? For real? Wonderful multi-hued scenes! and wonderful friends with a shared joy of play too 🙂

  2. Its great to revisit places, you find things you missed the first (or second) time around! We, too, enjoyed the rough ride to San Juan Hill and the River House ruins with our friends. Things look different through new eyes. We’ll miss you’re smiling faces but always look forward to meeting you “down the road”.

  3. Nice adventures…we sometimes stop in Bluff on our way to Moab. We need to stop & stay for a visit! Love the River House pictures!

  4. I can’t believe you can still see the tracks. That is crazy! What an interesting place to visit. We’re heading that way soon, though, we too are Jeep-less. ☹️ Maybe we’ll see what our mighty Xterra can do…. (and yes, I’ll have AAA’s number handy. 😂)

  5. I’m so glad you were in Bluff at the same time we were so we could share this great site with you and Steve. Seeing San Juan Hill after hearing the story makes it even harder to believe the Mormans made it over. I love your header photo of the Comb Ridge! Beautiful!

  6. I’m reading this in Titusville, FL as I pack up for a summer exploring Utah. Many friends have told us “Spend time in Utah.” So summer 2018 is it. Your post has added a location to my itinerary. Thanks.

  7. My grandmothers grandfather was a Mormon pioneer in southern Utah. They came over from Ireland. They founded the town Springdale next to Zion National Park. His name was Joseph Smith Black. I have a book about him. I’m not a Mormon. I want to go to Bluff. I love your photos and story.

  8. We’ve discussed getting a jeep so we could visit some of these amazing places. Hard to believe the wagon trains 140 years ago would leave ruts that are still visible to this day.

  9. OMG, this is such beautiful country. You are fortunate to have such great friends to travel with, as I’m sure you well know. You have captured the beauty of the area wonderfully MonaLiza.

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