36 Hours in Bluff
Friends, I feel like we hit the jackpot with this location for our 36 Hours Series: Bluff, Utah. Boy howdy! This one is a hidden gem, that I HAVE to share with you because it was our very favorite trip and adventure yet! Our 36 hours here thrilled us, filled our souls and left us in awe and wanting more! I promise that you want to make this your #1 on your next place to go! Without further adieu, here are the specifics:
Where to Stay:
We stayed at the brand spanking new resort, Bluff Dwellings Resort. Whoa! Did you read that right?! A "resort" in Bluff?? Yep! Bluff Dwellings Resort is a resort and they thought of every detail to make your stay comfortable, relaxing and unique. We stayed in one of the Family Dwelling Pueblos. It is a two story, stand alone little house nestled next to the prettiest stone cliff. The ground floor has one bedroom with a king bed and ensuite fancy bathroom. It has a walk in closet and a little nook off to the side (which I told my husband would be perfect for a pack 'n' play if we had a baby still). There is a flat screen tv in the king bedroom (we are not a tv watching family, but it is a nice touch when vacationing). There is also a full kitchen and living room (with a sleeper sofa). As we travel with five children, we've learned that having a kitchen to cook our own meals saves us a TON of money. I am so glad that a fully stocked kitchen is in the Family Dwelling. Oh, and we even had our own little patio with a fireplace and grill! See, what I mean?! They thought of everything!
Upstairs there is a room with a queen bed, a set of bunk beds and another full bathroom. My kids LOVED the bunk beds and may or may not have fought over who got to sleep on top.
We arrived in Bluff about 8:30pm and of course had to go swimming upon arrival. The pool was unbelievable! Something so unexpected in such a small town! The pool had a beach entry, a waterslide and waterfall. I am a wimp when it comes to cold water, and this pool was perfect. Plus, there is the largest hot tub we've ever seen. The sunsets both nights took our breath away.
Nothing beats night swimming at Bluff Dwelling Resort, except perhaps swimming in the day!
After swimming for an hour, we headed back to our dwelling to hit the sack since we had the most epic day planned!
What to do:
Wild Expeditions is on the same property as Bluff Dwelling Resort, so it was easy peasy to wake up, get our swimsuits and sunblock on and walk to the excursion office. We chose the Kayak/Hummer Expedition. Basically it is a guided 8-mile kayak trip on the San Juan River with a few stops along the way for snacks (which they provide), drinks and exploring some petroglyphs (we finally learned the difference between PETROglyphs and PICTOgraphs!) and even some floating in the river to cool off! We really scored with the BEST guides out there, Louis and Frizzle (I only can remember his nickname, sorry, Frizzle!) We jumped in a van with our kayaks towed behind and drove to the entry point for our adventure. Louis fitted all seven of us in life jackets and then gave us a brief run down on safety, how to paddle with a current - we have all kayaked before but always in a reservoir or lake, so a river with a pretty swift current is different - and how to have fun.
Here is Louis going over some basic principles of paddling - I loved how my kids actually listened and responded well to him (even my 6 year old who is looking at me, is giving a thumbs up).
One thing that my kids got such a kick out of (and let's be honest, so did I) was that the lifejackets had nicknames on the back of them. This guy was "Water Rat" and we have since called him that - he's always been comfortable in the water so it just fit perfectly!
Louis made a point to show the kids how to do everything with the kayaks, so they had to pull them out and get in them just like the adults. It was cool to see my kids do hard things on this trip. (I also learned that my waterproof case is not the best for clear photos...I am now buying a GoPro)
Here are my 9 and 10 year old girls figuring out how to paddle with a current that wants to pull the "ducky" (a term we learned for inflatable kayak) close to shore. Full disclosure: there was some yelling and tears between these two; in fact, Louis suggested that maybe we should separate them, but by the time we were going to do it, they'd figured it all out! YES!
I had my 6 year old son in my kayak and the "baby" (he's 5 years old) was with my husband. Our youngest daughter rode with Louis.
Once all the kinks were ironed out with paddling, we were well on our way! Because the San Juan River is swift, there was not a lot of paddling, rather it was like this, "paddle, paddle, float, float, steer, float, float, paddle." Just perfect for beginners like us!
This gigantic wall is nicknamed Tiger Wall and it was mighty impressive to paddle right up to it. It reminded us all of Lake Powell which would make sense since we were only about 50 miles away. The San Juan River flows into Lake Powell and is quite warm, too.
About half-way, we stopped on a sand bar, had some snacks and drinks and played along it.
My son found a track in the sand, which I thought was a coyote, but it was actually a raccoon.
We had to get a family picture...I think it will be our Christmas card picture.
The kids even had to pull our duckies to the other side of sand bar to launch them again.
We had so much fun floating along the river and cooling off, especially the kiddos. Louis was so patient with my family, bless his heart.
We pulled off couple more times to check out some petroglyphs. Do you see them? These ones are etched in the patina - which makes them PETROGLYPHS and they are around 2000 years old!
Louis walked us right up to them for a better view. He reminded my children to respect and Leave No Trace. In fact, he often reminded us of it and I LOVED that! Just because we practice it, doesn't mean that everyone does. So bravo, Wild Expeditions!
Then at our last stop, Frizzle (the other guide), was there with an amazing lunch spread waiting for us under a shady, ancient tree! We had sandwiches made with the yummiest flatbread, fresh fruit, veggies, chips and cookies! It was so lovely! (I especially love how excited my boys are in this picture to see the food!)
After filling our bellies, we loaded up into the converted military hummer for a WILD and exhilirating ride to check out some ruins. I had to snap this photo while everyone was loading up because the view. A million dollar view.
Doesn't this set up just scream FUN! We all took rides in the high third row and I must admit, it was AWESOME!!!
I am so glad that when we booked the tour, the guide company recommended sunglasses for everyone because they were beyond useful for the kayak portion (the sun is intense on the river), but also for the hummer portion with the dust. After all, we were exploring a desert.
The knowledge of Louis and Frizzle was so impressive and they taught us all about the ancient civilizations and cultures that occupied the area. Here is a ceremonial kiva which was near the entrance of the only opening of Comb Ridge.
This hill in the background is San Juan Hill and the early Mormon Pioneers climbed up it in an effort to settle Bluff. The steepness and scale is hard to capture in pictures, but let me assure you THAT effort would have made me cry. What a history!
The most impressive stop on our hummer tour was to see this majestic ruin, The River House. It was placed in the alcove perfectly to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter and the workmanship was outstanding.
After a history lesson, Louis and Frizzle led us up close to see it and experience it - of course, without touching it.
It was a very warm day (which is how we like it), so riding in the open air high seats at the back of the hummer was a real treat!
I have to say that I am terrified of heights and curvy roads and yet, I felt completely safe crawling up some insane cliffs in the hummer. Full disclosure: I did close my eyes sometimes. And I am so glad that my husband snuck this picture because those smiles are real. It was the best trip EVER!
After the kayak/hummer expedition we went right back to the pool! Look at the setting! We literally swam all day and well into the night.
In fact, both of my boys became complete experts swimming without puddle jumpers in this pool! When it was time to leave Sunday morning (after two more hours of swimming), my kids asked if we could live in Bluff. And I told them we would try our best; if not, we are DEFINITELY coming back to Bluff Dwellings Resort and to go on a multi-day river trip with Wild Expeditions.