The welcome sign at the entrance of Bluff, Utah, carved in a gigantic boulder, announces our arrival: “Bluff. Settled 650 AD.” That ancient year marked the first settlement of the Anasazi Indians, one of the Indian tribes that originally settled Utah.
The town of Bluff, population 320, lies between the San Juan River and towering sandstone cliffs in Southeastern Utah. For such a tiny hamlet, Bluff holds many points of fascination, including opportunities for desert hikes, rock climbing, and ancient cliff dwellings – some with prehistoric art panels – waiting to be explored. (The sandstone cliffs are one- hundred-million years old.)
There is another fascination to behold: Bluff is home to a handful of beautiful swimming pools that are each paired with a resort offering distinctive lodging and easy access to the surrounding mountains, desert, and the San Juan River.
The combination of towering nature and appealing resorts has made Bluff a destination for flocks of visitors from Europe and the Far East. Strolling through the town’s businesses and neighborhoods, it isn’t unusual to hear three or four languages within an hour.
Bluff has a lot to draw visitors – friendly residents, a unique personality, and access to the classic beauty of the old west. All this, plus the presence of luxurious swimming pools surrounded by dramatic, pristine nature is like finding the holy grail.
Here are two of them, each with its own personality and pleasures.
Entering the reception area of Bluff Dwellings Resort & Spa, visitors are greeted with “Yá’át’ééh,” the Navajo Indian word for hello. The owners, Jared and Spring Berrett, combined Native American architecture and luxury in their new family venture, opened last year. The rooms (or “pueblos”) and spa, custom decorated in local style, reflect the dreamy surroundings of open sky, distant mountains, and Chaco Canyon. The name of the resort’s spa, HozHo, and its services create a sense of balance and beauty.
The swimming pool, a generous 46 feet long, is a beauty. With an active waterfall and up-close astonishing views of cliffs, the pool area has a lot to draw visitors. Another draw is the cachet of the resort’s architecture and décor; the interior wood is lodgepole pine and Ponderosa pine. Interior walls are plastered with local hand-colored clay in Venetian style. The resort also operates nearby Wild Expeditions, an outdoor exploration service that includes hiking, rafting, and 4×4 tours.
The Berretts have incorporated an ecological approach. Innovative exterior lighting retains the beautiful dark skies that blanket the area at night. Wastewater is filtered in the resort’s own plant and used to irrigate plants.
The Desert Rose Resort & Cabins treads a line between rustic and plush, with a distinct Native American flavor that runs through the public spaces, rooms, and onsite restaurant. Amer and Cindy Tumeh started the Desert Rose more than 20 years ago. The Tumeh family has incorporated beautiful reminders of the culture throughout the resort, including Navajo weavings, baskets, and blankets. Interiors, with beams of native timbers, are warm and welcoming.
The swimming pool, measuring 20 feet by 50 feet, is large and luxurious, with pampering amenities. Though the pool is set indoors, it hardly matters; generous sweeps of glass open to views of Bluff and its fascinating landscape.