San Juan County, located in southeastern Utah, is known as the world's largest outdoor museum.
It was just over 100 years ago that the first Mormon settlers populated these mighty canyons. Today not only traces of these pioneers remain, but also of the indigenous peoples that lived here thousands of years earlier. San Juan’s unique landscape, rich cultural heritage and monuments are certainly worth a visit.
The History of Pioneers at Bluff Fort
Begin your journey with a visit to the region's very first settlement. The first Mormons settled in Bluff, Utah, in the 1880s. Their dwellings have been reconstructed almost completely and the wooden houses have been painstakingly furnished. Audio tours tell interesting stories about the people who once lived here.
Natural Bridges National Monument
About an hour away is Natural Bridges National Monument, home to three of the biggest natural stone bridges in the world. In White Canyon you can see one of these bridges, the Sipapu Bridge, up close. This fun hike only takes around 45 minutes. Wooden ladders and stone staircases will lead you directly to impressive natural wonders. And, don’t miss a visit to Owachomo Bridge, the largest in the park.
Plan to stay through the evening and at least part of the night. This is the first International Dark Sky Park, which means it‘s an area that prevents as much artificial light as possible from polluting the dark night skies.
Breathtaking Sights in Monument Valley
Continue your journey to the fascinating Monument Valley, one of the most famous natural landmarks in the U.S., known from countless films and commercials. Many of the buttes are named for what they resemble, such as The Mittens, Rooster Rock and Three Sisters. This area of iconic mesas is located on Navajo tribal territory, and locals offer guided tours. At John Ford‘s Point, a view known from the eponymous director‘s famous western movies, rent a horse and pose for a memorable picture!
Hovenweep National Monument
Another place to visit for an incredible cultural experience is Hovenweep National Monument. Here, marvel at the towers that display the ability and resourcefulness of ancient civilizations. More than 7,000 years ago, what did they use to build the towers and houses on the edge of the cliffs? And how did they build them? A guide can give you all the answers.
Butler Wash Petroglyph
Next, visit the Butler Wash petroglyph. The lifelike pictures represented in the panel are impressive and perfect for a photo opportunity. Rent an all-terrain vehicle to experience the diversity of the landscape, hills and water. You can also rent a boat to ride along the San Juan River to visit Butler Wash.
Even More Iconic Places in San Juan County
The Four Corners Monument is where the borders of four U.S. states converge in one place. It is another fun spot to visit with the whole family. Come here and place your hands and feet in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona all at once!
From here, drive around 2.5 hours to reach the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park, where you can enjoy breathtaking views onto wild canyon vistas.
As long as you have the time to explore, San Juan County will have time to welcome you. Travel in the off-season, from November through March, to enjoy travel savings and fewer crowds. San Juan County, Utah is definitely worth your visit!