Bluff Great House

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 0.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4383 - 4403 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Bluff Great House
Fee: none
Attractions: Chacoan great house




The Bluff Great House is an important archaeological site where a Chacoan great house once stood on a hilltop overlooking the present town of Bluff, Utah. The structure was built around 1100 AD and inhabited for several hundred years before it was abandoned. Built similar to other great houses of the Chacoan civilization this site had several rows of rooms, one of which was two stories tall, 3 interior kivas and several exterior great kivas and broad straight roads that connected it to other sites in the area like the Edge of the Cedars Great House in Blanding, Utah.


Finding the site is fairly straight forward. From Main Street in Bluff drive north a couple of blocks on 3rd East and turn west on Mulberry Avenue. Follow Mulberry a short distance and stay to the right on the road that leads up the hill to the town cemetery and the Bluff Great House. The only thing that might throw you off is if you drive too far west on Main Street and end up taking 3 West instead of 3 East. There isn't a toilet at the site but there are very nice accommodations at the Bluff  Fort and Museum off of Main Street.


Follow the trail across the road where you will see the large rubble pile of the great house. As you will soon see there are carefully constructed walls beneath the large mound. Centuries of eolian processes have filled the rooms with sand and covered the exterior walls. A short spur trail leads to a large depression where a great kiva is buried just below the surface.


Most of what has been excavated has been back filled to better preserve it except one small area that has been shored up and roofed.


Here you can walk into a room area and get an idea of what lies beneath the hill of rubble. When some of these areas were originally excavated they revealed sections of fine plaster that covered the walls. Rather than the cobbles that make up the walls that we see today the structure would have been plastered and painted both inside and out and probably had images painted in certain places. It would have looked very modern at the time.


It is hard not to keep taking pictures of the eroded banded cliffs of cedar mesa sandstone. The majestic monoliths and canyons of this portion of Utah, including Monarch Valley and Valley of the Gods, have graced many the silver screen and postcard.


Small fragments of pottery lie like a signature upon the ground reflecting the styles that are common throughout the region and the colors that are perhaps unique to the more immediate area. They bare the touch of the people that made them and should remain here where they left them.


The location of the Bluff Great House is about 125 miles northwest from the main cluster of communities of the Chacoan civilization at Chaco Canyon which is in the present day state of New Mexico. Taken by itself the Bluff Great House might seem less interesting but when you consider it as part of a larger civilization whose descendants are still among us today then it stands out among the many archaeological sites of the southwestern United States showing the bounds of a great civilization that thrived at the same time as the Toltec of Mexico. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.