Bluff Utah Balloon Festival - Bluff Dwellings Resort

Bluff's Utah's 5 Star Resort & Spa

Base Camp to the Annual Bluff Balloon Festival

Base Camp to the Annual Bluff Balloon Festival

Every January, the annual Bluff Utah Balloon Festival brings the history and splendor of balloon flight to the Bears Ears National Monument region of Southeastern Utah.

Air forcibly unfolds the massive fabric envelopes, expanding the balloons to the point where pilots and crew can begin heating the air inside with powerful burners. Before long, they lift into the wide-open sky. There’s something special about watching a hot air balloon take flight that ties spectators to more than two centuries of aeronautic tradition. The hot air balloon represents human’s first successful foray into flight, dating way back to the late eighteenth century.

They come in all colors and wear shapes, designs, and graphics in sharp contrast with the rocky, high desert landscape that engulfs the small town of Bluff. And yet the balloons tell a story in the sky, shapes and symbols painted and etched among the clouds. Some of the stories can be read or interpreted. Others are mysteries.

And for a quarter-century, these stories have been rising more than a thousand feet above Bluff and the nearby Valley of the Gods. It’s a tradition that deepens each year and draws hot air balloon enthusiasts, pilots, the community of Bluff, and visitors out into the mild winter weather to observe a truly unique view of this culturally important and endlessly scenic landscape.

Balloons over Bears Ears National Monument

Bluff and the Valley of the Gods

For visitors to Bluff, there’s perhaps no easier way to see the Bluff Balloon Festival than booking a room at Bluff Dwellings Resort and Spa. From the resort, you’ll have a view of the flights over the small town, even if you elect not to drive down into Bluff to participate in the fun. But given the meals, entertainment, and an art fair, visitors with friends or family in tow will welcome the addition of the community events to their itinerary.

Some will argue the main event of the Bluff Utah Balloon Festival is the flight over Valley of the Gods. For those new to the area, Valley of the Gods is a vast 150-acre portion of Bears Ears National Monument sometimes called “Little Monument Valley.”

Like the nearby world-renowned Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Valley of the Gods showcases jagged and imaginatively named sandstone formations. The rocky face of the astonishing Cedar Mesa stands as an alluring backdrop to the Valley. Travelers typically explore the Valley of the Gods along its 17-mile gravel road. Since there are no established trails, Valley of the Gods offers some free-form exploration. Somehow, the Bluff Balloon Festival feels at home in that environment, at once foreign and unnatural, yet somehow fitting to the point where visitors return year after year to revisit some of their most vivid visual memories of the land.

Prepare for Your Visit

Book ahead to ensure room availability during the Bluff Balloon Festival. Consider booking guided tours with Wild Expeditions to expand your itinerary deeper into Bears Ears National Monument. Guides at Wild Expeditions have tours for all levels of adventure while helping to ensure you are well prepared for your experience during the colder season. (Dress in layers and carry a day pack with water, snacks, a jacket, gloves, and beanie—and room to store those items should you warm up during your hike.)

During dry weather, highways and unpaved roads are easily driven with a passenger vehicle, but use extra caution when driving during or after a storm. Unpaved roads may become impassable when wet for any kind of vehicle and the large, remote geography of the area means it will take time to clear roads of snow or ice.

Whether or not outdoor recreation in winter isn’t in your plans, treat yourself at the HozHo Spa and pack your swimsuit for a dip in the Bluff Dwellings hot tub. While these touches sound like the perfect little extras to round out your visit, for some they are the main reason for traveling here: relaxation and rejuvenation in the red rock desert landscape of southern Utah.

From the resort, you’ll have a view of the flights over the small town, even if you elect not to drive down into Bluff to participate in the fun.