Named for a pair of buttes in San Juan County, Utah, Bears Ears is becoming a popular attraction for hiking/backpacking enthusiasts because of the many attractions within the new monument including: Grand Gulch Primitive Area, Butler Wash, Comb Ridge, Road Canyon, Mule Canyon and Valley of the Gods. It comprises 1.35 million acres of land featuring tens of thousands of cultural and archaeological sites. Ice Age hunting camps, cliff dwellings, prehistoric villages, petroglyphs and pictographs are just a few of the sites that help to tell the story of 12,000 years of human history in this region.
At this time, visitors should not expect the same level of development as at other National Park Service properties in the area. Much of the land in Bears Ears National Monument is rugged, wild and remote, requiring greater preparation before visting. Additional care needs to be taken around the many archaeological sites in the area. The “Respect and Protect” ethic should be the mindset for anyone traveling to Bears Ears.
Getting To Bears Ears
Bears Ears National Monument is located west of the towns of Blanding and Monticello and north of Mexican Hat in southwestern Utah. The area is adjacent to Natural Bridges National Monument, which offers a visitor’s center and nice developed campground. Four Corners, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Hite Crossing on Lake Powelland Capitol Reef National Park are all with in a two hour driving distance.
There is no official Bears Ears National Monument visitor center yet. The closest starting points are the Kane Gulch BLM Ranger Station 36 miles west of Blanding, the BLM office in Monticello and the Blanding Visitor Center (12 North Grayson Parkway). These locations will have information on visiting areas within the monument and current conditions. The closest lodging options are in Blanding, Bluff, Mexican Hat and Monument Valley. Because of the recent designation of monument status, the U.S. Forest Service and BLM are still in the process of developing management plans and establishing services and facilities at the new monument.
Weather and Climate
The best time to explore Bears Ears is March through mid-June and September through October. The heat of July and August can exceed 100 degrees in some areas, and there are also monsoons, which can bring flash floods. Much of Bears Ears is high desert country, often exceeding 6,000 feet above sea level on the plateau. Carry plenty of water at all times and know your physical limits.
Permits, Fees and Roads
Permits and fees are currently required for several hikes in Bears Ears. Some permits are payable at the trailheads, others must be obtained from BLM field offices. Many of the dirt roads in this area are impassable when wet, snowy or muddy. Check at the visitor center or the ranger station before traveling into the backcountry. Permits are needed for both day and overnight trips, and backpackers must make advance reservations.