*Note: On December 4, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to redraw Bears Ears National Monument. The proposal introduces two new monuments in this area named, north to south, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa. The area is open to visitors, but please review our travel advisory section. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.
A pair of towering buttes stand against beautiful scenery. The twin buttes are so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon'Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or in English: Bears Ears. They are framed by Dark Canyon Wilderness and Beef Basin to the west, Comb Ridge on the east, the Grand Gulch Plateau and Cedar Mesa to the south and Indian Creek/Canyonlands National Park to the north.
Bears Ears National Monument* covers a broad expanse of red rock, juniper forests, high plateau, cultural, historic and prehistoric legacy that includes an abundance of early human and Native American historical artifacts left behind by early Clovis people, then later Ancestral Puebloans, Fremont culture and others. The Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Hopi Nation and other tribes are extremely tied to this land. The two smaller monuments designated by President Trump are Indian Creek National Monument and Shash Jaa, both falling within the former monument designation's boundaries. All other lands that were covered by the Bears Ears designation retain their existing level of federal protection.
December 4, 2017 Monument Designations
Travel Tips and Information
Visitors traveling to the area today should be aware that the designation of monument status has not allowed for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to develop their management plan, nor create new services or facilities. Don’t expect the same level of infrastructure as Arches, Canyonlands or Zion national parks. Much of the land in the area (including the land designated as Bears Ears National Monument and the smaller areas designated as Indian Creek National Monument and Shash Jaa National Monument) is rugged, wild and remote, requiring greater preparation, fitness and respect on the part of the visitor.
Additional care needs to be taken around the numerous archaeological sites in the area. The Bureau of Land Management and Tread Lightly’s “Respect and Protect” ethic should be the mindset for anyone traveling to the Bears Ears area, which includes Indian Creek and Shash Jaa national monuments. Bears Ears FAQ (PDF).
Respect and Protect
The law of the land is to leave what you find in the ruins and with the ancient artifacts. Enjoy it by viewing and photographing it, and note that touching these things accelerates the erosion process.
When visiting sensitive archaeological, paleontological, and other natural resources on federal, state, and tribal lands, always visit with respect. To help visitors understand the importance of these incredible sites, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Utah State Office and Tread Lightly! partnered to develop and implement a statewide public awareness campaign called “Respect and Protect” to engage the public in the stewardship of our nation’s priceless cultural and natural heritage. The campaign also reminds public lands visitors that looting and vandalism of archaeological and paleontological resources on federal, state, and tribal lands is against state and federal law.
Getting to the Bears Ears Area
The Bears Ears National Monument area is located west of the towns of Blanding, Monticello and Bluff and north of Mexican Hat in southeastern Utah. The area is five hours from Salt Lake City International Airport or about three hours from the regional airport in Grand Junction, Colorado.
The area of the Bears Ears designation is approximately 75 minutes south of Moab, an hour northwest of Four Corners Monument and 30 minutes north of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The western border of Bears Ears, near the Hite Crossing of the Colorado River, is less than an hour south of Hanksville, or 90 minutes from Capitol Reef National Park. The Indian Creek area is south of Moab and northwest of Monticello on S.R. 211 to The Needles District of Canyonlands while Shash Jaa can be accessed from different points on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, roughly 20 minutes west of Blanding on S.R. 95 or a few minutes west of Bluff on U.S. 163 en route to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
There is no official visitor center in the area. The closest starting points are the Kane Gulch BLM Ranger Station 36 miles west of Blanding (season opens March 1), the BLM office in Monticello or the Blanding Visitor Center (12 North Grayson Parkway). Both will have information on visiting areas within and around the monument and current conditions.
While there is a BLM office in Monticello (phone: (435) 587-1500), Bluff is a primary tourist gateway town to Bears Ears and Shash Jaa. Travelers on the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway (S.R. 211) to The Needles District of Canyonlands may find visitor information within Canyonlands or at the Needles Outpost, in season.
Weather and Climate
The best time to go 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 this area 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 limits. For more information on packing for outdoor adventure in Utah, see our Planning Ahead for Your Utah Adventure: Outdoors Tips for Three-Season Fun.
Permits, Fees and Roads
Permits and fees are currently required for several hikes in this area. 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.
Kane Gulch Ranger Station (season opens in March)
Bears Ears-area Sites
Natural Bridges National Monument
The amazing force of water has cut three spectacular natural bridges in White Canyon at Natural Bridges National Monument. Enjoy from above or hike in. Stay the night for pristine dark skies.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
Discover the best of iconic Monument Valley, from guided Jeep tours to Monument Valley lodging and the region's best scenic drives.
Hovenweep National Monument
Drive a blend of paved and improved dirt roads to visit these 700-year-old and older archaeological sites, but fascinating hikes uncover the true expanse and tranquility of this ancient civilization.