Bears Ears National Monument
“Rising from the center of the southeastern Utah landscape and visible from every direction are twin buttes 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."
Though they're the monument's namesake, the Bears Ears feature is only one part of this landscape. The pair of towering buttes stand in the center, with 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.
This 1.35-million-acre 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. Just as important to the Bears Ears designation are the modern-day connections that the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Hopi Nation and other tribes have to this land.
Visitors traveling to the area today should be aware that the recent 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 Bears Ears 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 Bears Ears.
Getting To Bears Ears
Bears Ears National Monument is located west of the towns of Blanding, Monticello and Bluff and north of Mexican Hat in southeastern Utah.
The area is approximately 75 minutes south of Moab, an hour northwest of Four Corners Monument and roughly 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.
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 (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 the monument and current conditions.
BLM office in Monticello: 435-587-1500
Bears Ears 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 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 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 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.
Kane Gulch Ranger Station (season opens March 1)
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.
Bears Ears National Monument