Bears Ears National Monument
The Bears Ears National Monument is the second Utah national monument to be signed into legislation amidst a lot of controversy. Its status is currently questionable,as the legislative body for the State of Utah, is actively pursuing the Trump administration to undo its national monument status. For most people this is the only reason they know anything about the Bears Ears National Monument. From a local adventurer standpoint, and from someone who is opposed to the monument status, here is what you need to know.
The monument basically eats up everything in southern Utah that isn’t already a city, national park, national recreation area, state park or national monument. It’s huge! There are a lot of amazing sites in the area that need protection. The majority of the area doesn’t need protection. Even the hardcore adventurers don’t travel very far into the area. For 99% of the people, who are against mineral rights, there could be 10,000 oil wells there that they would never about. Places like the Cheesebox road go forever, and they can take two days by jeep to travel. The farthest that hardcore- adventurers travel to is 20 miles. The casual tourist won’t even be on the road. The only people that use the road are ranchers and people looking for oil or minerals. If it weren’t for them, the roads wouldn’t exist.
The area is better suited for intermediate to advanced adventurers, but it does have things that interest families. You can explore many areas by car, by foot, or by rope. The best known feature in the area is its Ancient History, as its a haven for Native American Ruins.
Native American Ruins
One of the major arguments for the Bear’s Ears Monument was the preservation of Native American Ruins in the area. This is a perfect area for ruin exploration with or without kids.. Ruins such as the Butler Wash or Ballroom Ruins are just off the road. Other ruins, like the Citadel, are breathtaking but require some off- road driving and a two- mile hike. For the more hardcore, several multi-day -backpacking trips can take you to ruins that people rarely see.
The Bear’s Ears area encompasses the old Cedar Mesa Canyoneering area. The canyons here are dependent on how much water they have. When the canyons are dry, or low on water, you can expect a mediocre time. When they have water, they are some of the most fun canyons you can find. Fry canyon is a very short canyon right off the side of the road which you can enjoy with your kids in a matter of minutes. Cheesebox and The Black Hole are two classic canyons found in the area, which are must ‘ dos’on everyone’s list
The best backpacking area ,in Bear’s Ears, is Grand Gulch. The whole area is criss-crossed with canyons and trails that can take you on a week- long adventure or a simple overnight adventure. Depending on which route you choose, there are numerous Native American Ruins that you can visit. Most of the trails require a backcountry permit from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. The biggest obstacle to backpacking in the area is water. as water is a scarcity in the area.
One of the most scenic drives, in the area, is the road from the plateau to the bottom of Valley of the Gods. The last time, I was through the area, it required a high- clearance vehicle. And it was a winding dirt road. The Valley of the Gods features a picturesque redrock valley which contrasts with the blue sky. Large sandstone monuments reach for the sky and Valley of the Gods is very reminiscence of Monument Valley without the tourists or popularity.
There is only one real-rafting option in the Bear’s Ears area. The San Juan River cuts through the southern part of the monument. Permits are needed in order to travel this remote and spectacular desert river. It has phenomenal beauty but if you are looking for some big water rapids, the largest, this section is going to produce, is a class- 3 rapid which is in between long sections of flat water.