Bears Ears National Monument FAQs

River House Ruin, one of many remarkable places to visit with respect in the Bears Ears National Monument

Getting Here

Where is Bears Ears National Monument?

Bears Ears National Monument is in southeast Utah’s canyon country, bordered by Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the Navajo Nation, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, as well as BLM and USFS land. The towns of Moab, Monticello, Blanding, Bluff, and Mexican Hat are nearby. There is not an official Bears Ears National Monument Visitor Center at this time, but many communities have local visitor centers for the area. The BLM Kane Gulch Ranger Station on Cedar Mesa on Highway 261 has maps and information, as well as a display on the rock art in Bears Ears.

Find the official Bears Ears National Monument map here.

How do I get there?

  • From Blanding: Highway 95 north will take you into the heart of the Bears Ears National Monument.  You will cross Comb Ridge and intersect with Highway 261.  Natural Bridges National Monument, which is surrounded by the Bears Ears National Monument, is also accessible from Highway 95.   
  • From Bluff: Head south on Highway 191, continue south on Highway 163, and turn right onto Highway 261. Travel up the Moki Dugway to arrive on top of Cedar Mesa. This 3-mile segment of road is unpaved, steep, has sharp corners, and is not recommended for RVs, buses, or vehicles pulling trailers.
  • From Monument Valley: Go north on Highway 163, turn left on Highway 261. The 3-mile segment of road called the Moki Dugway is unpaved, steep, and has sharp corners, and it is not recommended for RVs, buses, or vehicles pulling trailers.
  • From Hanksville: Highway 95 south leads you into Bears Ears National Monument.

Do I need 4WD to visit Bears Ears National Monument?

In order to visit the majority of the regions throughout the monument, you will need a 4WD vehicle with high clearance.  The major highways and dirt roads that are passable in a passenger car include Highway 261 and the Moki Dugway, Highway 95, and Highway 276. Some sections of the Valley of the Gods, Butler Wash (262) and Comb Wash (235) roads are not passable in a low-clearance passenger vehicle, especially if the road is wet. All cars, trucks, SUVs and OHVs are restricted to designated roads.  Going off road is prohibited throughout the monument.  

If you have questions about OHV laws in Utah, click here

Contact the BLM office at 435-587-1500 for current road information.

 

Lodging Near the Monument

Is there lodging in Bears Ears National Monument?

There are a number of hotels, lodges, and RV parks on the outskirts of the monument.  Below is a list of links to local towns that offer lodging.

Camping in the Monument

Developed Camping

There are several developed camping areas throughout Bears Ears National Monument.  The Indian Creek region includes Indian Creek Falls, Hamburger Rock, Creek Pasture, and Superbowl. Just outside the monument boundary but not far from this region are the Needles Outpost and Windwhistle Campground.

Near Monticello are the Nizhoni, Buckboard and Dalton Springs campgrounds, which are in or near the monument. Near Blanding and outside the monument boundary is Devil’s Canyon.  By Bluff and within Bears Ears National Monument is Sand Island Campground, and Goosenecks State Park (outside of the monument).  

Check with the BLM and Forest Service to learn about the camping fees for each site.

Dispersed Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed within BLM managed lands, such as along Butler and Comb Wash roads, in the Valley of the Gods, and on Cedar Mesa.  When dispersed camping, you must stay on previously disturbed areas within 150 feet of designated routes.  Driving off road to create new camping is prohibited. Please don’t camp inside ruins or archaeological areas as they are vulnerable to damage. Bring all of your own water with you and remove your trash and garbage.

Backcountry Camping

Any overnight backpacking in canyons on Cedar Mesa managed by the BLM  requires a permit, which cost $8/person/trip. You can make a backpacking reservation from 3 days to 3 months in advance of your trip. Overnight use is limited to 20 people per trailhead. For advance reservations call the BLM permit desk at 435-587-1510 or the BLM Monticello Field Office front desk at 435-587-1500.  

Can I build a fire when camping in Bears Ears National Monument?

When camping anywhere in the monument, you are encouraged to know the local fire rules as they differ between BLM and Forest Service and can change based on the weather and rainfall. When fires are allowed, you are encouraged to bring your own firepan and firewood or use existing fire rings made of metal or rocks. If you need to collect firewood, use only dead and downed wood near your campsite.  Fires are not allowed in the canyons of Cedar Mesa.

Pets

Can I bring my pets to Bears Ears?

There are many places within Bears Ears National Monument where pets are allowed.  It is a privilege to be accompanied by our four legged companions so be sure to follow all regulations around visitation with dogs. Here is a great link about how to hike with your dog in this incredible landscape rich with antiquities. 

Dogs are prohibited in Grand Gulch and its tributaries; Slickhorn Canyon; Point Lookout Canyon and its tributaries; and in the McLoyd Canyon/ Moonhouse Ruin Recreation Management Zone. In areas where pets are allowed, they should be leashed and kept away from cultural resources, such as rock art sites and ruins.

Things to Do

What is there to see and do in Bears Ears?

With 1.35-million acres of diverse and beautiful canyon country, Bears Ears National Monument has something for everyone. Hiking, backpacking and canyoneering, rock climbing, scenic drives, paddling adventures, and riding your horse or ATV. Coming soon: downloadable brochure & map.

Who manages the monument?

Bears Ears is a unique monument because it is managed jointly by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service, with input from the Bears Ears Commission which consists of elected officers from the Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, and Zuni Tribe. Bears Ears National Monument includes lands in the Manti-La Sal National Forest and lands managed by the BLM Monticello Field Office. Find more information here.

I’ve never visited archaeological sites before. What do I need to know?

Historical and archaeological sites and artifacts are integral to American history and sacred to Native Americans. These sites are fragile and require particular care by visitors. By treading softly and leaving things as we find them, we show respect for those who came before us and those who will visit these places after us.

For tips and fun video shorts about visiting archaeology, click here

What services are available?

Bears Ears National Monument is very remote and has few services. Plan ahead and get gas, water and groceries in the bordering towns. Within the monument there are pit toilets available at Kane Gulch Ranger Station, Butler Wash Ruins Overlook, Mule Canyon Ruins, and at Indian Creek.

What should I bring with me?

Bring water, sun protection and warm layers, a permit if required (when you are backpacking or if you explore the Moon House area), and your wallet to pay any applicable day use fees.

Can I ride my mountain bike or ATV?

You can ride your mountain bike or ATV on any designated motorized vehicle route. No off-road travel or cross-country travel is permitted.

Can I ride my horse?

Stock use is allowed in the majority of the National Monument on BLM and Forest Service lands. Commercial and private stock use requires a permit, and stock use is limited in many of the Cedar Mesa canyons. Advanced reservation permits for overnight use must be obtained from the BLM Monticello Field Office (435) 587-1510 at least three weeks in advance for private parties and by July of the previous year for commercial trips. Walk-in overnight permits are not available.

Can I visit with a group?

Throughout most of the Bears Ears National Monument, group size is limited to 12 people to protect the resources from damage. This applies to private and commercial groups. It is best to call the BLM Monticello Field Office at (435) 587-1510 for more information. Different group size limitations may apply in the Forest Service or on the mesa top of Cedar Mesa.

Can I hunt and fish in the monument?

Yes. The monument does not change the State of Utah’s jurisdiction as it relates to fish and wildlife management. Visit the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to learn about licenses and permits. 

Am I allowed to practice traditional hunting, gathering or herb collection?

Yes, the monument proclamation ensures that tribes will continue to be able to collect plants, firewood, and other traditional materials within the monument. The BLM provides firewood permits, and permits for cottonwood and willow use for ceremonial purposes within a reasonable distance of the reservation. Firewood is $5.00/cord, ceremonial cottonwood and willow permits are free, and can include up to 8 bundles of sumac, medicinal plants or roots. The BLM also provides permits for the collection of whole plants (trees, shrubs, cacti); plant quantity, size and permit fees vary.

All visitors can gather nuts, berries, medicinal herbs, etc, without a permit for personal use up to a “Reasonable Amount” limit, which varies by the item.  Pine nuts can be gathered up to 25 lbs per person without a permit and 25- 75 lbs per year for non-commercial use with a permit at $0.25 per pound. Berries can be gathered up to 5 gallons per species per person per year.

Can I cut firewood in Bears Ears?

Yes, but a permit from the BLM is required. Firewood is $5.00/cord with a minimum $10 purchase and a year to use the permit. Go to the BLM Monticello Office or see video (in Navajo) for more information.

Bears Ears National Monument Map

Beautiful full color map available for download.

Find the official Bears Ears National Monument map available for download here.

Weather

Be prepared for changing conditions.

Sections of the monument can range from 100 degrees in the heat of the summer to well below zero in the winter with significant snow pack.  Spring and fall are ideal seasons to explore Bears Ears National Monument. Beware of late summer monsoons that can quickly flood canyons and make travel on dirt roads impossible. Many roads will be closed and impassable during the late fall,winter and early spring.  Biting insects can be bad in the summer.

Below is a range of average temperatures for each season on Cedar Mesa (elevation 6000′).

  • Spring: Low 26, High 68
  • Summer: Low 48, High 86
  • Fall: Low 35, High 77
  • Winter: Low 16, High 45

Current weather conditions and forecast on Cedar Mesa. 

Fees and Permits

Is there an entry fee to Bears Ears National Monument?

There is no fee to enter Bears Ears National Monument, but some hiking and camping areas have daily fees.

Day hiking in the following canyons requires a fee: Mule Canyon, Grand Gulch and its tributaries, Slickhorn Canyon, Fish Canyon, Owl Canyon, Road Canyon, and Lime Canyon. There is a fee envelope and collection tube at these trailheads.  Day fees are $2 per person. An annual pass, good for the calendar year and covering all occupants of the vehicle, is $20 and is available at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station or the BLM Monticello Field Office.

There are no fees on the Forest Service lands within the monument.

Can I use my “America the Beautiful” pass for day fees in Bears Ears?

No. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, Senior Pass, and Veterans Pass do not apply in Bears Ears.

When do I need a permit?

Overnight backpacking within Grand Gulch and the canyons of Cedar Mesa within Bears Ears National Monument requires a permit, which costs $8/person/trip. You can make a backpacking reservation from 3 days to 3 months in advance of your trip through the BLM permit desk. Overnight use is limited to 20 people per trailhead. Unreserved permits are available at Kane Gulch Ranger Station.

You also need a permit to day hike to Moon House, and this trail is limited to 20 people/day. Half of the permits are available with advance reservation and half are available day of at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. The Ranger Station is located on Highway 261, 4 miles south of Highway 95, and is open from 8am and noon March 1- June 15, and September 1 to October 1.  For advance reservations call the BLM permit desk at 435-587-1510 or the BLM Monticello Field Office front desk at 435-587-1500.  

Hiking and backpacking on Forest Service lands in the Monument like Elk Ridge does not require a permit but please sign into the trailhead registers.

Do I need a permit to raft the San Juan River?

Permits are required for San Juan river trips, call the BLM at the numbers above or check online for available permits.

Contact

BLM Monticello Field Office

365 North Main P.O. Box 7 Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435-587-1500

Fax: 435-587-1518

Permit reservations: 435-587-1510 from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

USFS Monticello Ranger District

496 East Central PO Box 820 Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435-587-2041

Fax: 435-587-2637