Bears Ears National Monument gets its name from the two distinct buttes that tower over the Utah landscape and resemble the ears of a bear. This incredible piece of Utah landscape is a dream destination for visitors interested in trail running, rock climbing, mountain biking, photography, and site seeing.
Travelers also come from far and wide to visit the natural beauty and cultural history available within the 201,876 acres of Bears Ears National Monument. You could spend days or even weeks exploring the various petroglyphs, pictographs, and ancient cliff dwellings that were inhabited by ancient peoples. Evidence of their lifestyles have been left for tourists to appreciate—kivas, granaries, tools, pottery, and other artifacts.
The Bears Ears area is full of red rock, high plateaus, and juniper forests.
The buttes and surrounding landscape are considered sacred by many of the region’s Native American Tribes. Around 13,000 years ago, people began inhabiting the Cedar Mesa area which now makes up part of Bears Ears National Monument. Other tribes of ancient people, like the Puebloans, eventually moved into the area around 2000 years ago. Evidence of these ancient people and their culture are evident in the artifacts and cliff dwellings they left behind.
President Barack Obama officially declared Bears Ears as a designated national monument on December 28, 2016. The original designated area was much larger than it is today. On December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to adjust the Bears Ears National Monument border. The current national monument area includes two distinct units—The Indian Creek Unit and the Shash Jaa Unit.
The Shash Jaa Unit of Bears Ears National Monument covers 142,337 acres of red rock that encompasses some fascinating geological features. This area is collectively a part of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. Hiking trails in this area showcase remnants of incredible cliff dwellings of stone and adobe mortar built into the sides of the mesas, mountains and alcoves. Butler Wash, Mule Canyon and Arch Canyon are stopping points for hiking and exploration opportunities.
To get to the Shash Jaa Unit from Blanding, Utah: drive south to Highway 95, then head west for approximately 10 miles on Hwy 95. This will get you to the east border of the Shash Jaa Unit.
The Indian Creek Unit of Bears Ears National Monument includes a site called Newspaper Rock, one of the biggest petroglyph collections in the country. Visitors can drive the Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway on Highway 211 to admire this 200-square foot rock of historical depictions. Perhaps you can decipher the meaning of these engravings left by Puebloans and other ancient cultures more than 2,000 years ago!
To get to the Indian Creek Unit from Monticello, Utah: head north along Highway 191 for 14 miles, then turn west onto Hwy 211. It's approximately 12 miles to Newspaper Rock, which sits on the monument's eastern border, and Hwy 211 continues through the Indian Creek Unit until you reach the border of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
When you come to visit the area, stop by the Bears Ears Education Center for great information on the area's history, sites, and layout. The Education Center was opened by Friends of Cedar Mesa, a nonprofit entity that serves as an information source on Bears Ears and how to visit the fragile archaeological sites respectfully and without leaving a trace.
Knowledgeable staff and volunteers at the Education Center provide regional information including what to do in Bears Ears, places to camp and hike, scenic driving routes, and more. Free Bears Ears National Monument maps are also available at the center.
It’s important that the artifacts and archaeological dwelling sites in Bears Ears be preserved and protected so that others can appreciate and learn from the history of Bears Ears National Monument for generations to come. Removing artifacts is against the law.
If you’re traveling to Bears Ears soon, use our itinerary to make planning easier! This travel guide includes a 3-day schedule for getting all the fun and learning you can out of Bears Ears. Follow our guide to make sure you don’t miss any of the scenic routes, prehistoric sites, ancient art, or breath-taking natural formations.
Much of the land in the area is remote, wild and rugged with limited access to visitor center resources. Therefore, it is recommended that travelers prepare for their trips ahead of time. The following list has some resources you can go to with your questions to get a better understanding of how to best navigate and enjoy Bears Ears National Monument.
Location: 660 W 400 N, Blanding
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Location: 567 Main St., Bluff
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Thursday-Monday
*Currently closed due to COVID-19, but plan to re-open in summer 2021
Location: UT-261 36 miles west of Blanding
Open: March 1-June 15, September 1-October 31
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m., 7 days a week
*Currently not open to the public due to COVID-19, please call the Monticello BLM at: 435-587-1500
Location: 216 S Main St.
Hours: 90:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday
Location: 12 North Grayson Parkway
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., closed Sunday