Have you heard about the new Bears Ears National Monument? It’s been in the news a lot. Among many things unique about Bears Ears, it is the first national monument that will be managed in conjunction with an official Bears Ears Commission made up of representatives from five Native American tribes with historical ties to the land.
However, the main job of managing of our country’s newest monument will fall to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM,) holder of the largest share of land within Bears Ears’ 1 million-plus acres
. They will do so in coordination with the US Forest Service (USFS,) which also has lands inside the monument, and in conjunction with the Tribal Council.
Every Bit As Amazing As Its Sister Parks
This newly recognized national treasure is every bit as amazing as its sister parks immediately to the north, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Bears Ears contains (and protects) hundreds of ancient Indian ruins and rock art panels, and scores of intricate canyons cutting down through the sandstone to the Colorado River. If you want to visit Bears Ears, there are many ways to do it, but perhaps the easiest and most intimate method is by mountain bike.
You could venture out on your own, doing the research in advance
, rigging or renting your own camping gear and bikes, but on a guided mountain bike tour, you’ll be sure to see all the very best sites and views, and learn about what you’re seeing from expert interpreters. Plus, guides will tune your bike and create delicious backcountry gourmet meals at camp each night and morning (and you can leave the rigging to them!)
One such guided mountain bike tour is the 3-day/2-night Bears Ears Backcountry Weekend
offered by Rim Tours. Their summer itinerary sticks to two-track BLM and Forest Service dirt roads, so the riding itself is perfect for beginners and those who enjoy taking it easy.
The reason Rim Tour’s Bears Ears tour is offered during the summer is that much of the National Monument is at higher elevation than Canyonlands or Arches, so it serves as a welcome, cooler alternative to the surrounding lower elevation areas during June, July and August. For this same reason, some areas in Bears Ears (including the actual Bears Ears themselves) are difficult to visit during Spring and late Fall when winter snow and mud make some of the higher roads impassable.
During Spring and Fall, Rim Tours offers an alternative “Bears Ears” tour called the Needles to Moab Canyonlands Tour
. This 4-day/3-night itinerary starts at the Needles District of Canyonlands, travels the Lockhart Basin Road through the northern section of the national monument.
Already Gaining Popularity
Lisa Bryant, BLM Public Affairs Specialist, said “Visitation to the Cedar Mesa and surrounding areas has been increasing for some time. That trend is expected to continue with the publicity surrounding the new Bears Ears National Monument.”
She added that the National Monument offers a unique opportunity to visit cultural sites, including spectacular rock art sites and the remains of prehistoric family dwellings, granaries, kivas, towers, and large villages. But she cautioned that, “These sites are fragile and irreplaceable and need to be treated with care.”
For visitors looking for a scenic drive and a picnic area, the Needles and Anticline Overlooks provide excellent views of Canyonlands National Park and the Bears Ears National Monument. A marked road headed west of Hwy 191 about 32 miles south of Moab leads to both viewpoints. There are also a couple of campgrounds in the general area.
For people looking for a more back country adventure or experience, Bryant advised that it’s best to stop in at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station (located on State Route 261.) From there visitors can visit the rock art exhibit, learn more about the region, and then consider a number of day hikes in the area depending on each person’s time and abilities. “This is rugged country, far from gas stations and convenience stores,” Bryant said. “We ask that everyone be prepared with proper clothing, water, food, maps, and obtain necessary permits before entering the back-country.”
BLM has an online trip planner for the Kane Gulch
area. There are additional brochures available on the BLM’ Bears Ears webpage
to areas like Fish and Owl Canyon. It also has a new map with the monument boundaries and all the important locations.
Respect and Protect
In anticipation of the increased visibility of the area, BLM has been working with partners and volunteers to stabilize sensitive cultural sites and provide interpretive information at some of the more frequently visited sites. Bryant added. “We are also promoting our Respect and Protect
campaign to help visitors understand the best way to enjoy these sites without harm. In these rugged landscapes it’s easy to feel like you are the first person to come across a site and feel that special sense of discovery. By visiting with respect you can give that gift of discovery and sharing something sacred to those that follow, just as those who came before have given that to you.”
Article courtesy of Rim Tours Mountain Bike Adventures 1233 S. Hwy 191, 435-259-5223.