5 Beastly Hikes in Bears Ears National Monument

bears earsFor quite some time, Utah’s Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment has been sit­ting at the cen­ter of a nation­al con­tro­ver­sy, along with many oth­er recent­ly des­ig­nat­ed Nation­al Monuments.

The enor­mi­ty of the Bears Ears region makes it one of the coun­try’s best play­grounds, so if you’d like to take a peak before it’s (poten­tial­ly) sold to the high­est bid­der, here are five epic hikes you might want to tackle.

The Sun­dance Trail
The Sun­dance Trail is an adven­tur­ous 1,200-foot jour­ney down a talus slope that leads direct­ly into the Dark Canyon. The path winds its way around cot­ton­wood trees and chis­eled pools all lead­ing down to a basin full of water­falls to explore. It’s not an easy hike, but the rewards are cer­tain­ly worth the effort. It’s just one of sev­er­al entry­ways into the abyss that is Dark Canyon, which starts out at the high point of Elk Ridge.

Hotel Rock
If you’re up for a seri­ous chal­lenge, make your way to the peak of Hotel Rock. The sweep­ing canyon vis­tas of the sur­round­ing val­ley are more than enough to take your breath away, if you can reach them. Treach­er­ous slick rock and dirt dou­ble-track make up 1,200 feet of wind­ing climbs to the top. It’s pop­u­lar among moun­tain bik­ers, so be heads up as you share the path.

Grand Gulch
One of the longest and most dif­fi­cult hikes in Bears Ears lies in the heart of Cedar Mesa. Grand Gulch is a sweep­ing chasm filled with ruins and pic­tographs around near­ly every cor­ner. The hike is 30 miles long, cov­er­ing mul­ti­ple days, and not for the inex­pe­ri­enced. Water sources are few and far between, which is why per­mits are required and only approved on a lim­it­ed basis.

Val­ley of the Gods Loop
Fans of West­world might rec­og­nize the far-reach­ing red rock desert of Val­ley of the Gods. The 17-mile unpaved loop across the open desert is a daz­zling show­case of tow­er­ing spires and mon­u­ments that the Nava­jo believed were the immor­tal­ized rem­nants of ancient war­riors. For the best views make your way of the Moki Dug­way mesa for panoram­ic views of the sur­round­ing land­scape that’ll leave you in awe.

Owl Creek—Fish Creek Loop
For a mul­ti-day adven­ture with an abun­dance of scenic beau­ty check out the Owl and Fish Creek Loop. The 17-mile trek is open in the spring and fall, though the wash bot­tom trail can become quite dan­ger­ous in the event of a rain­storm. Along the way the trail pass­es Puebloan cliff dwellings and pic­tographs as well as Nevill’s Arch. The trail winds its way along two slick rock canyons that are incred­i­bly nar­row, so pay atten­tion to the weath­er before you go. The veg­e­ta­tion here is thick, with pon­derosa pine and Man­zani­ta groves dot­ting the land­scape. You’ll need a pass before hit­ting the trail, so get yours ear­ly as spots are limited.