Chiricahua National Monument

America’s nation­al mon­u­ments have been under the spot­light late­ly due to efforts to both save and elim­i­nate a few of them. With over 100 Mon­u­ments spread across the coun­try you prob­a­bly haven’t heard of, we thought now would be a good time to high­light some of the least visited.

Chiricahua National MonumentChir­ic­ahua Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Arizona
The Chir­ic­ahua Nation­al Mon­u­ment in Ari­zona is a des­ig­nat­ed wilder­ness acces­si­ble by foot and horse­back. It con­tains rough­ly 17 miles of day-use trails for the intre­pid explor­er with var­i­ous forests, mead­ows and tow­er­ing rock pin­na­cles to wind through. Though ille­gal, we hear it’s also pop­u­lar with climbers; we don’t rec­om­mend tempt­ing fate or the author­i­ties with that one, though. Oth­er­wise, it’s a won­der­ful, unique mon­u­ment with fas­ci­nat­ing rock for­ma­tions and great hikes like the Echo Canyon Trailhead.

Aniakchak National MonumentAni­akchak Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Alaska
Ani­akchak Nation­al Mon­u­ment sees few­er vis­i­tors than even Cape Krusen­stern, aver­ag­ing less than 300 a year. Access to the park is not easy, requir­ing a com­bi­na­tion of fly­ing, boat­ing and back­coun­try hik­ing very few can com­plete. That, com­bined with a large num­ber of wolves and griz­zlies in the region make most poten­tial vis­i­tors weary of mak­ing an attempt. If you can hack it, you’ll be reward­ed with an exten­sive array of hik­ing up Vent Moun­tain along with sport fish­ing and epic raft­ing in the Ani­akchak Riv­er. The region is also home to the 2,000-foot deep vol­canic caldera to explore.

Organ Pipe Cactus National MonumentOrgan Pipe Cac­tus Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Arizona
Organ Pipe Cac­tus was most­ly closed to the gen­er­al pub­lic for 11 years due to it being con­sid­ered the most dan­ger­ous nation­al mon­u­ment in the coun­try. Its loca­tion next to the bor­der of Mex­i­co made it a prime stomp­ing ground for the drug trade, so hik­ing here was pret­ty unsafe. Now that it’s reopened, it pro­vides some of the country’s most scenic hik­ing trails. The sur­round­ing Puer­to Blan­co Moun­tains and Alamo Canyon con­tain dozens of hik­ing trails as well as camp­ing spots where you can spend the night. Organ Pipe is in the heart of the Sono­ran Desert and con­tains unique wildlife you won’t find any­where else; it’s the only place on Earth you can find the cac­tus for which it’s named.

Cape Krusen­stern Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Alaska
Cape Krusen­stern is one of the most remote regions in the Unit­ed States and is locat­ed along 70 miles of the Chukchi Sea in Alas­ka. Get­ting there is no easy task and only the most expe­ri­enced back­coun­try explor­ers should even attempt it. Once there, how­ev­er, you’ll find the 540,000-acre mon­u­ment is loaded with Eski­mo arti­facts dat­ing back 5000 years and plen­ty of natives still liv­ing in the region. The wilder­ness is as rugged as it gets with blis­ter­ing win­ter colds pre­sent­ing the biggest threat, but dur­ing the sum­mer months, it’s a great place to explore the rolling lime­stone hills and coastal plains pep­pered with lagoons. Cape Krusen­stern is also kayak­ing heaven.

Buck Island Reef Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Vir­gin Islands
The U.S. Vir­gin Islands are vir­tu­al­ly teem­ing with adven­ture, though not a lot of peo­ple choose to wade into the Buck Island Reef Nation­al Mon­u­ment. The region is a spec­tac­u­lar spot for those who enjoy spend­ing time on the water. The coral grot­toes are per­fect for snor­kel­ing through­out the day, while fur­ther off­shore there’s plen­ty to dis­cov­er for scu­ba divers at the two des­ig­nat­ed moor­ings. If you pre­fer to stay above water you’ll find great oppor­tu­ni­ties for hik­ing and bird watch­ing through­out the area.

bears ears

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.

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On Feb­ru­ary 7th, 2017, Patag­o­nia, one of the world’s most revered out­door appar­el brands, sent shock­waves across the out­door indus­try, when they announced they were drop­ping out of the Out­door Retail­er Trade Show in Salt Lake City, which brings in an esti­mat­ed $45 mil­lion in direct spend­ing to the state of Utah.

Just four days ear­li­er, Gov­er­nor Gary Her­bert signed a non-bind­ing res­o­lu­tion request­ing the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion to rescind Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment; estab­lished by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma on Decem­ber 28th, 2016 to the praise of Native Amer­i­cans and envi­ron­men­tal­ists. The dec­la­ra­tion stat­ed that the mon­u­ment would not inter­fere with the rights of landown­ers in or adja­cent to the prop­er­ty, and that they would retain full use and access to their land. It also assured that cur­rent live­stock graz­ing and tim­ber prac­tices would con­tin­ue as they cur­rent­ly have.

The For­est Ser­vice, who man­ages the land joint­ly with the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment, announced that the land would be open to hunt­ing, fish­ing, hik­ing, climb­ing, cycling, and off high­way motoring.

Bears Ears Nation­al Mon­u­ment cov­ers over one mil­lion acres of land in South­east Utah, which holds sacred and sig­nif­i­cant val­ue to Native Amer­i­can tribes as well as out­door enthu­si­asts. The mon­u­ment was estab­lished with the coop­er­a­tion of the Bears Ears Inter-trib­al Coali­tion, who felt that the orig­i­nal dis­cus­sion draft intro­duced by state rep­re­sen­ta­tives Rob Bish­op and Jason Chaf­fetz, didn’t give full rep­re­sen­ta­tion to Native Amer­i­can tribes.

The con­cern of the tribes was based on two fac­tors. The first being the dec­la­ra­tion of an ‘Ener­gy Zone’ between the Cedar and Tank Mesas by Utah’s leg­is­la­ture, leav­ing the area open to gas, oil, and min­er­al devel­op­ment. The sec­ond was the threat of grave loot­ing and van­dal­ism from sacred sites, includ­ing the defac­ing of rock art, and destruc­tion of a 19th-Cen­tu­ry Nava­jo home, which was then uti­lized for firewood.

The move by the Utah leg­is­la­ture neg­a­tive­ly affect­ed Utah’s out­door indus­try, includ­ing com­pa­nies such as Black Dia­mond, whose CEO Peter Met­calf accused Her­bert of launch­ing “an all out assault against Utah’s pro­tect­ed pub­lic lands and Utah’s newest nation­al mon­u­ment” in a Salt Lake Tri­bune op-ed, call­ing for Out­door Retail­er to relo­cate to a more pub­lic land-friend­ly state.

Metcalf’s state­ment also came on the heels of two arti­cles of leg­is­la­tion intro­duced into the House in late Jan­u­ary by Chaf­fetz: H.R. 621 and H.R. 622. H.R. 621 pro­posed the sale of 3.3 mil­lion acres of fed­er­al lands across ten West­ern states. The bill has since been with­drawn after fierce pub­lic out­cry. H.R. 622, which remains intro­duced, would ter­mi­nate the law enforce­ment capac­i­ties of the For­est Ser­vice, leav­ing man­age­ment to poor­ly pre­pared local author­i­ties. As Chaf­fetz attempt­ed to gauge pub­lic inter­est for his poli­cies in a town hall, he found him­self backed in by a strong pub­lic land defense from constituents.

In the fol­low­ing days, Peak Design, Arc’teryx, Kokopel­li Pack­raft, Polartec, Meto­lious, Voor­mi, Kammok, GU, Pow­er Prac­ti­cal and Bedrock San­dals announced their with­draw­al from Out­door Retail­er, while oth­er com­pa­nies such as Cotopaxi, REI and The North Face stat­ed their inten­tions to remain in sup­port of small busi­ness­es, while also com­mit­ting an annu­al $100,000 to a new­ly cre­at­ed Pub­lic Lands Defense Fund, admin­is­tered by the Con­ser­va­tion Alliance. Sim­i­lar­ly, Ibex com­mit­ted $10,000 to the Defense Fund, but announced they would be attend­ing the show with a small­er team and reduced schedule.

In 2012, the Out­door Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion report­ed that the out­door recre­ation econ­o­my in Utah was respon­si­ble for $12 bil­lion in con­sumer spend­ing and 122,000 jobs, as well as $856 mil­lion in state and local revenue.

A 2013 report on the Out­door Recre­ation Vision of Utah, pro­motes the health and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits of a strong out­door recre­ation indus­try, while ask­ing if the high cost of guides, trav­el, and equip­ment was out of range for aver­age fam­i­lies. The intro­duc­tion ends omi­nous­ly with “And, of course, there are many oth­er issues.”

Out­door Retail­er itself, which has a con­tract through 2018, announced they would be solic­it­ing new loca­tions for the show in 2019 and onward. In response, Gov­er­nor Her­bert stat­ed on Feb­ru­ary 13th he would meet with lead­ers from Out­door Retail­er and the out­door indus­try in an attempt to find com­mon ground. After the Feb­ru­ary 16th con­fer­ence, between the gov­er­nor and the indus­try which failed to reach a con­sen­sus, it was decid­ed that Out­door Retail­er would def­i­nite­ly leave Salt Lake City in 2019.

Now is the time when out­door brands and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives are lis­ten­ing, and the vic­to­ry over H.R. 621, was a demon­stra­tion of the pas­sion­ate defense for pub­lic lands. In ear­ly Feb­ru­ary, the Out­door Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion issued an open let­ter to the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion, reflect­ing the views of over 200 large and small busi­ness­es and tout­ing the strength of a strong out­door econ­o­my, which accrues $646 bil­lion annu­al­ly and employs more than six mil­lion peo­ple. In the let­ter, they state:

“It is an Amer­i­can right to roam in our pub­lic lands. The peo­ple of the Unit­ed States, today and tomor­row, share equal­ly in the own­er­ship of these majes­tic places. This pow­er­ful idea tran­scends par­ty lines and sets our coun­try apart from the rest of the world. That is why we strong­ly oppose any pro­pos­al, cur­rent or future, that deval­ues or com­pro­mis­es the integri­ty of our nation­al pub­lic lands.”

But pub­lic lands will not be defend­ed by the out­door indus­try alone. It is up to the pub­lic, be it hunters, climbers, fish­er­man, skiers, bik­ers, off-road enthu­si­asts or hik­ers, to make their voic­es heard, write con­gress­man, attend local meet­ings, and vehe­ment­ly defend our nation­al pub­lic lands.