Follow by Email

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bears Ears - A Land Worth Protecting

My first view of Bears Ears in the photo above was just after I had recently arrived in Southeastern Utah.  

A vandweller friend of mine had been to Bears Ears and recommend it to me for my travels.  Most of southeastern Utah was new to me and I wanted to see it all.  Her recommendation was greated with enthusiasm to check it out.

To the immediate west of the Bears Ears Mountains is Natural Bridges National Monument.  Since Natural Bridges is lower in elevation the snow you see covering Bears Ears did not hamper the visit to Natural Bridges, but the snow prevented seeing Bears Ears at this time.  I hoped that the snow would melt before I left Utah so I could try to see the Ears before I lef the area.

Above is the map of Bears Ears at the Natural Bridges Visitors Center.

The green outline is the land mass covered by The Bears Ears area, which included other areas like Natural Bridges, etc.  The shaded dark green area is now all that exists of Bears Ears as protected land since Trump has removed the protections on the remainder of the area.  With the protection removed it opens up the land not protected for leasing for mineral mining, as an example.

It’s all still government land like BLM and National Forest but the protection is gone for most of the area.

This saddens me as a conservative minded traveler.  There are many places in this overall area that need to be protected including many Native American ruins.

There is a road that crosses between the saddle between the two Ears and travels east and has been snow covered.  It snow a few times while I was in the area thwarting my desire to visit the Ears.  The Bears Ears saddle is only 6 miles from the road to Natural Bridges, but the road to the other side is many miles long.  When I first wanted drive Bears Ears the road was only open 2 of the 6 miles.

The snow was melting before I left Utah and I first drove up the east side, but the frost was coming out of the ground and the road was damp causing the mud to make driving deep and slippery.  I needed to turn around as I didn’t want to get stuck in the mountain.

Above is my 2nd and last attempt to get over Bears Ears looking over Arch Canyon to the west.  I was able to drive the road many more miles this time as the road was drying out.

Eventually, the snow in the woods and some on the road, as well as water and mud from melting snow bogged my 4x4 Tacoma with camper in 8 inch ruts.  What saved me was that at 8000 feet in the morning the mud was still frozen but thawing as I drove the road.

Some parts of the road with sun were much better than those section shaded.

I gave up from the east side a second time with ruts much deeper than those above.  I had all I could do to keep moving in the ruts and mud so I did not get pictures of the worse part.

I have Michelin LTX Mud and Snow tires with good tread but they are not off road tires.  Plus my camper is about 1000 lbs causing a lot of weight to sink in the mud.  Above my trees were full of mud and this makes traction difficult.

I did make it to 8500 ft this second time vs 7000 the first time.

After not making it over Bears Ears from the east I decided to return to Natural Bridges and attempt driving the southwest side to the saddle in the afternoon.  

I made the 6 miles as the road had dried enough but it left many ruts that were mostly dry and my truck had no problems with 4x4 engaged.

At the saddle the picture above is the west ear.

Then the picture of the east ear.

Above you will see a red pin drop.  This is how far I got trying to drive over Bears Ears from the east.  The blue dot is me parked at the saddle between the two Ears at 8513 ft elevation.

The line between the two points is 1.76 miles line of sight.  So since the road has a bend I figure that there was two miles of road that I could not get through on my quest to drive over Bears Ears before I left Utah.  

Oh well, there is next year as there is plenty more to see in this part of Utah.  Show and rain had come late this year and it was insufficient leaving the area in drought conditions.

Keep Bears Ears National Monument and Escalante National Monument (south central Utah) in your thoughts as both were drastically reduced in protective size from Trumps rollbacks of Obama’s efforts to conserve this area. 



  1. Next time you go out that way you need to check out Comb Ridge, and Grand Gulch Primitive Area. Some incredible hiking out there. Sorry you didn't get to do much more than struggle with the roads, did you visit some ruins?

    1. Thanks for the suggestions- always appreciated.

      Yes I got to see many ruins - just posted about some.

      Happy Trails.