Bear Ears, total adrenaline rush! Ancestral Puebloans 700 – 2500 years ago. Cedar Mesa is managed by BLM managed by Monticello field office phone 435 587 1510 M-F 8a to 12p, www.blm.gov/utah/monticello . The Kane ranger station is open from March 1 thru June 15 and Sept 1 to Oct 31. All over night hikers must obtain permit & register at Kane Gulch Ranger Station located SR 261, 4 miles south US 95. Limited water at ranger station during business hours, you need a key to unlock. I would advise bring lots of water with you. There are pit toilets there that were large & clean but not flushing. Cedar Mesa is a very difficult place for 1st time hikers & backpackers. Per BLM newbies may want to explore Natural Bridges or Hovenweep.
Things to keep in mine, GPS are not always reliable between steep canyon walls & now with something called satellite drift making it difficult to get exact mileage. ( I have spoken to Garmin about this issue, sounds like there is not much we can do about it) Whoever experiences this issue make calls to Garmin. Be efficient with your maps & compass. Be aware of weather, every year flash floods come through the canyons, trails & cairns can be wiped out. Volunteers rebuild but it takes time. As I was hiking there were many reminders of how high the water had been. Cell phones did not work on the hikes we were on, but it did work on a hwy 95 that said Hole in the Wall 7,100 ft & by ranger station. Search & Rescue is through San Juan County sheriff office, tele # 435 587 2237. If a helicopter is needed for a rescue it will be the hikers financial responsibility.
Same rules as in most outback locations, Pack it in Pack it out.
Human waste – 200 ft from water source, trail, or campsite. Use cat holes 6″ deep & cover, easy where we hiked lots of sandy soil. No swimming, washing or bathing near water. This wasn’t difficult when we were there as there was no water in the creeks. No campfires at all in the canyons.
Permits – advance reservation phone 435 587 1510 hrs 8a to 12p M- F, time frame 90 days prior & no later than 5 days before trip start. No emails or faxes will be excepted, I believe there are 8 permits for walk ins at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. We got there a couple of days early to do day trips so we picked the days they had open for our backpack trip, that’s what is good about being flexible.
OK now about the hikes we took, truly amazing! Nancy Vail, Connie Simmons & I Judy Eidson decided to scout out the area to see if we wanted to do future hikes here, YES! It was approx 7 hrs to Blanding, Ut. We stopped off at visitor center in Blanding & spoke to Vickie that had good info & hand written material for us which was very useful. I also bought a National Geographic Grand Gulch/Cedar Mesa map. I felt the map was not detailed as it should be. Car camping is very easy & almost any pull off can be a car camp on Hwy 95, remember you will be in sand or slick rock. The next day we took 3- day hikes: All on Hwy 95, Mule Canyon to House on Fire
which is on county rd 263 . It got its name when the sun hits the ruin it looks like it has smoke & flames coming out of it, this would be a good family hike, as no elevation to speak of & hiking down a wash with good path when we were there. 2nd one was almost across the road near MP 102 -Canyon Towers. Again an easy round trip about 1 1/2 miles. Bring binoculars, as there are many ruins across the canyon worth looking at. Then the last hike was called Mule Canyon Ruins near MP 101. This is where you can drive up & get interpretive information about what they think this ruin was used for, plus a reconstructive Kiva. Bathrooms &,there were 2 Mule deer in near the parking lot. Even though these were short hikes plan 1/2 day if not all as there is so much to take in.
10-22 & 23 we backpacked to Junction Ruin, it was a $8 permit ea. We were advise no water near this ruin, & the closest would be at 8 miles near Totie Springs up a canyon. We each took 3 to 3 1/2 liters of water which was ok for us as our destination was a 4 mile marker. The trail was thru narrow aspen leaf path, narrow boulders, stream bed, slick rock.
You do not get board as something new around each corner. About 1 hr into hike look for a ruin on the south side of the canyon, which is unusual since most dwelling are on the north side.
Our camp was under beautiful fall colored cottonwoods & the backdrop was the Junction ruin, one of the larger ruins in this canyon. For day hikers don’t just take a picture at a distance & keep walking, near the base you can walk right to it. There are pottery chards, corn cobs, etc. well worth taking the time to explore. We were so glad that is where we stopped as we would have hated to hurry through here. Each night it got warmer as the 1st night was 34 degrees, so bring your long johns this time of year, day temps were in the 60’s. Keep in mine the evenings are long since it gets dark around 7:30pm & day light is around 7:30am & chilly! Next day Connie & I hike on to Turkey Pen Ruin which was amazing not only of the dwelling but of the well-preserved petroglyphs, then onto Stimper arch. Beware there is bear in the area, so we hung our bear bag, the only reason the ranger said anything is because we asked, no signs that we saw, but what she did say is if you see one feel lucky.
The last day in Bear Ears I was up & at the Kane Ranger Stationby 7:30 am to get 3 permits for Moon House. They are special permits as they only issue 8 that day & are high in demand. The drive out is on Snow Flat road about 6 miles from the ranger station then another 8 miles on a sandy but doable road, then another 1 1/2 mile on a 4 wheel drive high clearance road. Was happy my jeep had no issues! This trail was a bit intimidating, slickrock, cairns & a 10 ft drop. Connie & Nancy stayed at the 10 ft drop. By looking across the canyon you would never know there was such a large ruin! I made my way to the ruin & was wondering how I would make it back up the cliff. The ruin is a 49 rooms with a 3 separate structures. Well preserved petroglyphs & an interior court-yard. There are also granary & kivas but do to time I did not get to see all of this. I would suggest go early to take your time, or even camp on Snow Flat Road if you could get an early permit & not the same day permit. I was able to get out of the 10 ft drop ok but as you see in the pictures not all was so lucky.
ok down, now where? where are my buddies?
We decided we deserved a nice comfy bed, so we called Goulding trading post at Monument Valley & got a room. It was lovely as we had a patio that over looked Monument Valley, trail ale, appetizers then went to their quaint movie theater & saw Searchers by John Wayne from 1958! 10-25 the trip isn’t done yet, after a great breakfast there we went to the visitor center at Monument Valley then took a road trip around all the monuments.
We were home by 4:30pm. A super trip, lot packed into 5 days! I’m still feeling the adrenaline rush!