Travel Curious

For independent travelers who want to dig deeper

Bears Ears Region

Cedar Mesa is bordered by Bears Ears National Monument to the north, Grand Gulch to the west and Comb Ridge to the east, this region with its seemingly unlimited number of canyons is an amazing place to hike and explore where you can see thousands of examples of ancient Indian rock art and hundreds of ruins.

House on Fire Ruin House on Fire Ruins       


Bears Ears National Monument consists of over 1.3 million acres and gets its name from the two buttes that rise 2000 feet over the surrounding lands that look like the ears of a bear.


It is bordered by Canyonlands National Park to the north and anchored by Valley of the Gods to the south with Cedar Mesa, the Comb Ridge formation, and Grand Gulch being the main destination for hiking and backpacking.


This area was home to thousands of Ancestral Puebloans (also known as the Anasazi culture), they thrived here for a time and left their marks on the land through their artwork on the canyon walls, and with granaries and homesites built under ledges almost always built on the north side of canyons in order to capture the solar warming of the sun in winter.

Valley of the Gods Vallery of the Gods


Some of the sites are easily accessible while many others are more remote and require day hikes or overnight backpacking. This remoteness has helped preserve these sights extremely well and provide those who seek them out an amazing experience that can’t help but connect you with the people who lived here so long ago.


Finding pottery sherds or 900-year-old corn cobs near metates (grinding holes) is not unusual. Just make sure to take nothing but photographs so future generations can enjoy this pristine outdoor museum also.

Ancient pottery sherdsSigns of the Anasazi culture you will find on your hikes


This is not a place of visitor centers and crowds, but remoteness and wilderness. You will need to be self-sufficient and look out for your own safety as it’s not unusual to be the only visitor for a week in some of the more remote locations.


Lower Butler Wash road monarch cave


The main towns to explore from are either Blanding or Bluff. Blanding is 30 minutes drive to the north of Bluff and is larger and has more resources. Bluff is tiny, but is closer to the southern parts of the area and Comb Ridge which is a north-south running ridge filled with ancient Indian rock art and hiking trails.


Bluff has a direct historical connection to the area, being founded by the Mormon pioneers following their epic Hole-in-the-Rock odyssey from 1879. From either town you can easily day trip out into the region to explore.


Bluff Fort
Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun closed
Located right in town. The reconstructed original settlement of Bluff has a video recounting the Mormon’s Hole-in-the-Rock expedition, a small museum focused on the Mormon Pioneers. There are wagons and little cabins arranged in a defensive square, tastefully furnished and decorated with historical accuracy. 

Bluff fort in Bear Ears

Navajo Twins (Twin Rocks) & Horse rock art panel
In Bluff behind the Twin Rocks Trading Post, are the Navajo Twins rock formation. Continue past them on Calf Canyon Road for 1/2 mile to a trailhead at ( 37.290848, -109.559819 ). If you follow the trail north along the creek there is a nice Ute rock art panel of horses high up on the cliff face. You can climb up to the panel for a closer look.
Bluff gemini twins formation
Comb Ridge / Lower Butler Wash Road
Just a few miles west of the town of Bluff is Comb Ridge, a steep ridge over a mile wide and runs north to south for over 80 miles that was pushed upward over 65 million years ago. The name comes from the early settlers seeing the resemblance to a rooster’s comb.

Hand prints from lower Butler Wash Road


Comb Ridge is a fantastic place to hike and explore, specifically the eastern side along Lower Butler Wash Road. This was a major home to Ancestral Puebloan Indians and they left many ancient rock art panels, granaries and cliff ruins, most are accessible from short hikes from trailheads along the road.


Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa
Cedar Mesa is a wooded plateau riddled with small canyons for day hikes and Grand Gultch is a major canyon network for major backpacking adventures as well as shorter day hiking. Both areas were also inhabited extensively by ancient Puebloan Indians and are filled with evidence of their lives with ruins and rock art.

Metate and corn cobs

Explore Nearby...


House on Fire Ruin

House on Fire Ruins in Mule Canyon South Fork

There are many ruins in the canyon, but House on Fire ruin is the most famous of them, getting its name from the effects that the sunlight has on the sandstone cliff of the overhang that it is built under

Road Canyon Fallen Roof Ruin 2

Fallen Roof Ruin in Road Canyon

Road Canyon contains many ruins, granaries, and kivas. “Fallen Roof Ruin” derives its name from the elaborate pattern created by the missing sandstone slabs of rock that fell out of the roof of the alcove in front of it.

Butler Wash Ruins 4

Butler Wash Ruins

Choose to view the ruins from an overlook or hike up the wash and explore the ruins close up

Lower Butler Wash Road - Hikes

Lower Butler Wash Road is a unique area of Comb Ridge, home to a dozen unmarked trailheads not published by the BLM or marked with signs. All are short hikes (1-3 miles round trip) that lead to amazing ancestral sites, caves and alcoves with 800-year-old ruins, petroglyphs, pottery shards and more.
Multi-colored hand prints on the back wall

Double Stack Ruin

See a higher and lower set of ruins with painted handprints, metates, rockart and impressive mud mortared rock walled structures still standing

Lower Butler Wash road monarch cave 3

Monarch Cave

Hidden up a side canyon of Comb Ridge is an impressive ruin complex with petroglyphs, pottery sherds, corn cobs, sharpening grooves, and grinding metates.

Butler Wash road wolfman rockart 13

Wolfman Panel

Hike to see multiple rock art panels with one with a unique wolfman like figure, across the canyon are ruins you can continue to

Lower Butler Wash Road Fishmouth Cave 5

Fishmouth Cave

A short easy hike to a large cave with handprints and metates, there are a number of smaller ruins to see along the trail.

Lower Butler Wash Road Split Level Ruin 8

Split Level Ruin

The hike to a ruin split over two ledges is filled with hundreds of pictographs, large rocks covered in metates, sharpening marks, pottery shards, and painted handprints

Goosenecks State Park ...

Scenic Drives...

Recapture Pocket_ 4

Recapture Pocket

This is a little visited but interesting location full of goblins and hoodoos contained in three main groups of formations relatively close to each other

Everything Else...

Newspaper Rock 2

Newspaper Rock

A famous rock panel carved with about 650 individual petroglyphs of abstract shapes and symbols to more recognizable human and animal figures

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