Hike, Climb, Run: 5 Adventures In Bears Ears

Perhaps the most controversial public lands area in America, Bears Ears National Monument offers some outstanding outdoor activities for all ages and abilities.

Hike, Climb, Run, MTB: 5 Adventures In Bears Ears
Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management

Pictographs, canyons, slickrock trails, ancient ruins, and more — Bears Ears is a veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts. And though it’s at the forefront of heated political debate, you’d do well to visit, whether it’s federally protected or state owned.

Bivy, an online community and catalog for outdoor adventures, recently visited the national monument. While there, the staff went hiking, running, mountain biking, and climbing within its 1.3 million acres of public land.

Here are five prime spots to experience Bears Ears, suitable for moderate activity up to expert-level adventures.

Hotel Rock: Hiking

Difficulty: Extreme

Hike, Climb, Run, MTB: 5 Adventures In Bears Ears

Intense climbs and potentially dangerous falls make Hotel Rock an exciting and difficult hike. The payoff is canyon overlooks and vistas of the valley.

The routes comprise both slick rock and dirt double track, so you may encounter some mountain bikers (another option so long as permitted). At the end of the roughly 4-mile trek sits an Anasazi ruin, and getting there entails almost 1,200 feet of climb.

North Mule: Trail Running

Difficulty: Moderate

Hike, Climb, Run, MTB: 5 Adventures In Bears Ears

Run through the canyon and see some ancient ruins along the way. Located in the Cedar Mesa area off of I-95, the North Mule trail loop totals just 5.4 miles with under 200 feet of gain. So it’s a good fit for casual runners.

Bring decent trail shoes, though; the route is predominantly firm sand but has both hard rock and muddy sections.

Grand Gulch: Hiking

Difficulty: Extreme

Hike, Climb, Run, MTB: 5 Adventures In Bears Ears

Almost 30 miles and more than 2,000 feet of climb make Grand Gulch the longest canyon and most difficult hike in Cedar Mesa. And, according to the Bivy team, it’s also the most interesting.

Numerous petroglyphs and pictographs dot the landscape, and scattered ruins give hikers plenty to look for. But this multi-day hike is not for beginners. Water is extremely scarce, so the Bureau of Land Management issues permits and limits the number visitors here.

Eagle Plume Tower: Aid Climbing

Difficulty: A2-A3

Hike, Climb, Run, MTB: 5 Adventures In Bears Ears

There are two 350-foot four-pitch aid climbs at Eagle Plume. “Fuzzy Crockpot” is the easier of the two, rated A2+. The 350-foot route is toughest on the first pitch with choss near the bottom and requires a triple rack of cams. The A3 Ardbeg, Vaca & Beyond is a combination of dihedral, crack, multi-pitch, and roof climbing.

Indian Creek: Rock Climbing

Difficulty: 5.11-5.12+

Indian creek bears ears national monument

Numerous routes offer unique challenges for climbers ascending Indian Creek. The most difficult is “Christmas Tree,” a 140-ft. 5.12+. According to the Bivy team, this route is relatively unknown. It gets progressively bigger and requires some advanced finger techniques. The easiest route is the 100-ft. 5.11 “Think Pink” ascent.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie – from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it’s outside, it’s worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.