Blanding: The Gateway to Bears Ears

Blanding: The Gateway to Bears Ears

By Chad Taylor
March 07, 2018 | Updated January 11, 2024

No one can shrink the awesomeness of Bears Ears National Monument.

This area of Utah must be visited. The folks in the neighboring town of Blanding know this. They’ve been hiking/climbing/canyoneering in, and most importantly, conserving this area for years. Now they want to share it with the rest of us.

There has been much mystery surrounding what this monument is, why it’s named Bears Ears, etc. Much like Utah’s other amazing national/state parks and monuments, this isn’t a place with one thing to see. It’s a place with a whole lot to do. Let us drop some knowledge:

Bears Ears is named for a couple of buttes that protrude from opposite ends of a towering mountain peak. These landmarks have been recognized by area natives for years, and have been given the same name by each of the groups: Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, Hoon'Naqvut. Translated to English: Bears Ears.

Set Up Basecamp in Blanding

To call Blanding a hub-and-spoke for southeastern Utah would be an understatement. It is located within 90 miles of 17 national, tribal, and state parks/monuments. Blanding is a classic Utah small town with big amenities. Plenty of convenient places to stay (we love Four Corners Inn and Canyonlands Lodge & Cabins) as well as some tasty places to dine at the beginning or end of your days of exploration (we’ve been well fed at Yaks Center Street Cafe and Homestead Steak House).

Drive the Indian Creek Scenic Byway

From Blanding:

  • Head north on Hwy 191 for 35 miles
  • Turn left on Hwy 211 and enjoy the journey

Newspaper Rock

12 miles in, you’ll arrive at Newspaper Rock –– one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs in the Southwest. The carvings you’ll see here were made by the Archaic, Ancestral Pueblo, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo and Pueblo cultures approximately 2,000 years ago. Trust us, this is a newspaper you’ll actually want to try and read. If you’re into climbing (and know what you’re doing), keep going for a couple of miles and conquer Indian Creek –– one of the best climbing areas in Utah.

No less than 22 miles later, you’ll arrive at the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Super scenic overlook and lots of good info in the visitor center. If you’re willing to go another 6.4 miles and you like taking pictures, head up to the Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Visit Cultural Sites

From Blanding:

  • Head south on Hwy 191 for 3.9 miles
  • Turn right on Hwy 95.

After 10.5 miles, you’ll arrive at a parking lot for Butler Wash Ruins –– cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans that represent the full range of living activities: habitation, ceremony, farming, hunting, storage and tool-making. You’ll see four kivas (underground ceremonial chambers).

Butler Wash Ruins

Drive another 9 miles on Hwy 95 to reach Mule Canyon. Multiple Ancestral Puebloan sites are located here. There is a super interesting site just minutes from the road, but we recommend taking the time to hike to House on Fire, one of the coolest ancient dwellings in Utah.

House on Fire

Explore Natural Wonders

If you have 17.6 miles left in you, make the trek to Natural Bridges National Monument. Not only is it awesome and full of, you know, natural bridges, but when exiting the park you’ll get one of the clearest views of Bears Ears. Just make sure to courteously pull over to the right before you bust out the camera.

Natural Bridges

If you want to make it an even epic-er day, take the full loop by opting to take Hwy 261 south out of Natural Bridges to visit Moki Dugway, Muley Point scenic overlook and Valley of the Gods on the way back to Blanding.

Muley Point

Think of Blanding like an antonym. It’s an exciting, interesting, bright, lively place. If you want to hear what Bears Ears has to teach you, you have to stay close.

Need help with your exploration? Contact Blanding for guide information.