Grand Gulch

Bears Ears National Monument, Bullet Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, kiva, ruin, stars, Milky Way, galaxy
Cosmic Kiva : Prints Available

An Ancestral Puebloan kiva with a view of the Milky Way.

At the end of May we spent three days hiking through the upper portion of Grand Gulch, in Cedar Mesa, Utah. This was the third time I’ve backpacked in Grand Gulch, but the first since the area was designated as part of Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in 2016. Nothing has changed as far as I can tell – just the same amazing canyon scenery and fascinating archeological history to be found around nearly every bend. See more pictures from the canyon below!


Bears Ears National Monument, Bullet Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, kiva, ruin
Inner Kiva : Prints Available

This Ancestral Puebloan kiva was discovered intact in the 1890s, but by the 1970s the roof was starting to collapse. Restoration efforts were undertaken to reinforce the roof so now visitors can go down inside.

We hiked from Kane Gulch to Bullet Canyon, and were fortunate to score a last minute shuttle ride from some friendly folks from the Colorado Mountain Club from Colorado Springs, which saved us much road walking (or hitchhiking)!

Bears Ears National Monument, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, ruin

Ancestral Puebloan ruins in Grand Gulch.

During our walk through Grand Gulch we saw more than a dozen significant Ancenstral Puebloan ruin sites, and surely passed by many more hidden from view. Many of the ruins are located under deep alcove overhangs, or on high inaccessible ledges.

Bears Ears National Monument, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, ruin

Ancestral Puebloan ruins overlook the canyon bottom where corn and other vegetables were grown approximately 1000-700 years ago.

Bears Ears National Monument, Bullet Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, tent

Dusk at our slickrock campsite.

As I’ve written about previously, with its abundant historic and scenic riches, there is absolutely no doubt that Cedar Mesa deserved the national monument designation and protections that President Obama granted it. Let’s hope it remains that way, and is not rescinded or reduced out of petty political spite.

2 thoughts on “Grand Gulch

  1. Do you know of any sites with good information on hiking/backpacking at Bears Ears? I couldn’t find anything. Patagonia has put up a site with some really slick videos, but I think a good way of building support for the monument would be to make it easier to visit.

    1. Hi Ben, because Bears Ears NM is so new, I don’t think there’s much info out there under that particular name. That said, if you google around about hiking/backpacking Cedar Mesa or Grand Gulch, you should find plenty of info as these have been fairly popular areas for a long time. The Cedar Mesa pages on Summitpost.org have some good info. You can also get the Nat Geo Trails Illustrated Grand Gulch/Cedar Mesa topo map which labels all the main trails and trailheads for this part of the monument.

      Bears Ears is different from most national parks or monuments in that it is very undeveloped and has basically no tourist infrastructure or facilities aside from the Kane Gulch ranger station. For me this is a positive, but also explains why it might require a bit more research to plan a trip here.

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