Backpack Grand Gulch

Rate this Adventure 10 miles 600 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Chloe Donlan

Bears Ears National Monument offers an invaluable opportunity to reflect on human nature.

Bears Ears National Monument is a truly special place. We voyaged willingly on a journey of discovery into the roots of who we are as human beings, and we were not disappointed: the ruins accessible in the canyons brought tears to our eyes. While Bears Ears used to receive just 9,000 visitors annually, recent political events have prompted visitation to increase to roughly 30,000 per month. While this visitation is favorable for our ability to voice for protection of the monument, I encourage all visitors to take LNT principles extra seriously in Bears Ears. Beyond the need to preserve cultural sites for future generations, current generations have ancestral ties to these sites and a plethora of wildlife lives here. 

We started at the trailhead across from Kane Gulch Ranger Station. You can call in advance to secure permits, but a few are usually available day of. There is no water or trash at the ranger station, but there is a bathroom. Call in advance to find out the hours of the station, as all visitors must watch a short informational video before setting out on the trail. 

We hiked 4 miles to the junction of Kane Gulch and Grand Gulch (a descent of 600 feet). There are several incredible campsites on sand (avoid camping on cryptobiotic soil). From our campground, we had a view of Junction Ruin and could walk another mile without our backpacks to explore Turkey Pen Ruin and Stimper Arch. All three sites are worth a lengthy visit (we spent about 45 minutes + at each of the ruin locations). Apart from the kivas, storage facilities, and defense structures, we especially enjoyed the petro and pictoglyphs along the canyon walls. Each site has an ammo box stuffed with educational information on said site. 

While there are typically a few potholes of water, we opted to carry all of our own capacity for drinking and cooking. Even with a steripen, the potholes of water looked rather... stagnant and we decided to leave the potholes for the wildlife that resides in these canyons (including a black bear, mule deer, and birds).  

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