5 Must-Dos in America’s Newest National Monument

Because the best way to celebrate over 1.3 million acres of newly protected land is by exploring them

On Wednesday, President Obama declared the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears in southern Utah a national monument (along with 300,000-acre Gold Butte in Nevada). So we put together a list of our favorite landmarks and hikes to help guide you through the newly protected desert, canyons, and Native American ceremonial sites. Here are five ways to help you make the most of Bears Ears.

5. Check Out Junction Ruins

Made up of three levels and a whopping 28 structures, Junction Ruins features pictographs, petroglyphs, and even hand prints. Keep an eye out for grinding stones and pottery shards, and set aside roughly half a day to complete the four-mile hike to the ruins.

Photo: Nick Wilder

4. Hike Robertson Pasture Trail (20)

Looking to log some serious miles? Do 14.5 of them among meadows, forests, and aspens. Though the trail begins relatively flat, it takes some fairly steep switchbacks to reach the saddle between Twin Peaks at 10,500 feet, from which you can see for miles. Hiking Project’s Nick Wilder describes the hike: “A gorgeous trail through forests and meadows climbing high up the Abajos.”

3. Explore Turkey Pen Ruin

Head to Turkey Pen to discover Anasazi ruins that date back to 1,000 to 1,250 AD. Though the upper level is off-limits to visitors, you can explore the bottom section, where shards of pottery scatter the ground. Note: “[The Turkey Pen] probably didn’t actually house turkeys,” jokes Hiking Project’s Caleb Joyce.

Photo: Nick Wilder

2. Hike to Moon House Ruins

Pinyon pine, juniper, rabbitbrush, and yucca line the path to 1,000-year-old ruins. Intermediate hikers will easily be able to tackle this 4.6-mile long trail, which is relatively mellow except for a short scramble leading up to the Moon House Ruin, marking the half-way point.

1. Enjoy the View from Muley Point

Welcome to the best sunset in Bears Ears. This vista point (which you can drive or hike to) sits 2,500 feet above the San Juan River and looks out onto Navajo Mountain and sandstone towers of Monument Valley. “This is a must-visit viewpoint, especially for sunrise or sunset,” says Hiking Project’s Brian Smith. “Consider camping along the rim, too, as the night sky in these parts is unrivaled.”

Photo: Caleb Joyce

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