Red sandstone spires reach toward a cloud-filled blue sky across a barren desert.

Before You Arrive: Know Before You Go

The key to visiting Bears Ears National Monument is simple: know before you go! You can use materials like the Cedar Mesa Trip Planner or San Juan Trip Planner to help you come up with a plan for your visit. Other more specific brochures are available online as well. 

Be sure that you are familiar with activity fees in Bears Ears National Monument. Backpacking, visiting Moon House, and rafting on the San Juan all require permits. Day hiking in the canyons of Cedar Mesa and Comb Ridge requires a day hiking pass. See our Cedar Mesa and San Juan permits pages for more information.

While You're Here: Visit with Respect

Visit with Respect

One important set of outdoor ethics is known as Visit with Respect. These principles, developed by the Bears Ears Partnership and designed specifically for visiting archeological sites, help to preserve and protect cultural resources. While you should be familiar with all aspects of visiting with respect before your visit, keep these tips in mind:

  • Don't touch rock imagery or make your own: Natural oils on your hands damage these delicate images. Vandalism of petroglyphs and pictographs erases stories of ancient people and destroys the experience for future visitors.
  • Steer clear of walls: Structures are easily damaged. Please refrain from touching, leaning, standing, or climbing on any structures, no matter how solid they look.
  • Leave all artifacts: Artifacts are sacred to modern Indigenous peoples, and scientists can learn valuable lessons about the past when objects stay where they are. Artifacts include pottery pieces, stone tools, rock flakes, and corn cobs. It’s illegal to remove any artifact, including historic trash, from public lands.
  • Guide children through sites: Archaeological sites are not playgrounds. Teach children to respect these places. Keep a close eye on them, so they don’t get hurt or accidentally damage cultural resources.
  • Dogs and archeology don't mix: To prevent digging and erosion, pets are not allowed in archaeological sites. Please make sure to leash pets and keep them away from the site. Pets are not allowed in some areas, so know beforehand where dogs are permitted.
Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace (LNT) is a set of outdoor ethics asking you to leave wild spaces as you find them:

Cell Phone Coverage

While a cell phone may help in an emergency, do not rely on your cell phone. Much of the Bears Ears area does not have cell service. Tell a responsible person where you are going, when you expect to return, and who to contact if you don’t. In an emergency, dial 911.

Flash Floods

Flash floods can occur at any time of year but are most common in July, August, and September. Checking the local weather forecast is advisable, but you should realize that conditions change quickly, and it is impossible to predict where heavy rain will occur. The cause of a flash flood can be very far away, meaning that you may not see a storm before a flash flood occurs.

  • Avoid narrow canyons and washes during stormy weather.
  • Be aware of changing weather conditions.
  • Know your escape routes.
  • If you’re hiking in a stream, be aware of rising water levels, stronger currents, and sudden changes in water clarity.
  • Educate yourself on the area you are entering.
  • Realize that dry washes are a result of previous flash floods.
  • By entering a narrow canyon or wash, you are assuming a risk.

If flooding begins, seek high ground immediately and wait for the water to go down before attempting to walk out. Do not enter a narrow canyon if storms threaten. Never camp in a wash bottom, even if it looks dry.


Evenings and winters in the Bears Ears region can be extremely cold. Hypothermia is a rapidly progressive mental and physical collapse due to the chilling of the body’s core. It is caused by prolonged exposure to cold, and is greatly intensified by wetness, wind, exhaustion, and lack of food. Hypothermia can strike in temperatures above freezing. 

Watch for these early signs of hypothermia in your group:

  • Shivering or fumbling hands
  • Exhaustion or drowsiness
  • Confusion, memory loss, or slurred speech

Treat hypothermia by:

  • Actively rewarming the individual.
  • Getting the individual out of wind and rain and removing wet clothing.
  • Moving to a heat source – a fire, inside a dry sleeping bag, or skin to skin with a healthy person.
  • Giving the individual warm drinks like herbal tea, soup, or sugar water.
  • Do not give the individual caffeine or alcohol.
Heat-related Illnesses

Summer temperatures in this area are often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid heat-related illnesses:

  • Consume at least one gallon (about four liters) of water per person per day. 
  • Avoid hiking in the middle of the day when it is the hottest. 
  • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and sun screen. Bring your sunglasses.
  • Eat well before hiking and bring food on your hike to help replace the electrolytes/energy used.

Adults require four liters of water per day and up to eight liters for strenuous activity at high elevations. To maintain higher energy levels and avoid dehydration, drink frequently. It is important to begin drinking before you actually feel thirsty. Don’t forget to treat your water!

Snake Safety

Always be alert when traveling through thick brush or rocky outcroppings. Use a walking stick to check under brush or around crevices where recoiled snakes could lay. Use care when moving piles of brush, logs and tarps. 

Most people are bitten by either accidentally stepping on the snake or while trying to kill the snake. On average, about 20% of all bites inject venom. The best first aid in case of bites is to transport the victim to a first aid clinic or hospital as soon as possible.

Think Before You Drink

Only water from developed, maintained systems is safe to drink untreated. Open water sources are easily contaminated by human or animal waste. All water from open sources should be treated before drinking, since parasites that live in natural water sources can put your health at risk.

After Your Visit: Share Responsibly

A final important tip for Visiting with Respect from the Bears Ears Partnership: GPS reveals too much. GPS points often lead uneducated visitors to sensitive sites. When posting online about your trip, remove all references to location.

Many of the archaeological sites in Bears Ears National Monument are not ready for high visitation. Before sharing photos of your trip on social media, please take a moment to consider how your post might increase visitation to the site you visited. High visitation could adversely affect sites in the future. Geotag responsibly to protect these fragile sites. Do your part to help preserve and protect these special places for future generations.