Cedar Mesa Frequently Asked Questions

Cedar Mesa is a popular hiking and backpacking destination located in the southern portion of Bears Ears National Monument. Find answers to commonly asked questions about Cedar Mesa below. 

Of all our commonly asked questions, the most frequent one is: "What are water conditions like on Cedar Mesa?" For current road and water conditions, please visit the Cedar Mesa Current Conditions Report. Please note that the incoming weather may change these conditions. It is always best to check in with the Kane Gulch Ranger Station for the most accurate conditions before heading out on your trip.


Permits and Day Hiking Passes

What do I need a permit for? 

You need a permit to backpack in the canyons of Cedar Mesa or to day hike to the Moon House archaeological site. Reservations for backpacking and Moon House permits can be made up to 90 days in advance on recreation.gov. 

Please note that starting in the spring of 2023, permit check-in requirements have been reinstated. Your backpacking/Moon House permit is not valid until you meet in person with a BLM Park Ranger. To get your permit validated by a park ranger, print two copies of your permit and visit the Kane Gulch Ranger Station (open in the spring and fall) or the Monticello Field Office (open year-round). A ranger will speak with you about archeological site etiquette, provide current conditions, and go over details of your trip with you. 

If you find online reservation systems difficult to navigate, please see our guide on Making Moon House & Backpacking Reservations.

Please note that day hiking in the canyons of Cedar Mesa or Comb Ridge requires a day hiking pass. See the question below for more information.

What’s the difference between a permit and a day hiking pass?

Permits are for backpacking in Bears Ears National Monument and hiking to Moon House archaeological site. Day hiking passes are for visitors who would like to day hike in the canyons of Cedar Mesa or Comb Ridge.

Where do I need a day pass to hike?

You need a day pass to hike in the canyons of Cedar Mesa as well as the canyons of Comb Ridge. Day hiking passes can be purchased in advance online at recreation.gov. Day hiking passes can also be purchased with cash or check at one of the many fee tubes throughout Bears Ears National Monument, including at all Cedar Mesa trailheads as well as North and South Butler Wash Road.

How much do day hiking passes cost? Is there anywhere I can hike for free?

Day hiking passes can be purchased in different time increments. Daily passes are $5/person/day. Weekly passes are $10/person/week. A Cedar Mesa Annual Pass is $40/year and covers everyone in one vehicle, up to 12 people.

Depending on the group size and length of visit, it can make more sense for a group to purchase an annual pass even if they won’t be in the area long. For example, a family of six visiting for a week could pay $60 for 6 weekly passes or just pay $40 to cover everyone in the car for an entire year.

There are free hikes in our field office! As listed in the Cedar Mesa Trip Planner, free established hikes include: Butler Wash Interpretive Site, Mule Canyon Interpretive Site, Butler Wash Dino Tracks, Cave Canyon Towers, Arch Canyon, and Salvation Knoll. Dispersed hiking is also free, so you are welcome to explore areas without designated trails on foot. Just keep Leave No Trace Principle 2 in mind: Travel and camp on durable surfaces! 

Does my America the Beautiful pass count for day hiking?

No. You will need to purchase the appropriate permit or pass for your desired activity.

America the Beautiful Passes typically count for entry to public lands. For example, if you were visiting our neighbors at Canyonlands National Park, you would show your pass to a ranger upon entering the park and that would grant you entry. But if you were planning to backpack in Canyonlands, you might need to pay for an activity fee in order to do so.

At Bears Ears National Monument, we do not charge an entry fee where your America the Beautiful Pass would typically apply. However, we do charge activity fees called "Individual Special Recreation Permits" for day hiking and backpacking. Because your America the Beautiful Pass does not cover Individual Special Recreation Permits, it does not apply toward your backpacking permit, Moon House permit, nor day hiking pass.

Can I cancel my permit? Can I get a refund?

Yes, but be advised that you must cancel 5 days or more in advance of your permit/reservation to get a refund. The $6 processing fee is non-refundable.

Permits are not refunded due to weather. Please watch the weather forecast in the weeks preceding your trip and stay up to date on our current conditions (see sidebar links above). If conditions are looking poor, make sure to cancel your permit at least 5 days in advance for a refund of your permit fees.

If you are not eligible for a refund, we ask that you cancel your permit anyway so that others can enjoy Cedar Mesa even though you're not able to.

Why won't recreation.gov let me reserve a permit to backpack in Cedar Mesa?

Recreation.gov only lets you reserve permits up to 90 days in advance. You cannot reserve a permit further than 90 days out from your start date: you will need to wait until we’re in that 90-day window before reserving your permit.

If you find online reservation systems difficult to navigate, please see our guide on Making Moon House & Backpacking Reservations.

I am unable to print my permit before my trip. What do I do?

You can pick up your permit in person from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station from 8 a.m. to noon any day of the week during their operating seasons in the spring (March 1 – June 15) and fall (Sept. 1 – Oct. 31). You can also get your permit printed at the Monticello Field Office, open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, year-round. Please also download an offline copy of your permit and carry it with you during your trip.


Where should I check for weather forecasts on Cedar Mesa?

The nearest weather station to Cedar Mesa can be found by visiting weather.gov and searching for "Kane Gulch, UT."

What are the rules for exploring Bears Ears with my dog?
  • Pets are prohibited in the following canyons and their tributaries: Grand Gulch (tributaries including but not limited to Kane, Bullet, Collins, Government, Step, and Pine), Slickhorn Canyon, Point Lookout Canyon, and the McLoyd Canyon/Moon House Recreation Management Zone. Where pets are permitted, they must be under control at all times.
  • While dogs are allowed on the Fish & Owl Loop, it is not recommended. There is a 15-foot crack climb on the rim of Fish Canyon that is impossible for dogs to get up or down without assistance. If attempting this loop with a dog, bring a harness and rope to lower/raise them through this portion and make sure your dog is comfortable in such scenarios first.
  • Pets are not allowed in or at any alcoves, rock art sites, or ruins. 
  • Pets are not allowed to swim or play in springs, potholes, or other natural water sources.
  • Pets must not harass or harm wildlife or other visitors.
  • Pets should be kept quiet.
  • Pet waste must be packed out or buried six inches deep away from trails, campsites, cultural sites, and natural water sources.
What are the rules for exploring Bears Ears with stock animals?

The rules for exploring Bears Ears with stock animals are somewhat complicated. They are outlined in detail in our Stock Animals Info Sheet.

I want to hike from one trailhead to another, but I don’t have two cars for a shuttle. Are there shuttle services for hire in your area?

The BLM doesn’t recommend any shuttle service in particular, but we can provide you with a list of shuttle operators in our area. Please contact the Monticello Field Office at 435-587-1500 for a list of operators.

Where can I find maps for exploring Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears?

You can find maps online, at the Monticello Field Office, at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, and at many local visitor centers and shops. The Canyonlands Natural History Association carries many maps that contain this area's roads and trails.

Backcountry Information

What are trail distances like in Grand Gulch?

All distances are one-way. Trailhead is abbreviated to "TH." Trip lengths in days are estimated as minimums. 

Distances Kane Gulch TH Grand Gulch Bullet Canyon Junction Bullet Canyon TH Polly's Island Government TH Collins Canyon TH San Juan River
Kane Gulch TH  

4.0 miles

2-3 hours

15.6 miles

2 days

22.8 miles

3 days 

26.2 miles

4 days 

29.3 miles

4 days 

38.0 miles

5-7 days

51.7 miles

9 days

Bullet Canyon TH

22.8 miles

3 days 

7.2 miles

3-4 hours


17.8 miles

3 days 

20.9 miles

3 days

29.6 miles

4 days

43.3 miles

7-8 days

Collins Canyon TH

38.0 miles

5-7 days


2.0 miles

1 hour

22.4 miles

3 days 

29.6 miles

4 days

11.7 miles

2 days

14.7 miles

2 days


17.7 miles

2 days 

I'm visiting Moon House. What should I expect?

Driving to the Moon House trailhead and hiking to the archeological site are backcountry experiences. First, be sure that you have a Moon House permit for the date of your trip. Then, be sure to check out our Visiting Moon House guide for road and trail descriptions as well as important tips for visiting Moon House with respect.

Is there drinking water at Kane Gulch Ranger Station?

Limited drinking water is occasionally available at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. There is also a water spigot at the Natural Bridges National Monument Visitor Center, but we encourage you to come to Cedar Mesa stocked with all the water you will need.

What are the water conditions like in _____ Canyon?

Please check the Cedar Mesa Current Conditions Report for spring information from our field rangers' most recent patrols. Water availability is variable and actual water conditions may not align completely with this report. You may need to pack in all of your drinking water. Recommended minimums are one gallon per person per day.

Water varies depending on location. In general, water tends to be most plentiful in the spring and fall seasons, but more so in the spring. For the most current water conditions on your trip, check in with the Kane Gulch Ranger Station before you go. Be prepared for the possibility of packing in all of your water. Recommended minimums are one gallon per person per day. 

Trip Planning

Where can I find a campground? How much do they cost? Can I reserve a campsite?

Bears Ears National Monument has five established campgrounds. Three are in Indian Creek: the Creek Pasture, Hamburger Rock, and Superbowl Campgrounds. The other two campgrounds are located in the southern end of the monument near Cedar Mesa: the Comb Wash and Sand Island Campgrounds. 

The fee for a campground site is $15/night, payable with cash or check at the fee tube on site. Comb Wash is the only campground that does not require a fee.

Only group sites can be reserved in advance. All other campsites are first-come, first-served. You can reserve group sites for Superbowl, Creek Pasture, Indian Creek Falls, and Sand Island online at recreation.gov.

Where can I dispersed camp? Do I need a permit?

Dispersed camping is allowed off of all dirt roads in Bears Ears National Monument as long as you are camping in previously disturbed areas. Do not create new campsites, drive off road, or create new fire rings. Pack out all trash. Dispersed camping is free and is limited to 16-day stays. You do not need a permit. Remember to leave the site better than you found it!

How should I figure out where to go for a hike?

The Cedar Mesa Trip Planner is an excellent resource for those looking to explore the area on foot. Popular hikes and other important information can be found in the trip planner. You are also welcome to ask rangers for recommendations by visiting the Kane Gulch Ranger Station.

Useful Resources

Cedar Mesa Permits Page

If you have questions about backpacking permits, Moon House permits, or day hiking passes, you may find the Cedar Mesa Permits page useful.

Cedar Mesa Trip Planner

The Cedar Mesa Trip Planner has extensive information on visiting this area. If you have a question that you do not see listed here, that document is likely to have the answer! 


The recreation.gov pages for Cedar Mesa backpacking permits, Moon House permits, and day hiking passes are also great resources for the nitty gritty about permits and passes. Toggle between the “Overview,” “Need to Know,” and “Fees & Cancellations” tabs for more specific information on each topic.

Contact Us

If you need help answering Cedar Mesa questions, please feel free to contact the Monticello Field Office via email at blm_ut_mt_cedarmesa@blm.gov