Cedar Mesa

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Cedar Mesa occupies the southeast area of Utah. It is a large area geographically, with much diversity to visit. The main attraction for most is the Indian ruins and artifacts that dot the vast countryside.

In December of 2016, President Obama designated 1,351,849 acres enclosing the Cedar Mesa area as the Bears Ears National Monument. The new monument is jointly managed by the BLM and National Forest Service.

Hiking can be done anytime, although summers can be hot and require staying at higher elevations. Parts of Cedar Mesa have fairly high elevation, and winters can be cold. Canyoneering is best enjoyed in the late spring through early fall.

Cedar Mesa / Bears Ears Classics

There are many, many great hikes, canyons, and places to visit on Cedar Mesa. Grand Gulch, Owl, and Fish canyons are high on many peoples lists to visit. Lower Butler Wash is a good family friendly introduction to the area. Other lesser known classics are available that will show the inquisitive visitor great sights without crowds. For canyoneering, The Black Hole of White Canyon is the indisputable classic. For prepared groups, it is an amazing outing. Cheesebox and Gravel Canyon canyons rank a close second in terms of great canyons.


Practice low impact camping techniques! Other than that, camping is pretty much a free-for-all. Lots of amazing spots. Don't create new fire rings or trample vegetation, there are plenty of washes or existing sites to camp in. Services are typically a long way away, bring plenty of food and more importantly water, for your trip.

Cedar Mesa / Bears Ears Permits

Ugggg.... Permits! The BLM has now instituted permits for hiking on Cedar Mesa. Beware, the America the Beautiful is not valid. So, what are the rules?
  • Day Use permits run $2/day or $5/week or $20/year PER person. These are available at self service kiosks at most common trailheads.
  • Advance reservations for overnight backpacking permits are available 3 months prior to your trip date and no later than 2 days before your trip date. They may be obtained by calling the Cedar Mesa Permit Office at (435) 587-1510, between 8:00 AM and noon (MDT) Monday through Friday. Costs are $8 during high season**, and $5 during low season* per person per trip.
  • Moonhouse is limited to 20 people per day with 12 permits being held back for walk ins. The other permits are available 3 months in advance. In low season, permits are self registration at the trailhead.

* Low Use Seasons (November 1st - February 28th and June 16th - August 31st),
** High Use Seasons (March 1st - June 15th and September 1st - October 31st)

Dogs are no longer allowed in Grand Gulch or any of its tributaries, Moonhouse, or Slickhorn Canyons.

While increased use does put a strain on resources, adding more fees and permits to public lands is frustrating, especially when they are not included in the America the Beautiful pass. For my money, I don't visit during high season, and don't backpack, which eases the hassle somewhat. Though some of the hikes are long, much of even Grand Gulch can be visited as a series of day hikes. In addition to reducing permit hassles and costs, it also allows you to see more of the side canyons, and reduces impact on the canyon by not camping in it.

Beware that in the winter, roads can become impassable in the afternoons when they thaw out. If visiting in the winter, be careful not to be far down a dirt road when it melts and becomes impassable.


Canyoneering - Cedar Mesa Canyoneering

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Climbing - Cedar Mesa Climbing

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Roadside Attraction - Cedar Mesa Roadside Attraction

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