Sandstone structures in Valley of the Gods, part of Bears Ears National Monument.

© Don Miller/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Bears Ears National Monument

Southeastern Utah

Designated as a National Monument in December 2016 as one of President Barack Obama's last acts, Bears Ears originally covered a large 1.35-million-acre swath of southeastern Utah. The area protects important sites of cultural significance to Native American peoples, with ancient rock art, dwellings, ceremonial sites and granaries in a landscape of mesas and desert canyons. However, in December 2017 President Donald Trump issued a controversial proclamation that reduces the monument's size by a whopping 85% to 201,876 acres.

Trump's action opens the door for mining, gas extraction and development opportunities in formerly protected areas. Federal lawsuits have been filed to challenge the proclamation but it could be tied-up in courts for years. Bears Ears, which lies just north of Mexican Hat and west of Blanding, is co-managed by the BLM and Forest Service.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Southeastern Utah attractions

1. Valley of the Gods


Up and over, through and around: the 17-mile unpaved road (County Rd 242) that leads through Valley of the Gods is like a do-it-yourself roller coaster…

2. Mexican Hat Rock

8.49 MILES

Pretty cool that they named the town after this sombrero-shaped rock formation. It's about 2 miles north off Hwy 163.

3. Sand Island Petroglyph Panel

10.12 MILES

On BLM land 3 miles west of Bluff, these freely accessible petroglyphs were created between 800 and 2500 years ago. The nearby campground boat launch is…

4. Goosenecks State Park

10.65 MILES

If you head north of Mexican Hat on Hwy 261, you'll come to a 4-mile paved road that turns west to Goosenecks. The attraction here is the mesmerizing view…

5. Bluff Fort

13.6 MILES

Descendants of the original pioneers have re-created the original log cabin settlement near the few remaining historic buildings in Bluff.

6. Grand Gulch Primitive Area

16.23 MILES

Popular with backcountry hikers, this BLM-administered area also contains hundreds of Ancestral Puebloan sites, many of which have been vandalized by pot…

7. Natural Bridges National Monument

23.94 MILES

Forty miles west of Blanding via Hwy 95, this monument became Utah's first National Park Service land in 1908. The highlight is a dark-stained, white…

8. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

27.38 MILES

Great views can be had from along Hwy 163, but to really get up close and personal you'll need to visit the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. From the…