Visit with Respect Blog

Exploring Bears Ears: How to Visit with Respect

Guest blog by Erica Tucker, Friends of Cedar Mesa

Welcome to this quiet orange corner of Utah! Whether you are just passing through Bluff and enjoying the vistas, or you have days or weeks to spend exploring the canyons, mesas, and river, we hope that you enjoy your time in our backyard. Much of the land surrounding Bluff is public land and protected by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service as Bears Ears National Monument, so this is truly your backyard too!

This area holds the unique opportunity to explore archaeology sites in a backcountry setting. No trails, no signs, no reservations required for tours. This great opportunity demands a great responsibility, though, to be good stewards of the land.

As a guest blogger from local conservation organization Friends of Cedar Mesa, I’m here to share tips for exploring around Bluff. For those of you new to this kind of experience, our organization has put together a few tips to help you visit with respect. Also check out our short videos!

LEAVE ALL ARTIFACTS: Keep discovery alive so the next person can share the experience. Artifacts include pottery pieces, stone tools and rock flakes. It’s illegal to move or take any artifact, including historic trash, from public lands.


DON’T TOUCH ROCK ART OR MAKE YOUR OWN: Vandalism of petroglyphs and pictographs erases stories of ancient people and destroys the experience for future visitors.


STEER CLEAR OF WALLS: Historic and prehistoric structures can be easily damaged. Please don’t touch, lean, stand or climb on any structures.


KEEP PETS LEASHED AWAY FROM ARCHAEOLOGY: To prevent digging and erosion, pets are not allowed in archaeological sites. Please make sure pets are leashed and kept away from the site.


DON’T BUILD CAIRNS AND ROCKSTACKS: Keep the landscape natural by leaving only footprints. Cairns can increase impacts on sensitive sites and are sometimes constructed with artifacts like grinding or shrine stones.

DON’T BUST THE CRUST: Stay on existing trails and routes to protect the living cryptobiotic soil. Once stepped on, this fragile crust takes years to regrow.


GO TO THE BATHROOM AWAY FROM SITES: Because no one likes finding toilet paper in a cliff dwelling! Bury human waste and carry out the toilet paper.


STAY ON DESIGNATED ROADS:Use existing roads when traveling to cultural sites. Driving off-road can create new routes on top of fragile archaeology and ecosystems.

Guest blogger bio:
Erica Tucker is the Visit with Respect Program Manager for Friends of Cedar Mesa. She loves exploring the canyons and slickrock around Bluff, and is always amazed by the rock art and ancient structures. Erica’s dog often joins her on the trail, but “Roxie” happily waits tied to a shady tree while Erica explores the archaeological sites.