Shash Jáa Unit

Bears Ears Area
Ample opportunities to recreate and enjoy solitude laced with glimpses of past cultures.

The Shash Jáa Unit includes an area south of Elk Ridge that encompasses the Bears Ears buttes, then curves east to include Mule Canyon, Arch Canyon, and Butler Wash. The monument then narrows to the south, roughly following Comb Ridge to the banks of the San Juan River.

To get there, travel south from Blanding to the turnoff to Highway 95. Take Highway 95 west for about 10 miles (16 km) to the eastern border of the Shash Jáa Unit.

Things to do

Bears Ears Buttes

The Monument is named for these twin buttes that rise high above Cedar Mesa. These are sacred places to many American Indian Tribes.

You can see the buttes from Highway 95, about 32 miles (51 km) west of Blanding, Utah, near the turnoff to Hwy 261. From the west, the view is about 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the turnoff to Natural Bridges National Monument (UT 275).

Unpaved roads near the Bears Ears require high-clearance vehicles and 4WD may be needed in certain conditions. Rain and snow can make area unpaved roads impassable.

 

Butler Wash Ruins Overlook & Trail

This moderate 1-mile round trip trail leads to an overlook of ancestral Puebloan structures, dating to 1200 A.D.

It is located along Highway 95, about 14 miles (22 km) west of Blanding, Utah.

The parking area is paved and a vault toilet facilities are available.

Cave Towers

This short hike leads to the remains of seven towers built by ancestral Puebloans in the mid-1200s A.D.

Access the site off Highway 95 near milepost 103. Turn south on the first dirt road east of the Mule Canyon Ruins Interpretive Site. Please close the gate behind you. Continue on this road approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) to several parking areas. From there, it is only a few hundred yards to the towers along the rim of the canyon.

There are no facilities or water at the site.

South Fork of Mule Canyon

A permit is required to hike the North or South Fork of Mule Canyon and is available at the trailhead. The fairly easy trail along the South Fork leads to ancestral Puebloan structures, including House on Fire.

Take Highway 95 south of Blanding, UT for about 19 miles (14.4 km). Just past milepost 102, turn north (right) onto unpaved Texas Flat Road. Cross the cattle guard to a bulletin board and fee station, where you can get a permit. Drive 0.25 mile (.40 km) north to the trailhead. The route follows a footpath along the wash bottom. In about 1 mile (1.5 km), you will see House on Fire, which glows in the morning sun. Other structures are visible farther along the trail.

Mule Canyon Kiva

This roadside stop includes a well-preserved 700-year-old surface pueblo and a restored kiva.

This site is directly off of U.S. Highway 95, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Blanding, Utah. It is well-signed and the parking area is on the north side of the highway. Interpretive signing and vault toilets are provided.

The site is handicapped accessible.

Salvation Knoll

During the winter of 1879-1880, advance scouts from the Mormon pioneers Hole-in-the-Rock expedition were lost and out of food. They climbed the knoll, and from its top, could see the Blue Mountains, which oriented them and allowed them to find a route forward.

Today, a short but steep trail leads to the top of Salvation Knoll, where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view. Round trip is 0.5 mile (0.8 km).

 

Camping

Comb Wash Campground

This is the only campground within the Shash Jáa Unit offering primitive camping at designated sites. There are vault toilets, but no water. Note that this area is sandy and can be impassible when wet. The campground is on the south side of Highway 95 at the bottom of Comb Ridge, about 14 miles (22.5 km) west of the intersection of Highway 95 and U.S. Route 191.

Dispersed camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in much of the monument (except where it is prohibited) and on Cedar Mesa, including along Butler and Comb Wash roads. Camp in well-established sites within 150 feet of designated routes. Please do not create new campsites. The use of portable toilet systems is encouraged. Please pack out all trash. Overnight camping in Cedar Mesa canyons requires a permit. Visit the Cedar Mesa Permit web page for information.

Nearby camping

The campground at Sand Island Recreation Area is just outside of the monument borders at the southern end along the San Juan River. The campground has toilets, picnic tables, fire grates, and drinking water. Campsites are $10 a night and are first come, first served. There are two group sites that may be reserved in advance on Recreation.gov.

For more detailed information, contact:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Monticello Field Office
365 North Main | Monticello, UT | 435-259-2100

U.S. Forest Service

Monticello Ranger District
432 E Center Street | Monticello, UT | 435-587-2041 or 435-259-7155