Around every corner, I felt like I was stumbling upon a new place, ancient site, or the greatest little hotel in Southeast Utah. Sentiments like, “do people know they can go axe throwing in this tiny town?” I felt constantly surprised and delighted! Blanding is the largest town in the region and offers great access to Bears Ears National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
This article was created in partnership with the San Juan County Economic Development and Visitor Services, Utah. Images by Emily Sierra Photography.
Bears Ears National MonumentThis monument may be young, but she has a very old soul. Evidence of ancient civilizations is scattered throughout Bears Ears National Monument, and with little effort visitors can appreciate these sites. When we walked toward House on Fire, the rock above the structure literally seemed to mushroom out in a ball of fire over the stone structure below. The early morning light ignited the opposing canyon wall, making the house appear to be on fire. Down the road, we wandered amongst structures built in rock alcoves and towers that remain peering down over Mule Canyon. The structures at Cave Towers felt immaculately preserved given their age (dated to the 13th century!). Near and far we looked upon different structures, even some that seemed impossibly placed in the canyon below. We only saw a couple of other people at these sites, making us feel like early explorers.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Hiking to the largest natural bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu, was an adventure on its own! I hiked down a cliff including rock scrambling and shuffling down ladders, until I was standing dizzy under the incredible natural wonder. I walked down the wash toward one of the “younger” bridges, Kachina, when I stumbled upon a wall literally covered in mud handprints. My initial thought was, “this isn’t marked on the map”. This isn’t uncommon though, and I love that there are so many ancient sights tucked away around Blanding. Again, I just had a great sense of discovery in this area. Before the sun set, I had to take in the views at the third bridge, Owachomo. I loved seeing all three bridges at different stages of erosion in relation to one another.
Glen Canyon Recreation Area
One could spend a lifetime exploring Utah’s canyons, and those near Hite boast incredible light, shapes and even natural arches that are only accessible by rope and harness. I met with a guide from Hite Outpost and to get acquainted with the area. After a lung-bursting scramble to the top of the canyon, we were ready for the first of four rappels to return to the creek below. It was definitely a bit nerve-racking to step over the edge in this canyon, but so exciting! Some sections we used our hands and feet to shimmy between canyon walls and even rappelled through an arch at one point! This adventure was not for the faint of heart, but very cool! Did I mention how many people were out there? Zero. I like to think that the canyon gave us a private tour that day.