Take a mountain biking adventure, it’s for the culture
Mountain Biking is proving to be the perfect socially distanced outdoor activity for 2021. But where to go? Well, we just can’t get enough of Southern Utah. These wild western landscapes are home to some of the top mountain biking destinations in the United States. One very special destination is Bears Ears National Monument.
The name “Bears Ears” comes from the pair of 2,000 ft tall buttes that create the appearance of the top of an extremely large bear’s head, just poking out over the horizon. Bears Ears National Monument was declared as such in 2016 by then President Barack Obama. According to him, these lands held an “Extraordinary archaeological and cultural record.” It has since been reduced by 85 percent during Donald Trump’s presidency. The politics of the area are hotly contested, but the most important takeaway is this: These mountains and mesas contain roughly 13,000 years of human history and they deserve to be protected.
Many of the mountain biking tours that we run here at Escape Adventures present a wonderful opportunity to drink in rich geological landscapes. However, it is a very rare experience to visit a place with breathtaking natural wonders as well as historical sites from such ancient times. An ancient civilization carved stone arrowheads and hunted giant sloths in this area of what is now Southern Utah. On these mesa tops occurred some of the first instances of farming corn and actually creating semi-permanent communities. This arid destination is largely untouched by time, allowing a modern day visitor to span thousands of years in a single step.
As you might have noted, Bears Ears is a National monument, not a National park. The primary difference between the two is the reason behind preserving the land. National parks are protected mainly for their scenic value, whereas National monuments contain objects of historical, cultural, and/or scientific interest. Bears Ears is actually the first National monument founded at the behest and input from Native American Governments. Representatives from the Navajo, Hopi, Zune, Ute and Ute Mountain tribes all banded together to try and protect sacred lands stretching from the Colorado River to the San Juan River. Of their proposal to preserve these Thousands of years ago, Shuan Chapoose, a tribal councilman of the Uncompahgre band of the Ute tribe explained, We knew exactly what was within that geographical boundary, we knew the gravesites, we knew where the artifacts were, we knew where certain plants and herbs grew.“
Plagued by grave robbing and desecration, the cultural sites of Bears Ears have been through a lot. Giving the area National Monument status in 2016 really put the Abajo Mountains on the outdoor adventure seeker’s radar. Even more publicity ensued with the controversy over it’s 85 percent reduction shortly after. We love that folks are getting outside. And cycling just might be the best outdoor socially distanced activity for right now. But it is important to be mindful of the cultures that have a deep connection to the land. This is why we do encourage adventurers who want to respectfully gaze upon the preserved wonders of Bears Ears to do so with trained and knowledgeable guides. Just because this area is no longer a secret, does not mean that it shouldn’t be respected and protected.
We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. We always practice Leave No Trace ethics on these adventures and follow local regulations. Let’s explore responsibly.
Escape Adventures’ Bears Ears MTB Tour:
This adventure lasts 5 days and is shuttled out of Moab, with first-class camping and delicious food. A tour June 7th is available for booking, however there are a few more dates this year as well. Just let us know what works for you and we will try our best to accommodate!.