Bears Ears National Monument, located in southeastern Utah, is home to some of the most stunning and culturally rich landscapes available to the public for outdoor recreation. Created quite recently, in 2016, the National Monument came at the perfect time to coincide with the popularization of bikepacking. Bikepacking Roots, a nonprofit focused on supporting bikepacking and advocating for conservation of public lands, has released its long-awaited 700-mile bikepacking network through and in the area of Bears Ears National Monument, complete with a 100-page guidebook to accompany riders explorations of the area.
The network is compiled of routes meant to be ridden on a normal mountain bike, so while much of the terrain is dirt road and 4×4 capable, it is not meant to be ridden on a fat bike or gravel grinder. Additionally, Bikepacking Roots went to the painstaking effort of identifying and cataloging water sources along each route, even checking each one through the seasons to assess reliability. The network travels through areas that are remote, but avoids the most often-visited areas to mitigate negatively impacting sensitive areas with excess traffic.
The guidebook, Bears Ears Loops Landscape and Route Guide, provides riders with background and historical context about the areas they will riding through. In addition, the book includes route descriptions, water access, elevation and terrain/surface profiles—GPS data can be accessed online. Two major loops comprise the overall network, which traverses across much of southeast Utah, including the Moab/Arches/Canyonlands area.
The 437-mile Swell Loop to the west connects with the already-popular Wild West Route, the Canada-to-Mexico epic also created by Bikepacking Roots. The 372-mile Bears Ears Loop, the eastern of two loop options, travels for nearly 100 miles within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument—in late 2016 the National Monument was reduced by the Trump administration by roughly 85-percent. By helping bikepackers experience the original area and understand more about the unique cultural history, geology, and ecology through the accompanying 100-page Bears Ears Loops Landscape and Route Guide, Bikepacking Roots hopes to inspire advocacy and appreciation for the area.
“The remoteness of this region, the scale and grandeur of the landscape, and the minimal development of any sort make this place the most powerful of anywhere I’ve ridden,” says Kurt Refsnider, Bikepacking Roots Executive Director. “But the remoteness and perceived harshness of the area keep most bikepackers away. So we’ve created these routes and extensive planning resources to allow more riders to safely adventure through this region, to have immersive experiences here, to learn more about the landscape and its sacredness to Indigenous groups. That understanding and connection is what builds new conservation advocates.”
However, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is requesting that visitors refrain from traveling to the Bears Ears region given the severity of the health crisis in some local communities. Now could be the time to plan an epic bikepacking trip, but now is not the time to actually take that trip.
More information about the loops, all GPS data, and the full Bears Ears Loops Landscape and Route are available on Bikepacking Roots’ website.
This article originally appeared on Bikemag.com and was republished permission.