Red Bear Panel

Round Trip Distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5833 - 5994 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Trailhead: UT-95 mm 80.7
Fee: none
Attractions: pictograph

The Red Bear Panel is located west of Blanding, Utah in Natural Bridges National Monument. A relatively easy upper route from Highway 95 and more challenging lower route that begins at the Kachina Bridge trailhead both lead to the panel that is on the west side of Armstrong Canyon. This post follows the easier route from Highway 95 but also provides some information about the lower route.

From Blanding head south on US-191 for 4 miles and turn west onto Highway 95 following the signs for Natural Bridges National Monument. As you approach Natural Bridges continue past the turnoff for Highway 275 that leads to the Visitor Center to milepost 81 which is about 40.3 miles from the turnoff onto UT-95 from US-191 at Shirttail Junction.

One or two tenths of a mile past milepost 81 there is a pullout on the right. Here there is a rough side road that rejoins Highway 95 after a few hundred yards.

The unmarked trail begins at a boundary fence corner where you can either scoot under the fence or step over with the aid of a conveniently placed log.

From the fence corner the route parallels the fence for slightly over 200 feet to where there was once an old 4wd road. The old road has a barricade of rocks, logs and tree branches across it making it easy to locate.

A well worn, pleasant to hike, social trail follows the old road as it crosses the mesa towards the canyons of Natural Bridges.

After following the old road for 4 tenths of a mile the route reaches an expanse of slickrock and disappears. Favoring the left side of the slickrock the best trail might reemerge when dirt is reached once again on the opposite side although it is easy to confuse the best route with other routes from straying hikers.

Not to fear though as after crossing a patch of dirt another expanse of slickrock is reached that leads to the canyon rim. At this point you may have already spotted the panel up ahead. You might also be hearing voices from people across the canyon at the Kachina Bridge Overlook. The best route down to the level of the Red Bear Panel is to hike around to the left where there is an easy trail that doesn't require any scrambling. Once on the next bench down the trail continues back around to Red Bear.

The Red Bear and all of the images that accompany it is on a flat surface just the the left of a small alcove that contains a small rubble pile from a former ruin. To get a closer look at the panel does require a minor amount of moderate scrambling.

The red ochre paint is tortured daily by the intense afternoon sun and is slowly fading into invisibility but there is still enough remaining to make it worth seeing.

This is a look down at the route coming up from the way of the Kachina Bridge trailhead. The Remnant Ruin is on the same level as the Red Bear Panel and can be visited in combination with it by following the bench on around to the south and continuing around the point into the next side canyon.

For those wanting to take the lower route you would begin at the Kachina Bridge trailhead and descend into the canyon to where the trail to Owachomo Bridge branches off on the left. Follow that as it drops into the bottom of Armstrong Canyon and continue upstream past a scenic spillover that normally holds a pool of water. Continue for a little over 400 feet after you start around the first bend in the canyon and look for the large boulder and cottonwood tree in this photo. Leave the wash at this point by going either over or around the boulder and a faint trail should emerge.

As the trail works its way through the brush above the wash you might notice a small ruin that is tucked away beneath an overhang. The ruin only has a single standing wall but there is an image etched into the mud or mortar of the wall that makes it a little more interesting. Continuing to follow the trail leads to the spot where it scrambles up to the next level below the Red Bear Panel.

On this trip we had arrived in the area late in the evening with very little time before the sun was to set behind the hills at the end of a long summers day. Judging by the numerous footprints in the trail the upper route from UT-95 is by far the most popular way to get to the Red Bear Panel. The lower route had no fresh tracks at all after leaving the wash. We suggest zooming all the way in on the Google map satellite view at the top of this post to see how the old road leads up to the first expanse of slickrock and how the route continues from there for a better idea of what to expect. Whether you take the upper route or the lower route to the Red Bear Panel if you would like to see it for yourself all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.