Grand Gulch Permits


Jun 16, 2012
I'm too lazy to call BLM to ask this question...mainly because I'm afraid the answer would just spark an argument.

But does anyone know if they accept the America the Beautiful pass for parking at the Cedar Mesa trailheads?

I see no reason why they shouldn't, but I also see nothing on the web pages or the trailhead signs that say they do.
I do not know the answer to your question. But an amusing/interesting/related anecdote...

Several year ago, I called the Kane Gulch ranger station with the exact same question about the trailheads for Cedar Mesa and Grand Gulch. The person I talked to told me very specifically, very emphatically, that YES, my AtB/Parks Pass was all I needed to hike the canyons. So, for a couple of years, I proceeded to do just that. Put my American the Beautiful pass in my window and hike away to my hearts content.

Then, just last year, on a trip with Randy and Jared (IntrepidXJ and xjblue), hiking Sheiks canyon, the subject of annual passes/day passes came up and I told them no worries, I had an American the Beautiful pass and had been assured by the Kane Gulch rangers that it was just fine. They told me NO, it's NOT just fine.. Took about five seconds reading the sign at the trail head to find out they were right!

So, I have since paid for day use, since I don't get enough days in there to make an annual pass worth buying.

Morale of the story... Even if you did feel like calling, you might not get an accurate answer!

I just realized in my early morning stupor that I wrote Grand Mesa when I meant to write Cedar Mesa. Ooops. Nick, can you fix that?

I've read those trailhead signs half a dozen times, and I've never come away knowing whether or not the AtB pass is accepted or not. It certainly does not say it IS accepted, but it also doesn't say it is NOT accepted.

What did you read on the sign that made you think it wasn't accepted, DAA?

From my understanding of the pass, they should accept it:


The Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation honor the Annual Pass at sites where Entrance or Standard Amenity Fee(s) are charged.

Entrance Fee: Fee charged to access lands managed by National Park Service or Fish and Wildlife Service.

Standard Amenity Fee: Fee charged for use of Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, and Reclamation sites that have a combination of basic amenities - picnic tables, trash receptacles, toilets, developed parking, interpretive signing, and security.

Expanded Amenity Fee: Fee charged for "the extras" that aren't basic entrance or standard amenity fees. Examples include: camp grounds, boat launches, cabins, and guided tours.

Special Recreation Permit Fee: Fee charged for special facilities and services such as rock climbing permits, commercial and vending use, off-road vehicle use, competitive and special events, organized group activities, and individual or group use of special areas.

How can they justify that the entire Cedar Mesa is a "special area." My understanding is that term is limited to specific places, such as a cave, within a particular park/location.
Fixed the title, Aldaron. I would think the same thing. It's legit to use that pass instead of buying a daily, weekly or annual pass in the Uintas for example. Why not Cedar Mesa?
I've read those trailhead signs half a dozen times, and I've never come away knowing whether or not the AtB pass is accepted or not. It certainly does not say it IS accepted, but it also doesn't say it is NOT accepted.

What did you read on the sign that made you think it wasn't accepted, DAA?

The signs do say it isn't accepted. The picture of an AtB pass with a big X through it was my first clue :D. Wish I'd taken a picture, but I saw that picture of an X'ed out AtB pass on the Cedar Mesa/GG trail head signs a couple times just this past weekend. The signs are about as explicit about not accepting those passes as they can be.

Like I said earlier, the funny part to me, is I went by what an actual ranger at Kane Gulch told me for a few years before ever actually READING one of those signs. The first time I did read one, it took me about five seconds to realize what I had been told, was wrong. So now I pay the $5 a week.


There seems to be considerable confusion about these passes out there. I have been told, by everyone I have ever talked to about it that had an opinion, that my AtB pass was NOT acceptable for using the Sand Flats area near Moab. But, every single time I have ever been there, I've showed my AtB pass at the entrance station and been handed a map and let through without paying.

Honestly beats the heck out of me whether it is actually valid there or not. But as long as the folks at the entrance station keep letting me through with it, I'm not going to complain...

Yep, they don't accept the America the Beautiful pass on Cedar Mesa. I pick up an annual Cedar Mesa permit, too.
I've looked several times at several signs, and I've definitely never seen a picture of an AtB pass with an X going through it. The most recent sign I looked at was at the North Fork of Mule Canyon.

Is it different at trailheads outside of Grand Gulch? Or off the main part of Cedar Mesa?

Or are those signs new? I think I looked at North Fork Mule Canyon about a year ago.

And, thanks, Nick! I'm hoping my confusion was in crossing the wires of Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa as I was typing!
And I should add that I actually bought the pass at North Fork Mule because I didn't want to risk a ticket by displaying the AtB pass.
I took this photo back in 2011 to show Dave that the AtB wasn't valid. I've seen this posted on most of the trailhead signs I've looked at up there for as long as I've been hiking on Cedar Mesa.

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..and when you first posted this I was wondering why the hell you needed a permit to hike on the Grand Mesa, since it's mostly National Forest up there ;)
..and when you first posted this I was wondering why the hell you needed a permit to hike on the Grand Mesa, since it's mostly National Forest up there ;)

Yeah, I FELT like an idiot when I realized what I had said!

But, you guys are right...that's definitely clear. But I know I've never seen that on the signs I've seen.

And why would they call it a "Park Service" pass...I'm convinced that they're just out there doing whatever they want. And that's pretty much why I don't hike at Cedar Mesa! :)

This is almost one of those things that would make me get off my butt and write letters to people...but I've never gotten into the ruins thing enough to drive that far very often to make me deal with it.
I'm thinking about backpacking in Grand Gulch this coming week and realized the permit thing could be an issue. I'd call the office to check availability but they're closed so thought I'd post here.

1. Think there's any chance of getting advance permits 3 days in advance?

2. How tough are walk-in's for a small group? Say 2-4 people. Sounds like you just have to be there first thing and it should be good, but are there often people lined up ahead of time?

3. Any awesome areas out there to occupy a 4 day trip that don't require overnight permits? I know I could head over towards Dark Canyon but I'd kinda like to get into Grand Gulch and all awesome ruins and such.
Just spent a few days at Grand Gulch last week, and finally saw a sign with one of those America the Beautiful Pass "not valid" notes. The more I think about this, the angrier it makes me, and I can't understand how the BLM can justify this. I can't seem to find anything online with people complaining about it (my Google search brought me here...), nor can I find any explanation from the BLM. I really feel like they're just being cowboy out there in the middle of nowhere, and it ticks me off. I'm tempted to write the congressmen and demand an explanation. I find it hard to believe that no one has complained before, though.
I doubt congressmen know anything about the pass... Or care... Especially in Utah...

It makes absolutely no sense for the AtB pass to not count as a valid day use permit. It gains you access to areas with standard amenities by waiving entrance fees. Day use hiking is a standard amenity and this is accepted across all federal land management.

The only way I can see any justification is the potential "threat" to archeological sites. Not allowing the pass displaces a lot of visitors that don't want to pay the extra and thus those resources see less visitation and "threat."

It is worth the effort to get some explanation from the BLM on this. While they do have the authority to not accept the pass, the area is public land and without any significant and forthright excuse this is pretty underhanded.
Use fees........ not the only place the AtB doesn't work. They set where ....
All the fees charged there are supposed to stay at GG. I don't mind if the money stays where its collected.
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