After completing the drive up the Moki Dugway (see yesterday’s blog), we continued north to visit Natural Bridges National Monument. There are three natural bridges in the monument, and we decided to hike to all three. The park has a nine mile Bridge View Scenic View Drive that leads to numerous overlooks, where you can look down into the canyon for a view of each bridge. From each overlook you can also hike down into the canyon to each bridge. Or you can hike an undeveloped trail that goes through the canyon past all three bridges. That’s the hike we wanted to take. A ranger in the visitor center advised us to park at the last bridge, then hike across a mesa to the first arch and go down in the canyon at that point. We could then hike the canyon trail back to the third arch and the car.
After a two mile hike across the mesa, we arrived at the first overlook where we could look down on the Sipapu Bridge. It’s difficult to see the bridge from this point, but we were headed down into the canyon for an up close look anyway.
The hike down was a bit steep at some points. For the steepest part, the National Park Service was kind enough to install a set of steps just for us.
At another point they again provided some help, but the money must have run out after they purchased the steps, as the next assist was down a ladder made from local tree limbs.
After coming down the stairs and ladder, we continued down to a point where there is a bridge overlook.
At the overlook, we enjoyed another great lunch with a view.
As we continued down from the observation point, the team leader encountered a spot where the sliprock became quite steep. So what’s the plan to get down it?
Send the nimble hiker down first, that’s the plan!
She even bounces down another ladder with no difficulty.
But the team leader was not so nimble as he tried to keep pace.
The nimble hiker maintained the lead all the way down to the creek bed.
From below, the Sipapu Bridge is quite impressive.
From the Sipapu Bridge, we headed upstream, sometimes hiking in the stream bed, at other times on the trail running along the side of the stream. For most of the trail vegetation was very sparse, but in places where there was enough water, the plants were ten feet high.
After about three miles, we rounded a bend in the canyon and spotted the second bridge, Kachina, in front of us.
As the trail passed under the bridge, we spotted some petroglyphs in the rocks above us.
The Kachina Bridge, youngest of the three, is a massive rock wall. In the picture below take note of the hiker walking toward us.
We continued hiking up the stream, much of the trail going over loose sand.
After slogging through the sand and scrambling a bit over rocks for about four more miles, the third bridge, Owachomo, finally came into view.
Streams no longer erode Owachomo Bridge, but frost and seeping moisture still do. There is a crack in the center portion, but no one knows if it is a fatal crack or if the bridge will last for centuries.
After hiking a total of over nine miles, we were happy to see the Jeep come into view as we climbed up from the Owachoma Bridge. Since we had hiked the canyon up stream and slowly gained elevation, the climb back out at the third bridge, Owachoma, was much less than the steep climb down into the first bridge, Sipapu. Good thing, as we were about out of gas at that point!