Natural Bridges National Monument

Bluff, UT

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.

The hike across the mesa was fairly flat.

But at times you needed a little help.

And at one point the slickrock became a bit steep.

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.

The Pincushion Cacti were in bloom!

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!

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19 Responses to Natural Bridges National Monument

  1. Lisa says:

    What a long and beautiful hike! Looks like that place needs to go on our list of “places to see”.

  2. Mark Routt says:

    Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great hike.

  3. Pam says:

    Looks like you hit a trifecta in discovering all three bridges. How cool to see those petroglyphs as an added bonus along the way. Your photos make it all look so easy. The sliprock would have thwarted me.

  4. We just went through Bluff, UT! I will have to look it up… is Natural Bridges NM near there? Our destination was Moab.

    • placestheygo says:

      Cedar Mesa is an amazing place if you like hiking and Native American ruins. We only have eight days but there is a life time of canyon exploring to be done in this area.

      Natural Bridges National Park is about an hour northwest of Bluff.

      Enjoy your work camping in Moab!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Cedar Mesa is a wonderful place if you enjoy hiking and Native American ruins. We are only here for eight days but there is a life time of canyons to explore.

      Natural Bridges NP is about an hour northwest of Bluff.

      Enjoy your new work camping job in Moab. We had a great month there.

  5. You two are amazing! What a hike! Great pictures!

  6. Janna says:

    You guys are truly hikers! Beautiful spot you are in!

  7. Charlotte says:

    Serious hike!!! Great job getting up and down! Beautiful pictures.
    One for the bucket list for sure.

  8. What a sense of accomplishment and “WOW” you must feel! I don’t mind saying that the steep sliprock is a wee bit scary to me! That last bridge is awesome! Great hike….

  9. Amanda says:

    So glad you took the hike. Most people visit the park by driving to each bridge and then looking from the viewing area. We thought they were much more impressive up close. Looks like you also found some cool cactus flowers!

  10. Allison says:

    You guys! The nimble hiker proves her mettle once again.

  11. Not sure I have ever seen a ladder like that one on a hiking trail.

    Isn’t it a freaky feeling looking way down in the canyon and know that you will be waaaaay down there shortly?

    Pam, you need to apply as a tour leader. You are one nimble gal! John, you aren’t so bad yourself.

    What a hoot to see the plant life that high along the trail. Looks like you are on a secret island.

    A lovely hike for sure. What beautiful photos.

    How much weight have you two lost with all this hiking? You both must be in terrific shape by now!

  12. Forgot to mention…I did notice the new header photo. Another great job, John.

  13. LuAnn says:

    Another fabulous adventure you took us on. What will you do without arches to trek to once you leave Utah?

  14. We love Natural Bridges! Next time we will have to hike the nine miles. The two previous times, we’ve hiked down and back up at each bridge and overlook. At least you only hiked down once and up once!

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