Natural Bridges National Monument sits in southeastern Utah’s Cedar Mesa and preserves the following three natural bridges.
The monument’s main road takes you to viewpoints where you can look down into canyons to see the bridges. In July of 2001, I had driven the road and seen the bridges from the viewpoints. This time, I wanted to do the 10 mile loop hike that goes into the canyons and through the openings of all three bridges.
All distances are per my GPS
|Sipapu Bridge Trailhead||6190 ft||zero miles
|Sipapu Bridge||5750 ft||0.90 miles
|Kachina Bridge||5600 ft||2.75 miles
|Owachomo Bridge||5900 ft||3.75 miles
|Owachomo Bridge Trailhead||6080 ft||0.40 miles
|Sipapu Bridge Trailhead||6190 ft||2.20 miles
|Total loop||-||10.00 miles
Left the vacation rental house in Bluff, UT at 6:00 a.m. The one hour drive to Natural Bridges National Monument was itself quite scenic. It was mostly cloudy.
Reached the Natural Bridges Park and drove to the Sipapu Bridge Trailhead. No-one was there. During the entire hike, I only saw one other person. An impressive white slickrock canyon was in front of me but Sipapu Bridge itself could not be seen.
Got on the trail at 7:15 and followed the cairns down a pathway into the slickrock canyon. Metal stairways and wood ladders made me feel like I was speeding on a superhighway.
Followed a signed short spur trail to Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint. A bunch of birds were sitting there. They did not seem to be too afraid of me but as I got closer, they eventually flew away.
View of Sipapu Bridge.
I then continued down the slickrock pathway down-climbing a few more ladders and hand-rails in some spots.
Sipapu Bridge was now in full view.
Finally reached the bottom of the canyon at the base of Sipapu Bridge. The trail went west but I west east a very short distance under the bridge.
Under Sipapu Bridge
A little further to see the east face of Sipapu Bridge.
I then headed west following a beaten path downstream at the bottom of the sinuous canyon west/slowly turning south. It became sunny but I was still mostly in the shade.
This nameless arch appeared.
I reached Kachina Bridge at 9:05. It was hiding behind a tree and appeared chunky.
Closer to the bridge.
And under it.
Under Kachina Bridge
Right after Kachina Bridge, a right turn would have continued downstream in White Canyon but the path stayed straight taking me upstream into Armstrong Canyon. A look back at the bridge.
The path went up the slickrock slopes above the bottom of the canyon. In one spot, steps dug into the rock along with handrails made the ascent easy.
|Kachina Bridge |
I then reached a signed junction. Left went up the canyon to reach the park road at Kachina Bridge Trailhead. I continued straight up Armstrong Canyon. Below me, the bottom of the canyon reached a dead end slickrock pour-off but the path that I had taken had brought me to the top of the pour-off.
View of the pour-off.
I then continued upstream in Armstrong Canyon. The sinuous path continued south and slowly turned east. In one place, I sat down and enjoyed my lunch. A speed hiker zoomed by me. That was the only person I saw on the trail.
These crows did not seem to be bothered by me. They continued to kiss (or do whatever they were doing).
The canyon became narrow and rocky. The path took me up a shelf above the bottom of the canyon.
At 11:10 the skinny Owachomo Bridge came to view.
|Owachomo Bridge |
The trail went under the bridge and began to climb out of the canyon toward the park road. I could see a couple of tourists at a view point above me near the road but they soon left.
Looking back at Owachomo Bridge.
|Owachomo Bridge |
At 11:25, I was out of the canyon by the park road at Owachomo Bridge Trailhead. To my surprise, no one was there. Abajo Mountains were in view.
I then headed north following a trail 2.2 mile to reach the Sipapu Bridge Trailhead where I had started. This trail took me through beautiful juniper forests and slickrock slopes doing a whole bunch of ups and downs until I reached my car at 12:20.