Descending into a steep ravine along the Mesa Trail, with Bears’ Ears off in the distance, Natural Bridges National Monument. The short, mostly level trail begins from the loop road, shortly beyond the Sipapu trailhead.). It is 268 feet long, 67 feet high, 9.5 feet wide, and 16 ft thick! The power of flash floods is evidenced by the massive trees that are jammed into the rocks and the erosion on the bank over 20 feet up the side of the canyon. A seasonal stream cuts through Sipapu, gradually expanding the size of the bridge’s mighty cavity. Wooden ladder – a staple of hiking in Natural Bridges – along the Mesa Trail. The viewpoint atop the rim is visible high above. One such prospector, Cass Hite, was exploring White Canyon in 1883 looking for gold when he found a treasure of a different sort, three magnificent natural bridges, some of the largest in the world. Contact the Park. The bridge, just 9-ft. thick, is the most fragile and elegant of the monument’s three spans. A spur trail heads right along the ledge to an overlook with stunning views of Sipapu Bridge. Hidden in these canyons are thousands of Puebloan ruins and artifacts, new discoveries of which are still being made by hikers today. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. About 1 ½ miles from Kachina, a tributary wash appears across the canyon on the right. To really see the bridges, it is necessary to hike at least part way down the canyon. The bridge is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu, with a span of 204-ft. and a height of 210-ft. The Natural Bridge Trail starts next to the large trail information sign. This massive span, the second largest natural bridge in the world, is 220-ft. high and spans 268-ft. We believe good things come from people spending time outside. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. Utah's First National Monument Three majestic natural bridges invite you to ponder the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. Judy, a fellow hiker I met on the trail, heads off into Deer Canyon, Cedar Mesa sandstone walls in White Canyon, in winter. The total distance for the loop hike is 8.6 miles or 8.8 miles, including side trips. From Mexican Hat: Head east on US 163 N for 3.9 miles and turn left on (north) on UT 261 N. Follow UT261 N for 32.7 miles to its end at UT 95. Monument Valley Grand Staircase Flaming Gorge Dinosaur Cedar Breaks Lake Powell Hovenweep Timpanogos Cave Natural Bridges View All Natural Bridges Full Loop This trail gives you the full Natural Bridges experience with views of the monument’s three large sandstone bridges: Kachina, Owachomo and Sipapu Bridges, named after Native Americans who once resided in the area. Distance from Trailhead: 8.6 miles (loop). Rock art, including both pictographs and petroglyphs are located along the base on both sides of the Bridge. Soon after, the trail crests the loop’s highest point—almost 6,300’ (the hike’s lowest point—near Kachina Bridge—is about 5,650’). Confluence of Tuwa Canyon and Armstrong Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument. Sipapu Bridge (1.4 Miles Roundtrip, 436 ft elevation loss) This is the biggest bridge in the Natural Bridges National Monument, and the second biggest in the United States! ), Map showing Natural Bridges Loop Trail, Natural Bridges National Monument, UT, (Note: The total distance for this loop hike—I have seen 8.2, 8.4, 8.6, 8.7, and 8.8 miles—remains rather ambiguous. Slickrock quickly gives way again to pinyon-juniper woodlands, disrupted only briefly as the route crosses Bridge View Drive. At the Sipapu parking area look south across the road and locate the start of the Mesa Trail heading southeast across the mesa. Start of Mesa Trail, Owachomo Bridge parking area, Natural Bridges National Monument. This is the first of several trail aids encountered along the loop. This quickly gives way to a not-so-natural metal staircase that aids the descent to the bottom of a 20-foot cliff. Some 4-6 hours prior, the loop began across the street at the Mesa Trail; after a long and scenic hike (in snow! Follow UT-275 N for 4.5 miles to the Visitor Center, on the right, where you need to pay the entrance fee for the national monument. A series of notches chiseled in the slickrock facilitates the climb. Passing under the bridge, scramble up the slope on the right to explore a string of ancient dwellings constructed from mud and stone. A steep 0.7-mile trail leads up the side of the canyon to the Katchina parking area. View of Sipapu Bridge from Bridge View Drive. The 1,000 yards (0.6 mile) from the road to the canyon bottom constitute the steepest portion of the Loop Trail; they are also perhaps the most scenic. Outdoor Project may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from April until November. The trail meanders along the wash and across sandy benches, following the canyon’s twist and turns. You will find in this alcove a small Anasazi ruin, a semicircle of stone hemmed in by the canyon walls. Here the trail splits: a short, level walk leads out to the Sipapu Bridge Overlook, offering an impressive view of the oval-shaped opening below. Mother Nature is slowly sliming the Bridge. From Blanding: Drive south on US 191 S for 4 miles and turn right (west) on UT-95 N. Follow UT-95 for 30.2 miles and turn right (north) on UT-275 N, signed for Natural Bridges. The well preserved ruin is named because the doorways of two granaries resemble horsecollars. Distance from Trailhead: 2.2 miles (one way). Soon the route passes an east trending side canyon and bends to the west, where a long meander travels around a gooseneck. From the Owachomo Bridge parking area, cross the street to the north end, where a large red sign indicates the start of the “Mesa Trails” system. Just under the bridge and up the talus hill to the right is a lovely archeological site with plenty of wall art, a beautiful kiva, and other structures. Along the way the trail drops in and out of a minor drainages and crosses sections of slickrock, marked by rock cairns. White Canyon continues off to the west; Armstrong Canyon begins to the south. The full loop is 9.8 miles (15.8 kilometers) and passes all three natural bridges as it winds through the canyons and over the mesa top. Two flat-topped buttes known as the Bears’ Ears (9,058’) rule the horizon off to the northeast. Finally, as you enter Armstrong Canyon, you can spot an impressive etching of a bighorn sheep, with a flurry of faded figures just below it. From the junction—continue right toward Owachomo Bridge—the unmaintained trail veers off to the right, flanking the left side of Armstrong Canyon to bypass the “knickpoint” pour-off, a 15-foot dry fall that interrupts the otherwise level wash bottom. After 150 yards or so, the slickrock takes over and the incline transforms into such a steep declivity that handrails and additional ladders become necessary to complete the descent. White Canyon is quite scenic, flanked by red and white sandstone walls stained with desert varnish. After more than eight miles of walking, the final stretch can feel rather arduous, but the sight of the Owachomo Bridge overlook ahead wills hikers up the final steps to the parking area. ( Log Out / Natural Bridges National Monument Full Loop 8.5 mi 13.6 km • 752' Up 229.3 m Up • 731' Down 222.83 m Down. With about 1/3 mile to go to Kachina, another arch—dubbed Rock Ruin Arch—appears ahead on the skyline (many are likely to prematurely confuse this for Kachina Bridge, which is actually at a far lower elevation). The easily-discernable path (even in snow) begins by cutting straight through pinyon-juniper communities before quickly reaching the first obstacle of the hike, a slickrock ledge surmounted with the assistance of a sturdy wooden ladder. The vast 1 million acres of Cedar Mesa are filled with thousands of miles of canyons, most of which are below the flat tableland of the mesa. Be very respectful of this site and all such sites in the Southwest. (Note: I completed the Natural Bridges Loop in early January, when there were roughly three inches of snow on the ground. Completed in this manner, the trail descends 500 feet to Sipapu Bridge (much better than a 500-foot climb), saving the ascent back to the canyon rim for Owachomo, where it is a reasonable 180-foot gain from the bridge to the road.