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Rainbow Bridge via Lake Powell, UT

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Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
4.3 of 5 by 3
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,704 feet
Elevation Gain 10 feet
Accumulated Gain 20 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 1.6
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
5  2017-06-30 ddgrunning
56  2013-05-10
Northern Arizona Trek - May 2013
16  2012-07-12 PaleoRob
18  2011-06-30 PaleoRob
20  2011-04-04 Randal_Schulhaus
60  2011-04-02
Rainbow Bridge via South Trail
13  2008-03-21 suzaz
5  2004-06-13 PaleoRob
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:07am - 6:29pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Long ride for a short hike
by PaleoRob

Overview: Rainbow Bridge is found in Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and is often called the world's largest natural bridge. This is likely true, but there are other near contenders, so measurements are ongoing. Regardless, Rainbow Bridge is one of the most beautiful and fascinating spans found in the southwest. Access via Lake Powell is the most popular way to see this remarkable natural bridge.

Warning: Regardless of time of year, boat access to Rainbow Bridge is expensive. The bridge is remote - 50 miles from the nearest marina. Be prepared for a hot ride in the summer. The length of the hike varies, so be prepared with drinking water as well. If you are driving your own boat, you will need to fill up with gas either coming or going at Dangling Rope Marina, 8 miles down the lake from Rainbow Bridge.

History: Rainbow Bridge began being accessible by downcanyon hikers as soon as people began running the Colorado River. By the 1940s, Arth Greene had set up his airboat operation out of Cliff Dwellers Lodge below Lee's Ferry, allowing tourists to visit the bridge in as little as three days. After the gates closed on Glen Canyon Dam tourists were able to shorten their trip to about one day by taking a boat trip up Lake Powell. This trip description picks up here.

Hike: The hike starts at Rainbow Dock. At an average lake level, the dock is located approximately .75 miles from Rainbow Bridge in Bridge Canyon. From your boat, walk down the dock to the dirt path. The path heads upcanyon and is well marked. In high water years, it is not a very far hike to Rainbow Bridge and you will soon catch a glimpse of it around a canyon bend. When the water is low, it can be well over 1.5 miles one way to the bridge, with no shade or water.

Water Sources: None along the trail. Bring your own on the boat.

Camping: Not allowed.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2011-04-04 PaleoRob
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Rainbow Bridge via Lake Powell
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Northern Arizona Trek - May 2013
Sarah’s Grad and Northern Arizona Trek - May 2013

4 days
3 nights
791 miles by truck
110 miles by boat
324 digital images
1 Master’s Degree celebration
1 Slot Canyon
1 Natural Bridge
1 Vintage Mary Colter designed hotel
1 Mother’s Day

With my daughter Sarah’s graduation from ASU with a Master’s in Clinical Speech Pathology, my parents made the trek down from Canada to celebrate the achievement. Considering that Mother’s Day would be over the weekend, a road trip was in order :next:

Friday May 10th
11am to 3pm Sarah’s grad @ ASU
3pm drive from Ahwatukee to Flagstaff – 161 miles, 2hrs 26min per Google Maps
Fairfield Inn Flagstaff, 2005 South Milton Road, Flagstaff, AZ – Confirmation #85054171 & 85054171
5pm – 9:30pm Lowell Observatory 2nd Friday Science Night, 1400 West Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff, Arizona
ASU Clinical Speech Pathology :next:
Marriott Fairfield Inn, Flagstaff AZ :next:
Lowell Observatory :next:
Beaver Street Brewery :next:

After Sarah’s graduation ceremony held at Wells Fargo Arena on the ASU main campus, friends and family gathered at our Ahwatukee home for some good eats and an opportunity to personally congratulate Sarah. As the day wound down, it was time to head out on a road trip to Northern Arizona to take in some sights my parents only thought they could view through other people’s photographs. First destination – Flagstaff AZ to catch the “2nd Friday Evening Event” at Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill. The evening event was just about to wrap-up when we arrived 9-ish, but we still were able to walk the grounds and see the various telescope installations. Checked into the Marriott Fairfield Inn – rooms were scarce since NAU grad ceremonies were also on this weekend! Had time for a late evening stroll to Beaver Street Brewery – a Flagstaff visit requirement…

Saturday May 11th
8am drive from Flagstaff to Page AZ – 192 miles, 3hrs 15min per Google Maps (note Hwy89 closed at Echo Cliffs)
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, 100 Lakeshore Drive, Page, AZ 86040 - Confirmation # 80002356H
Upper and/or Lower Antelope Slot Canyon guided or self-guided hike
Mars Hill :next:
Hwy 89A Kachina homage :next:
Tuba City Dinosaur Tracks :next:
Upper Antelope Canyon :next:
Glen Canyon Dam Overlook :next:
Horseshoe Bend Overlook :next:
Wahweap Marina Walk – Glen Canyon NRA :next:
Lake Powell Resort & Marina :next: ... tions.aspx
Big John’s Texas BBQ, Page AZ :next: ... beque.html

After our complimentary breakfast at the Flagstaff Marriott Fairfield Inn, we checked out and returned to Lowell Observatory to trek around the grounds in daylight – quite the contrast from the previous evening’s “stumble in the dark”… We met “Big John” performing some of the morning chores around Lowell and he invited us into the Pluto Observatory for a private tour prior to the official visitor opening at 9am. “Big John” was a fount of information giving us the history of the site, including all the construction obstacles and the competitive nature of the academics in the race to discover planets in their predicted mathematical location. Once we’d had our fill of astronomy, we hit the road towards Page AZ. After an obligatory stop at my favorite Kachina site (kicking myself that I failed to take a geocoded photo with my iPhone), we bounced our way up Highway 89 towards the detour around the sinkhole (check out :next: and ... lapse.html ), via Hwy 160 through Tuba City to Hwy 98 near Cow Springs to approach Page AZ from the SE. This detour easily adds another hour onto your drive from Flagstaff to Page. We elected to do the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon tour rather than the Lower Slot Canyon, only because of the flat terrain. I recalled multiple ladders and rock butt slides when exploring the Lower Antelope Slot Canyon. Our Navajo Guide, Frankie, was full of facts about the canyon formation and pointed out the mostly unnoticed features within the slot canyon. Unexpectedly, Frankie is quite the digital photo buff and helped set up shots for most of the visitors. He knew my Canon cameras beyond any of my abilities. After Antelope Canyon we drifted into town to find a late lunch/early dinner joint – Big John’s Texas BBQ fit the bill. We checked into our rooms at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina (NPS Annual Pass came in handy once again to gain entrance into the Wahweap section of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area), freshened up prior to some sunset exploration around Glen Canyon Dam and Horseshoe Bend Overlook.

Sunday May 12th
7:30am to 1pm boat tour to Rainbow Bridge – confirmation # 80002356O
2pm drive from Page AZ to Winslow AZ via Hopi Lands – 241 miles, 4hrs 22min per Google Maps
La Posada Hotel, 303 E 2nd St, Winslow, AZ 86047 - Confirmation#72185 for Rm115, #72184 for Rm125
7:30pm Mother’s Day dinner reservation at Turquoise Room in La Posada per Jonny
Lake Powell boat tour to Rainbow Bridge :next: ... idge-.aspx
Rainbow Bridge via Lake Powell :next:
Walpi Hopi Village :next: and
La Posada Walking Tour :next:
Turquois Room :next: Mother’s Day, 3 people, $235 including tip…

Mother’s Day – Up at dawn to catch an early breakfast and check out of our hotel rooms prior to boarding our Rainbow Bridge tour boat at 7am :next: . Besides our Captain’s Derek and Theresa, I think I may have been the only other Arizona resident on that boat that day. Had a chance to chat with visitors from France, Germany, and England – many who had seen the bridge on previous vacations. Interesting that there was instant recognition by our fellow boaters – we all were on the Upper Antelope Canyon trek the day before and were all staying Saturday evening at the Lake Powell Resort! I failed to note the time extension for the tour :next: “The Castle Rock Cut is currently closed due to low lake levels. This tour will last approximately 7 - 7.5 hours total.” Hopefully this won’t impact our 7:30pm dinner reservation at the Turquoise Room in Winslow AZ… The lower lake levels also tacked on an additional half mile for the hike to Rainbow Bridge (hope I didn’t burn out my parents’ wheels tackling Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend the day before). Mission accomplished :next: . Upon returning to Wahweap Marina, we grabbed some cold refreshments and jumped in my F-150 for the backcountry tour through Navajo and Hopi Lands. Didn’t have enough time to stop at Coal Mine Canyon ( ), but we did have just enough for a drive-by of Old Oraibi and Walpi on the Hopi mesas. We arrived at La Posada in Winslow before 6:30pm – plenty of time to freshen up prior to another gastronomic gem served up by Chef John in the Turquoise Room :next: and ... _McClendon’s_farm_prepare_for_Mother's_Day_Special_Event/ . After dinner we had a chance to explore the eclectic La Posada then sit out back to do some trainspotting…

Monday May 13th
8am drive from Winslow AZ to Ahwatukee via Mogollon RIm – 183 miles, 3hrs 16min per Google Maps
La Posada Walking Tour :next:

Mother’s Day – The Day After… Gathered at 8am in the Turquoise Room for morning breakfast (don’t know where I found the space for breakfast after that huge Sunday meal) and a daylight stroll around the hotel grounds before taking the Hwy 87/Mogollon Rim route home through Payson.

More photos to follow... ;)
Rainbow Bridge via Lake Powell
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Took the tour boat up. Headed to the Bridge and talked with a ranger. We distracted the crowd and headed upcanyon (with the ranger's blessing) to Echo Camp. Brian had never been there before, but Megan and myself had, so this side trip was our idea. We poked around the camp (lots of frogs!) and then booked it back down to the boat. We made it back with literally one minute to spare. Phew!
The Bridge is visible from the boat at the dock, and water is almost under the Bridge. Maybe 5-10 feet more rise in the lake and it'd be under there.
Rainbow Bridge via Lake Powell
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Rainbow Bridge via Lake Powell
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Rainbow Bridge 2011

I've had this iconic destination on my "wish list" since moving to Arizona in 2003. The fact that this natural bridge wasn't "discovered" until August 1909 only adds to the allure (check out => ... idge.html# ). Organizing a trek to the bridge in present times proves fleeting as attempts in 2009 and 2010 were scheduled and ultimately cancelled. But campfire discussions during last year's treks to Grand Gulch and Chaco led to an agreement that the first weekend in April 2011 would be targeted. I blocked out a 4 day weekend on my calendar and Casa Grande Rob posted the HAZ Event => viewtopic.php?t=4650

The trek began Friday April 1st with my F-150 hitting the road on the back end of morning rush hour traffic. Stopped for a chilli bowl lunch in Flagstaff at the Beaver Street Brewery and purchased a Rail Road Stout growler (check out => ) for some post-hiking consumption. Picked up Larry (aka squatpuke) at a designated rendezvous spot at the east end of Flagstaff. I met Mrs. Squatpuke as we transferred Larry's gear into my F-150 and indicated to her that we'll see her again late Monday.

Stopped along Hwy 89 to check out the Wupatki roadside kachinas and pondered Rainbow Bridge and Navajo Mountain significance to the Hopi. Larry and I checked into our Friday night base camp at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Page AZ and walked to our designated evening gathering spot, The Fiesta Mexicana Family Restaurant at 125 S. Lake Powell Blvd. Our group soon assembles; PageRob, squatpuke, Toad, Clanton and various Page residents (seems that everyone in Page knows each other) at our table on the front patio. Final hiking plans are made with and agreed 5am meet-up Saturday morning at Rob's house.

Alarm rings 4-ish on Saturday morning, check out of our base camp and meet up at Rob's for coffee and truck-pooling. We soon depart from Page following Hwy 98 about 50 miles towards Kayenta. At the intersection of IR16 (aka Navajo Mountain Road), we head north towards Inscription House and Navajo Mountain. I'm surprised that our drive has been confined to paved roads until we reach our IR161 cut-off (about 33 miles from Hwy 98). Our trail notes indicate rodeo grounds with water tank on the west side and signage for "Navajo Mountain School". More confidence we're on the correct dirt track when I spot an IR161 sign. We spot Haystack Rock having traveled about 5 miles and take the dirt track towards Navajo Mountain. There's a well at War God Springs where a local is filling up his tanker truck. He points out the double-track heading towards our TH at Rainbow Lodge ruins. The double track rapidly deteriorates. Rob's Explorer requires a spotter at multiple points to negotiate around tire sidewall slashing and differential smashing rocks. At another split in the double-track, we choose the right split towards a water tank (wrong turn!). We retrace our tracks and get back on course arriving at the Rainbow Lodge ruins and the elusive TH.

Having explored the ruins and posed for a TH group shot, we position those heavy packs on our backs and hit the South Trail (aka Rainbow Lodge Trail). We soon drop into appropriately named "First Canyon" and pop up onto a bench with elevated heart rates. Horse Canyon soon comes into view with a rather insane downward grade (check out photo evidence) to the bottom wash. Having exited Horse Canyon, we drop our packs for some refreshments, snacks, and photo ops.

Back on the trail again across some benches and unnamed washes until we reach Yabut Pass. My jaw drops. The shear wall drop and a trail visible in the bottom canyon leave you scratching your head - How do you get down there?

Arriving at the bottom of Cliff Canyon, I realize this is a toll trail and I've paid with my left hip and knee. Clanton is feeling the same way as we spot some cottonwood trees and begin hearing a cacophony of canyon frogs. That has to be Cliff Canyon Springs just ahead and our designated Camp #1.

As we set up camp, Rob and I share a traditional Cag => My hip and knee make an instant recovery without having a 50lb pack strapped to my back. As the day light wanes, we're treated to a "purple haze" sunset and a continuing cacophony of canyon frogs. The evening camp fire is toasty and comforting as the group discusses changing from "Plan A" to "Plan B" => exit via the Lake Powell water route rather than the South Trail "in-and-out". With that settled and the winds beginning to pick up, time to turn in and call it a night.

Sunday morning we break camp and head downstream towards Redbud Pass. The trail becomes confusing at the confluence of multiple side canyons into a wide basin. We make a minor detour into blind canyon, but soon correct ourselves finding the "Redbud Pass" signage =>

We spot some Basket-Maker vintage rock art on the walls of Redbud Pass. Redbud soon becomes a narrow slot with evidence of the original dynamite blasting from the 1920's. Upon cresting Redbud Pass, it's all downstream from here. We are soon at the confluence of Bridge Canyon and merge with the North Trail (aka Discovery Route named after the 1909 expedition).

As we pass through a gate into the Echo Camp Basin area, I can sense the presence of our main objective nearby - RAINBOW BRIDGE!

"Out of the shade, into the heat. I tramp on through the winding gorge, through the harsh brittle silence. In this arid atmosphere sounds do not fade, echo or die softly but are extinguished suddenly, sharply, without the slightest hint of reverberation. The clash of rock against rock is like a shot - abrupt, exaggerated, toneless.

I round the next bend in the canyon and all at once, quite unexpectedly, there it is, the bridge of stone.

Quite unexpectedly, I write. Why? Certainly I had faith; I knew the bridge would be here, against all odds. And I knew well enough what it would look like - we've all seen the pictures of it a hundred times. Nor am I disappointed in that vague way we often feel, coming at last upon a long-imagined spectacle. Rainbow Bridge seems neither less nor greater than what I had foreseen.

Through God's window into eternity.

Oh well. I climb to the foot of the east buttress and sign for Ralph and myself in the visitor's register. He is the 14,467th and I the next to enter our names in this book since the first white men came to Rainbow Bridge in 1909. Not many, for a period of more than half a century, in the age above all of publicity. But then it's never been an easy journey. Until now..."
- Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire", pp240-241.

Larry, Rob, Toad, and Clanton have made a detour into Echo Camp to set up camp early in the Alcove. I press on, drawn by the magnetic allure of RAINBOW BRIDGE. I can sense it and as I cross the National Monument fence and gate exiting the Rez and rounding the bend, it's there!

Sunday evening camping in the Alcove, we recreate scenes from the 1913 Teddy Roosevelt visit as we roll out our sleeping bags on the metal bed springs that have served campers since that time. Our evening fire heats up the entire Alcove as I fall asleep under the stars.

Monday morning we break camp at dawn, photograph Rainbow Bridge from every possible angle and catch the Tour Boat back to Page AZ => . The Tour Boat shuttle bus takes us to Rob's house where we grab my truck and make the trek back to Rainbow Lodge ruins to retrieve Rob's vehicle =>

Thanks to Rob for pulling this all together. Good to meet Toad, Clanton, and Larry making this a truly memorable adventure! Got to have a redux soon via the "Discovery Route" aka the North Route =>


Permit $$

Glen Canyon NRA National Park
Obtain a free Backcountry Use Permit from the Interagency Office located at 755 West Main Street, Escalante, Utah. Group size limit is 12.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Page, drive to either Wahweap or Antelope Point Marinas. Make arrangements to rent a boat and drive the boat to Forbidding Canyon. Follow the signs to Rainbow Bridge. Alternately, book a tour via Wahweap Marina - they will drive the boat for you and narrate the trip up. Both marinas are easily accessible from Page.
page created by PaleoRob on Apr 04 2011 9:25 pm
3 pack - loud whistle
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