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The Best Hikes in Natural Bridges National Monument

62 Triplog Reviews in the Natural Bridges National Monument National Park
Most recent of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
10.54 mi • 1,157 ft aeg
Natural Bridges NM
Day 2 of my 14-day found me in Natural Bridges NM. I set up camp, spent some time talking to the helpful rangers and then drove the loop hitting all the overlooks. The ruins were interesting looking from the rim, but there wasn't a way to get closer that I could sleuth out.Camp was a quiet night grilling a burger and turning in early. I don't sleep well in campgrounds -too many people and noises.

Headed out to do the Sipapu-Owachomo Loop following the ranger's good advice and leaving my vehicle at Owachomo and hiking counter clockwise starting across the mesa near sunrise. I thought the mesa portion of the hike would be boring, but it was great. There were huge areas of cryptobiotic soil, the cedar pinion forest, animal sounds, slick rock areas. Nice way to start.

The drop into Sipapu requires ladders, got to love a hike that requires ladders. I'd read a lot about this bridge in particular and enjoyed knowing the story as I descended. It is truly impressive to be under this formation.

The hike along the bottom of the drainage was nice. The trail isn't maintained and can be difficult to follow sometimes as it crosses and recrosses the stream bed, but you can't really get lost. Its pretty lush with cottonwoods, willows, tamarisk and two very out of place spruce trees. Some potholes of water were easily easily worked around and surrounded by deer, coyote and bobcat tracks. The ranger had warned me of extensive muddy areas, but those had largely dried and the little remaining was easily avoided. The quietness was a physical thing. I stepped on a dried cottonwood stick and the resulting loud snap seemed a violation of local protocol.

Passed one hiker going the other way before arriving at Kachina Bridge. The abutments of Kachina are just simply massive. A couple had dropped down from the overlook above. We exchanged pleasantries as I took my lunch in the shade of the bridge.

I was mindful of the ranger's admonition to NOT follow the White Canyon Creek drainage NW. "The next stop is Lake Powell in 50 miles. You won't make it," he said. But the trail took me upslope and I worried I was headed for the overlook and almost dropped back into the drainage below, only to realize going up was required to avoid the 80' pour off between Kachina and Owachomo. The remaining hike to Owachomo was through a narrowing canyon with the sun in my face. The trail became fainter, harder to follow until finally I saw the bridge and knew the truck was close by.

Stopped back at the visitor center to refill my water bottles and debrief the ranger on the trail. We swapped stories for a bit and then I headed back to camp for a nap in my tent cot and one more evening before pressing on the next morning.
1.16 mi • 284 ft aeg
This day was a travel day but we stopped to see Natural Bridges National Monument. We did stop for one short hike to this, one of 3 natural bridges in the area. Found out the difference between a bridge and an arch, a bridge is made mostly by the action of flowing water, such as a stream. Where an arch is caused by wind and rain, anything other than flowing water.
5.8 mi • 1,100 ft aeg
Natural Bridges National Monument
Road trip :)
Got to natural bridges national monument early afternoon
Plenty of time to hike down to sipapu bridge and almost up to the horsecollar ruins, then down to kachina and owachomo bridges
Great scenery on the drive up
Moki dugway was pretty cool
Stayed in blanding and headed for Moab on Tuesday
Bonus hiking on a travel day and a great start to the trip
1.91 mi • 314 ft aeg
As part of a 10-day backpack/day-hike trip to S. Utah.
Really a fun hike - a bit toasty on the road-walk portion (why it is closed off is beyond me, it's better than most numbered dirt roads in S. Utah). It was fun to find the old 'telescope' that points to the arch, old bottle-caps, blue-on-white porcelain, etc. The trail is in remarkable condition for its disuse and age.
Drove down to the Hanksville ferry area for a swim afterwards.
Thanks for posting this hike and history.
0.4 mi • 180 ft aeg
Owachomo may be viewed by a quick hike along an easy trail down a fairly gentle slope starting at the roadside viewpoint, ending at a slickrock bowl directly beneath, at the edge of Armstrong Canyon which runs past on the north side. Armstrong is rather shallow at this point but still receives big floods periodically as evident from a huge, permanent pool just downstream. The bridge spans 180 feet but is just 9 feet thick so will be the first of the three to break, yet it is still likely to survive for several more centuries. Continuation hikes are possible either down the canyon via the 8 mile trail, up the cliffs on the far side to an alternative viewpoint of the bridge, or upstream - although this part of Armstrong Canyon has no path, the terrain is quite moderate.
0.7 mi • 400 ft aeg
The most geologically recent of the three natural bridges is Kachina, characterized by a relatively small opening beneath a very thick span, making the arch difficult to spot from the highway. The path to the bridge is the longest of the three so not as many people make the hike, despite it being quite easy. The trail begins next to Kachina overlook; it descends a little, rounds a promontory beneath the viewpoint then drops down a lot more via many stone steps, to a junction with the canyon trail, here running a little way above the streambed in order to avoid a big pour-off just upstream. Turning right, the path soon reaches the wash, via a short ladder at one point, then follows alongside the stream to the bridge, which spans White Canyon just as it joins Armstrong Canyon and is enclosed on most sides by vertical cliffs, rising rather higher then the bridge itself. The thickness of the bridge and the steepness of the surrounding rocks make the large area underneath particularly cool and shady, though this also makes photography rather difficult, especially as the arch is in shadow most of the day, and further obscured by tall cottonwood trees that grow at either side. This is a quiet, peaceful place most of the time but subject to occasional stormy conditions as shown both from the large mass of sandstone boulders on the north side, remains of 4,000 tons of rock that fell from the bridge in 1992, and the deep pools and big piles of driftwood along the streambed - results of the powerful flash floods that often tear through the canyon, especially during the summer thunderstorm season.
2.4 mi • 500 ft aeg
Sipapu is the biggest bridge in terms of height and span, and the most impressive when viewed from below. The trailhead is located a little way beyond the main roadside viewpoint, from where the path descends steeply to the canyon floor; the half mile journey is somewhat strenuous, and has some parts where ladders are installed to traverse vertical cliffs, yet the trail is popular since the bridge is the first along the park road, and arguably the best. The path drops over the plateau edge and soon passes a small Anasazi ruin in a cliff alcove, then after another descent, follows a flat layer for a while, out to a good viewpoint of White Canyon. Next is a crossing of a bushy hillside, a descent of a slickrock slope and finally a climb down a wooden ladder into a small grove of Gambel's oak trees beneath the bridge - part of a cool, green environment quite sheltered from the sun, and kept moist by the seasonal stream that flows through the canyon. The buff colored sandstone of the bridge bears a fine coating of desert varnish, making a nice contrast with the dark green trees growing beneath.
12.56 mi • 495 ft aeg
A six day trip to what has always been my favorite state finished with two nights of camping and star gazing at Natural Bridges. I love Utah!!! This hike had been on my bucket list for over twenty years and happy to finally do it. We explored a couple of side canyons, intentionally and otherwise, so that accounts for the extra mileage. Owachomo was our favorite bridge especially when you take in the slickrock bowl it resides in. My first visit to the park in 1991 so long ago... You have to arrive fairly early to get a spot in the 13 site campground, glad we did!
8.6 mi • 495 ft aeg
Drove down from Moab on the 6th with a nice detour/scenic route through the north end of the Abajos and set up camp before going out for a sunset drive and survey mark hunt along Clay Hills Crossing Road to the south to round out the day. Got up bright and early and drove out to Sipapu Bridge to start loop just as the sun came up. Park rangers recommended starting at Sipapu and going clockwise (or counterclockwise from Owachomo) to get the mesa top section of the hike out of the way before it got hot, but with an early start I wasn't particularly concerned so I went counterclockwise from Sipapu to descend the deeper canyon drop and ascend the shallower one at Owachomo.

This hike was really similar in structure to the Syncline Loop hike in Canyonlands NP: descend into a canyon, hike downstream to a confluence, switch over and go upstream the other canyon, then ascend out. Here, though, the canyons were much less deep and the descents more heavily traveled, with stairs and ladders along the way going down at Sipapu. Once on the floor, I followed the wash for the most part, though in spots there is tread up out of the main channel.

As I went down White Canyon, I kept my eyes open for a side trail to go up the canyon wall to Horsecollar Ruins, and found one and made my way up, finding a branched juniper log in place to help me climb up the last 5 foot shelf. This is a pretty nice little ruin site with quite a few structures and since they're under an overhang, the mud cement used for the stonework is still in good shape.

After enjoying the ruins, I dropped back down and continued around to Kachina Bridge, where the trail leaves White Canyon and switches to heading up Armstrong Canyon, starting with a climb part way up to a shelf to get around the Knickpoint pour-off not far upstream from the junction. As you start up, Armstrong Canyon is wider and more open than White, but eventually it narrows and the trail moves again out of the main channel and up onto a shelf for the rest of the way to Owachomo Bridge to avoid pools of water in the channel that looked semi-permanent.

Already being up on a shelf, the climb up and through Owachomo was a snap, and in this area I spotted a couple different side trails, followed one to see if it led to more ruins or possibly petroglyphs, but eventually deciding it was a route to get up onto the bridge itself, which is contrary to park rules so I returned to the main trail and continued up to a bench at the trailhead where I dumped the sand from my shoes before moving on.

When I think mesa top, I think flat easy walking, and for the most part the mesa top section of the loop is that, but it does straight-line down and up across a couple of drainages along the way. I finished up the hike in short order and then went for a drive up to Bear Ears for lunch, continuing east through the south end of the Abajos to town to restock the cooler.
3.82 mi • 628 ft aeg
Went out to see if the rumors about Fry Canyon being closed are true. They are. Not abandoned. Just closed. Came back and hiked the old trail down to Owachomo. No problems on the trail for the most part - did get turned around a bit below the old ranger's residence. All's well that ends well though. Glad I was able to see the monument a little differently than other folks.

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