Natural Bridges National Monument

As long as we were in this remote southeast corner of Utah we couldn’t resist a stop at another nearby National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument. This time we left Angel in Island Girl, knowing that they don’t allow pets on any of their trails.

Natural Bridges National Monument has three spectacular stone bridges that were sculpted by water, along with a very well-preserved ruin, Horse Collar Ruin.

The park has a loop road that goes by each of the Natural Bridges as well as Horse Collar Ruin, hiking trails to each of the Bridges and the ruins, as well as a full loop hiking trail (8.6mi) that goes to all of the Bridges. With Hector’s broken ankle, we planned to do very minimal hiking.

So we got started on the loop drive. The first stop on the drive is Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world (Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon Utah is the largest).

The bridge is named after a gateway through which souls may pass to the spirit world in Hopi mythology.

Although the trail down to the bottom is fairly short it is the steepest one in the park, so we were happy that there was a pretty decent view from the side of the road.

The next stop on the loop drive is an easy trail (.6 mi) to the edge of White Canyon, where there is a view of Horse Collar Ruins in an alcove below.

Ancestral Puebloans moved here around A.D. 700 and left around the 1300s but rock art and stone tools in this area can be traced to people who came here as early as 7,000 B.C. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area after the Ancestral Puebloans and some may have lived here alongside the Puebloans.

Even though these ruins were abandoned 700 years ago, they are very well-preserved. The most interesting is an undisturbed kiva that still has its original roof and interior, but there are also walls of two other structures, another barrel shaped structure and six or so rooms on the ledge. Although originally discovered in 1907, they seem to have been forgotten after President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as a National Monument (Utah’s first National Park service area) in 1908.

They sat undisturbed until 1936 when they were rediscovered, but this inaccessibility is thought to be one of the reasons that they are so well preserved. And as always, there are several mysteries about these ruins and their inhabitants, the most obvious one is why the structures were not built with their backs against the wall of the alcove.

After spending some time looking at and photographing the ruins we continued on the loop drive to the next Natural Bridge, Kachina Bridge, named after the Kachina dancers in the Hopi religion. This is considered the “youngest” of the three bridges because of the thickness of its span. Although there is not a great view from the overlook, the trail down is another steep one so we skipped it.

Our last stop was at Owachomo Bridge. Owachomo means “rock mound” in Hopi, named for a rock formation on one end of the bridge. This trail is the easiest of all, and .4 miles total, so it was the perfect one for nursing the broken ankle. It was really cool to stand under the bridge and wander around the slick rock that was all around.

The drive and two short hikes allowed us to get back to our RV without leaving Angel for too long.

We highly recommend this National Monument, check out details of the park, the loop drive and the trails here.

~ Brenda

 

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  1. We did this hike several years ago. Your photos and narrative have me thinking maybe we need to redo the hike again when we get tot Bluff. You photos certainly show the beauty in the rock detail of each bridge, Hector. We sure are going to miss your blog with all those spectacular photographs. We can’t wait til you post on your Yellowstone trip! And you MUST share your photos. Yellowstone is one of my all time favorite parks.

    • It must be awesome to walk under all of those bridges – does the trail get close to the ruins?

      We are mostly going to drive because we are taking Angel with us, but are hoping to spot lots of wildlife and babies.

  2. Always a pleasure to see one if your posts! This is one place we haven’t really explored because of the dog restrictions, so it’s lovely to see your take. Miss you guys!

    Nina

    • Yes, if you are willing to leave fur babies behind a bit you can still see some of the beauty of the place – not as great as hiking all the way in, but still beautiful. Miss you too!

  3. What stunning photos and another reminder of the beauty of nature. So glad you continue to explore landmarks, parks, etc. and everything that makes America special. Wishing you and Angel the best.

    • We are not really on the road, these are “catch-up” posts from last year. We want to cover the walkabout until its end, but had to take a hiatus while working on the house. Missing you!

  4. Bluff has been one of my favorite stop, a great small town as home base to see the area. And yes, we too did the the hike at Natural Bridge, and your photos Hector makes me want to go back!

  5. We have so much exploring to do in Utah. This will definitely be on the list when we make it there. Hector, your photography just keeps getting better! I hope both of you are enjoying your new home.