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