Visiting Natural Bridges National Monument

 

Natural Bridges National Monument

 

Natural Bridges National Monument is somehow not one of the more popular destinations on classic western road-trips, even though it is a spectacular place. Perhaps its location, sort of in the middle of nowhere in southern Utah,  has something to do with the fewer visitors. It is a bit out of the way from the ever popular spots in northern Arizona/southern Utah such as Antelope Canyon or Horseshoe Bend (about 3 hours), even Monument Valley (about 1 &1/2 hours).

I spent the night before my visit at Recapture Lodge  (a video by the owner, not of the lodge) in Bluff, about an hour’s drive from Natural Bridges. It was the closest village I could find accommodations in. If you are in the area I highly recommend them, the owners Jim and Luanne are absolute sweethearts and the place is very well kept.

There are three bridges in the park (Sipapu, Kachina and, Owachomo ), some people might think it is not worth driving all the way there for just that. But they would be wrong, so very wrong! The amazing part of this place is in the beauty of the landscape and it is best appreciated by walking. If you are not going to do any of the hikes, then, it is not worth driving all the way out there. There is a paved road with viewpoints, however the first two bridges can barely be made out from these spots. Check out the photos bellow, these are taken from the viewpoints.

Natural Bridges National Monument

 

On the other hand the trails are gorgeous and fun to hike, especially the first one to Sipapu Bridge. You walk down into a circular canyon, the bridge sits at the bottom of it and the views are totally worthy of the hike even on a hot sunny day (although I would not recommend going in the middle of summer). It could be a somewhat challenging hike for those with knee problems or other limitations as there are a few steps and leathers, some of them a bit steep.

Sipapu Bridge is the second largest natural bridge on the American continent. The number one (Rainbow Bridge) is also located in the USA at Lake Powell, however it is only accessible by taking a boat.

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

The best viewed bridge from the parking lot is the last one, Owachomo and it also has the shortest and easiest trail so you might as well walk up to it.

Trail to Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

 

Aside from the bridges there are some ancestral ruins, which sadly I did not have time to see. If you want to walk to all three bridges and the ruins have a full day planned for your visit.

There is a Visitor Center at the entrance but no other services within the area. As a national monument it is under the administration of the NPS so your annual pass is valid here or if you don’t have one you can buy a daily pass. 

If you visit Natural Bridges consider planning your itinerary so that it includes Route 95. I drove up north on it to Capitol Reef National Park and honestly it is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven on, the landscape absolutely spell-biding. It is a very lonely road though, I hardly met other cars and it is complete wilderness, no gas stations or anything, up till Hanksville .

Rt 95 Utah

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