8.6 miles (loop)
time: 5 hours
490 ft. gain/loss
Sipapu Bridge Trailhead (start):
Kachina Bridge: 5,710 ft.
Owachomo Bridge: 5,920 ft.
The trail is mostly well maintained
and easy to follow, although it
can be confusing in a few places-especially
near Kachina Bridge. There are signs
at all of the major trail junctions.
Spring, summer, winter, fall. The
canyon is quite hot in midsummer.
Expect some rain in late summer.
For more information call the Visitor
Center, Natural Bridges National
Monument, at (801) 692-1234.
Natural Bridges National Monument,
highlights of this hike are the
three enormous natural bridges for
which Natural Bridges National Monument
was named: Sipapu, Kachina, and
Owachomo Bridge. The canyon-bottom
trail passes under all three, while
offering views of at least two other
less-spectacular arches further
up the side of the canyon walls.
Also of interest are a number of
Indian ruins within the canyon.
The present-day park area was used
extensively by the prehistoric Anasazi
Indians who lived there until about
the Sipapu Bridge Trailhead the
trail immediately drops 440 feet
in 0.6 mile to the creek bed under
Sipapu Bridge. The trail is quite
steep in places; the park service
has even constructed stairs to help
in the descent. But dont be
discouraged by the grade. Once you
reach the bottom the trail is almost
entirely on the canyon floor. A
short side trail branches off to
the left about half way down for
a magnificent view of the bridge.
This is probably the best photo
opportunity you will have of Sipapu,
the largest bridge in the monument.
With a span of 268 feet and a height
of 220 feet, it is only 10 feet
shorter and 89 feet lower than Rainbow
Natural Bridge, the largest natural
bridge in the world.
Sipapu the trail winds down the
floor of picturesque White Canyon
for another 2.3 miles to Kachina
Bridge. Watch for Indian ruins along
this part of the trail. The well
known Horse Collar Ruin is on the
south side of White Canyon just
below the confluence with Deer Canyon,
about 0.8 mile below Sipapu. There
are other ruins as well, including
a small granary just above the south
side of the trail about 1.9 miles
below Sipapu. Finally, you will
see Kachina Bridge looming over
the trail. Only slightly smaller
than Sipapu, Kachina spans 204 feet
and is 210 feet tall. It is, however,
a much younger, bulkier bridge,
fully 93 feet thick at its crown.
Kachina Bridge will still be standing
many thousands of years from now.
miss the petroglyphs near Kachina
Bridge. There are dozens of them
on the rock face just a hundred
feet south of the bridge on the
west side of the canyon. Kachina
Bridge got its name from these petroglyphs,
which remind some observers of the
art that decorates Hopi Kachina
dolls. There are also the remains
of two ancient granaries in the
Kachina Bridge it is very easy to
take a wrong turn and get off the
trail (as I did the first time I
walked this loop). Do not bear right
into White Canyon. Rather, follow
the main path which bears left from
Kachina Natural Bridge and goes
up towards the canyon rim. After
about 0.3 mile you will see a well
marked junction in the trail with
a sign directing you to Owachomo
Bridge. At this point you are no
longer in White Canyon; you have
made the transition into Armstrong
Bridge is 3.0 miles down Armstrong
Canyon from the trail junction near
Kachina Bridge. This part of the
trail is not as popular, and you
are not likely to see other hikers
until you reach Owachomo. There
are not as many ruins of the Anasazi
culture here, but at one point you
can see quite an interesting collection
of well preserved petroglyphs just
above the right side of the trail.
You are also much more likely to
see deer and other wildlife during
this part of the hike.
as the trail passes under Owachomo,
you will immediately recognize it
as the oldest of the three bridges.
Owachomo spans 180 feet, is 106
feet high, and is only 9 feet thick
at its crown. It is a very shallow
arch and gives the appearance that
it could fall at any time. Its life
span is, of course, impossible to
predict, but it will probably not
remain intact for more than a few
Owachomo it is a short walk to the
canyon rim, from where another trail
leads 2.2 miles through the pinyon-juniper
forest, back to the Sipapu Bridge
Trailhead where the hike began.