Feb 3, 2014

National Monument- Utah's Natural Bridges

The Utah landscape is so rugged that its hard to imagine what lies in those mysterious canyons. Where do these canyons lead you?! When do the dry river floods in a flash? At the elevation of 6,500ft above sea level intermittent rivers have carved canyons and three massive bridges. Natural Bridges National Monument protects this area, plants animals and the native indian ruins. 

Sipapu Bridge Natural Bridges National Monument Utah
Sipapu bridge as seen in the larger landscape

The clear early winter blue sky and Utah's wonderful red rock landscape, driving on the long secluded roads ... WNot that I am a loner but when I am in the desert alone I find deep satisfaction. Because nobody is talking to me distracting my attention from that stunning scenery :) 

Sipapu Bridge Natural Bridges National Monument Utah
Sipapu Bridge
Sipapu bridge in the monument is the second largest natural bridge in the world. The Rainbow Bridge in the Glen Canyon-Lake Powell is bigger. Sipapu means 'the place of emergence'. Hopi- the native tribe believe that their ancestors came into this world through this bridge. Also the souls passed to the spirit world through it.

The monument has a scenic loop drive of about 15-miles long which has stops at every bridge and ruin overlooks and trailheads. At the visitor center one could get information on the trails and camping ($10 per night). It is better to know information about the trail conditions, flash floods if you are hiking in the shadow-vy depths of these canyons. The staff here are very friendly and ask you to report back (if you wish) after experiencing the landscape on foot. The monument has an entrance fee of $6 per vehicle and $3 per person or bike or motorcycle.

Kachina and Owachomo Bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument Utah
Kachina and Owachomo

The trail down to the Sipapu bridge is steepest in the monument. It is around 0.7 mile long with 500ft elevation change. Well, you climb down the steep canyon wall using a staircase, wooden ladders and some railings, and there are switchbacks at places. It is not challenging at all if you trust your feet.

Horsecollar Ruins in Natural Bridges National Monument Utah
Horse-collar Ruins
Kachina, the name comes from the pictographs on this bridge that resemble Kachina dancers in Hopi civilization. The opening of this bridge is small and its orientation makes it difficult to see from the overlook. Trail down to the bridge is around 3/4 of a mile with elevation change of 400ft. The bridge seem much younger than the other two considering the small opening. I saw a small pool of water where the reflection of bridge looks nice.

Owachomo in Hopi means 'rock mound'. This bridge is very wide and is delicate compared to other two bridges. Easy to reach, just half a mile walk on a not steep trail (180ft elevation change) to the bridge. I saw few visitors near this bridge.  The Tuwa creek which carved this bridge thousands of years ago no longer flows through now.

Cryptobiotic crust
Cryptobiotic crust
The 8.6 miles loop trail passes through all the three bridges. In the beginning I went down to Sipapu and Kachina bridges separately, later realized it would be nice to do the loop trail and so walked from Owachomo bridge through the very secluded canyon. I could hear the rustle of my own steps. There was one other hiker whom I saw once for few seconds before he vanished behind the vegetation. This trail even passes the Horse-collar ruins. One can have a closer look at the ruins and find the reason behind the name! The doors of the granaries resemble the horse-collar.

Another interesting information was on Cryptobiotic soil crusts. In most of the national and state parks of Utah there was a mention of this living-crust which is important member of desert ecosystem. By driving over this soil or disturbing the crust by walking over will impact the desert ecosystem. This crust is composed of bacteria, algae, fungus, moss and lichens which are responsible for the good health of other plant life in the desert. This crust retains moisture and maintains the atmospheric nitrogen. Amazing nature huh? 

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Related articles-
Pareidolia in rocks!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes of Utah
Zion National Park -A peaceful sanctuary
Colorful sky over Canyonlands
American South-West: A road trip
State Parks of Utah

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Wow what amazing beauty of nature!

  2. Great looking place - just found out that I will be going to Arizona for a week with work - add a few days leave and I may get to see some stuff a bit like this - well, I hope so!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. Great! I am sure you will have a great time there!

  3. Wonderful natural bridges. The landscape of Utah is a stunner. Nice post, Kusum.

  4. The natural bridge is cool. Great shots and landscape photos.

  5. Great shots of the beautiful desert for OWT ~ thanks,
    carol, xxx

  6. Beautiful desert landscape and so ancient that it makes it all the MORE beautiful!!!


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