On a road trip through the southwest USA Paul and I made a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. Not one of the large famous parks in the state, such as Arches or Zion, but none the less beautiful and worth a stop on Utah road trips. Definitely one of Southern Utah’s Hidden Gems.
Where is Natural Bridges National Monument?
Natural Bridges National Monument is located in the southeast of the state of Utah. On the place where the White Canyon and the Armstrong Canyon meet. It’s located south of Moab and east of the Glen Canyon.
Some facts about Natural Bridges National Monument
Utah’s first National Monument was founded on 16 April 1908 and is managed by the NPS. The monument encompasses 3.091 acres. On those acres the Colorado river has winded out a dark-stained white sandstone canyon. The Colorado had different streams which didn’t just run straight forward, but winded back and forth. Between the turns were thin canyon walls. The river kept pounding on those thin walls and they eventually crumbled. This left 3 thin natural bridges. Erosion still has its influence on the bridges. The rock is being made more delicate. In the long run the bridges will collapse. The Natural Bridges National Monument weather consists of hot and dry summers. Temperatures in the summer are mostly in the high 90°s F and over 100°F.
There are 3 natural bridges at the monument. They’re named after the ancestral Puebloans who once lived here.
Owachomo bridge is the oldest bridge of the 3. They don’t know this 100% sure, but since it it’s the smallest bridge, they assume this. The Owachomo bridge spans 180ft high with only 9ft thick. It’s the most photographed bridge of them all, and also the most accessible one. Sipapu bridge is the largest bridge of the 3. It’s also the second largest natural bridge in the USA. The 3rd bridge is Kachina which is the youngest and the widest of the 3. All 3 bridges are easily accessible.
Horse Collar Ruin
As mentioned before ancestral Puebloans lived in this canyon. There’s a well preserved Pueblo site visible for hikers. It’s interesting if you don’t want to see nature, but also some human history. This is how life looked like about 700 years ago. We loved seeing the ruins from the overlook. It’s fantastic to imagine how the people used to life here.
In trails there are 3 kinds of options, short hikes, moderate hikes and loop trails. Depending on the time you have and your condition you can pick your hikes.
Along the main driving loop (14.5 kilometers/9 miles) is an overlook and a trailhead for each bridge and the Horse Collar Ruin. The first one after the visitor center is the Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint. The Kachina Bridge Viewpoint is halfway along the scenic loop drive. The final stop is the Owachomo Bridge Viewpoint. All the trails to the viewpoints are short, half a mile one-way, 10 minute hikes. The Horse Collar Ruin Overlook is a longer hike of about 30 to 45 minutes. You can’t get to the ruins, only get a birds-eye view. We did all these hikes and enjoyed the beautiful views. On the Horse Collar Ruin we even saw a snake.
There are 3 moderate hikes, to each bridge one. The ones to Sipapu and Kachina are 1 to 2 hours long. The one to Owachomo is a half-mile round-trip hike that takes 20 to 60 minutes, this is the hike most people take.
The 3 loop trails are all primitive and strenuous. The Full Loop passes all the 3 bridges and goes over the mesa top and is 15.8 kilometers (9.8 miles) long. The Sipapu-Kachina loop is 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles) and the Kachina-Owachomo loop 10.5 kilometers (6.5 miles), both pass the named bridges and go into the canyon.
What else is there?
Besides these things there’s a Solar Panel Field, which completely powers the monument, you can make a stop here. The Natural Bridges National Monument Utah was named the first International Dark Sky Park on 6 March 2007. The park has some of the darkest skies in the USA.
(435) 692 – 1234
The entrance fee is $20,00 for one car, a motorcycle is $15,00 and for a person without a car is $10,00. For 15 and under, entrance is free. With a $55,00 Southeast Utah Parks Annual Pass you get admission to the monument, Arches and Canyonlands for a year. Standard opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, Thursday to Monday.
We loved our visit to Natural Bridges National Monument ut, the bridges, the views, the ancestral site and seeing a snake were all highlights. We spent about 2 hours at the park.
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