Hike the Loop Trail at Natural Bridges National Monument

Utah Sipapu Bridge Trailhead

Added by Gemina Garland-Lewis

Camp and star gaze in the first designated International Dark Sky Park, with some of the darkest and clearest skies in the United States. This is the best way to explore all of Natural Bridges National Monument.

Natural Bridges National Monument has the distinction of being the first National Monument in Utah, and is known for its three massive natural bridges - Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo. Over lots of time and lots of water erosion, two deep canyons (and of course the three bridges!) have been cut in the sandstone. While there are short trails down to each of the bridges, the best way to really get a feel for the beauty of the park is do walk the loop trail that brings you to all three. Be sure to grab a campsite before you start your hike so that you can enjoy the incredible night skies afterwards!

Although you can start your loop hike at any of the bridges, Sipapu is a great place to begin since it's the first bridge you'll come across driving on the one-way Bridge View Drive loop. A short but steep trail (including several ladders down rock walls) descends from the parking lot to Sipapu bridge, which is the second largest natural bridge in the world.

Take in the massive views and then connect with the loop trail that heads left (southwest) from Sipapu bridge. After a little over two miles meandering through the canyon floor, you'll come to Kachina bridge. Explore the surrounding area (and watch for quick sand near the streams) before continuing on your loop. Just after you pass Kachina, be sure to head west and follow the trail up the left side of the canyon to avoid the "Knickpoint" pour-off to the east, which will shorten your loop and bypass Owachomo bridge.

You'll come to Owachomo in just under four miles from Kachina. Stop and enjoy the view and some snacks before continuing the final 2.5 miles to Sipapu bridge where you finish your loop. Head back to your campsite and spend the evening staring up at the darkest skies you'll see anywhere in this country.

One of the beauties of this part of Utah is how sparsely populated and incredibly wild the region is - on the flip side, it means there's no good place to go for a beer and a meal after your hike. No matter, camp food always tastes better under a starry sky and a natural bridge!

Getting There:
Natural Bridges National Monument is located off of Highway 95 in southeastern Utah between Hanksville and Blanding, about 50 miles northwest of the Four Corners boundary.

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Lots of water (you can refill at the campground)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Camera
  • Tripod for night sky shoots
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra layers - the temperature in the desert drops quickly at night
  • Stove and fuel
  • Food and snacks
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Activities:

Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

8.6 Miles

Elev. Gain:

500 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildlife

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How to Get There

4 months ago

I Love This Hike

This is one of my favorite hikes! I love descending into the canyon basically entering what feels like a rainforest. After that you will see ruins and trek through sand and river rock. I love seeing the natural bridges from underneath. They don't look as impressive from the road but once you are under them they are massive and it's fascinating to feel the climate they create underneath. I've done this hike twice both times in the beginning of July. It gets really hot and recommend if you go this time to go early in the morning.

4 months ago

9 months ago

Home Sweet Home

I've hiked this trail a couple of times thanks to my job, and every time it gets better and better. If you ask a ranger before you leave the Visitor Center they can supply you with a map and point out places where petroglyphs have been carved into the sandstone walls of the canyons - but only if you ask about them! Some of my favorites are on the Kachina Bridge. :)

9 months ago

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