Location: west of Blanding, Utah
Date: April 12, 2011
Natural Bridges National Monument in southern Utah features three of the five largest natural bridges in the world. Bridges differ from arches in that bridges are formed from flowing water, while arches are made by other factors, primarily frost action and seeping moisture.
The three bridges are:
Owachomo (106' high x 180' span)
Sipapu (220' x 268')
Kachina (210' x 204')
Natural Bridges is located in a remote area over 30 miles west of Blanding, Utah, and it was well out of the way of my planned trip in April 2011. I debated whether to visit, but it was undoubtedly worth the trip. The canyons in the monument are different from any others I have been to in the Southwest, and they along would have been worth the visit.
A 14 mile one-way park loop road leaves from the visitor center and travels along the canyon rims, so make sure to stop at each bridge as you reach them. The first bridge you get to is the largest, Sipapu. The viewpoint from the road to the bridge is a short distance before the trailhead. From the viewpoint the bridge is quite distant and appears small. The trail to Sipapu is probably the most difficult of the bridge trails, but this bridge was also my favorite The trail rapidly descends the canyon walls through a series of stairs and ladders until you reach the bridge.
White Canyon and Kachina Bridge
Just past the Sipapu Bridge trailhead is a short trail along the canyon rim that takes you to a viewpoint of the Horse Collar ruins in the valley below. There is an unmaintained trail that travels through White and Armstrong Canyons from Sipapu Bridge to Owachomo Bridge via Kachina Bridge. A trail across the uplands connects the ends of this trail to form an 8.6 mile loop. I think this loop would be a fantastic day hike, but unfortunately I did not have time for it.
Kachina bridge is at the intersection of Armstrong and White Canyons. The viewpoint and trailhead are the same place, and the viewpoint here is closer than at Sipapu. The trail descent is gentler here but still quite steep and passes through a very interesting section of White Canyon.
Owachomo Bridge is the smallest, oldest, narrowest, thinnest, and closest to the road of the three bridges. The viewpoint is very close to the bridge, and the descent along the short trail is very small.
Because of its remoteness and presence on the dry Colorado Plateau, Natural Bridges is one of the best places in the United States to view the night sky. The International Dark-Sky Association made the park the world's first international dark sky park in 2007.
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